Last night three friends and I drove around town looking at Christmas lights. We saw a good mix of tasteful and tacky light displays, which is just what we wanted in a Christmas light tour.

As we drove through one of the more affluent neighborhoods in town, one of us wondered aloud how many houses in that particular neighborhood were actually unfurnished. Rumor has it that several residents are too burdened paying for McMansions that they can’t afford to furnish their homes. It’s sad, but I suspect that quite a few people have bitten off more house than they can chew in attempts to impress others.

I also wonder how many of the people living in such grand houses are actually happy. I’m not sure that the ratio of “happy” homes to homes of abuse or divorce in gated communities are any different from those in poorer neighborhoods. I guess it goes to show you that you never can tell what’s going on behind closed doors, no matter how good the outside looks.

That’s true not only of pretty houses, but pretty people too. I’ve watched countless episodes of “America’s Next Top Model”, and there is always at least one contestant who is very insecure and uncomfortable in her own skin. She could be the most gorgeous girl on the show, but her insecurities keep her from excelling as far as a girl with less outward beauty but more inward confidence. Again, being rich or thin or pretty is no guarantee that you’ll be happy or fulfilled or hangup-free.

I’m thankful that God does not focus on our beauty or wealth or other matters that the world finds important, but that He instead is more concerned with what’s inside. I’m reminded of the instructions He gave to Samuel when it was time to choose a king for Israel:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

There’s an old quote that says something like “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” I think that when we’re tempted to look at people who seemingly have more than us, whether more beauty or more money or more house or more friends, we need to remember that everyone has their own insecurities on some level. We all struggle at times. Our confidence and identity is not to be in things or appearances, but rather in God. Looks fade, and houses can be destroyed, money can disappear and so can friends, but God is there no matter what.

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