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'I shall not want'

From the April 15, 2013 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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It seemed the simplest and yet most profound of ideas when it came to thought: just four words from Psalms 23:1, “I shall not want.”

God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

“Yes,” I said smugly to myself, “it really is comforting to know God has blessed me abundantly and I have no wants.” I felt at least as contented as Job just before his world collapsed in that biblical tug of war between Satan and God.

But, a day or so later, I had a traumatic nightmare. I dreamed my entire life savings—the retirement portfolio I had built for my wife and me, was wiped out as suddenly as the Sabeans fell on Job’s sons and daughters, carrying them away (see Job 1:15). Even after awakening from that nightmare, it remained quite unsettling in what were recessionary times. Politicians were telling people the country was financially “broke.” The thought of destitution bounced around for some time after I shook off the nightmare. It was necessary to pray long and hard, struggling to unsee the fear generated by those forebodings.

Still, in true Jobean fashion, matters got worse. The next week someone trained in investments phoned to warn me that the bank owning my investment firm was the shakiest institution in the country. I was told that unless I took the draconian step of changing banks immediately, I stood to lose my entire portfolio.

The following week, another person in the world of finance relayed a similar message about the fragility of the bank that held our monetary assets. After my alarming dream, I now found myself being advised by two different people urging me to liquidate my entire holdings.

Somewhat unsettled about what to do, I clung to Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” That promise had proved an anchor in my thought when I had no money for college, and later during other economic downturns, as well as in times of unemployment. It was clear to me that the simple phrase “I shall not want” means exactly that.

Praying diligently, and knowing that God’s bounty never evaporates, I began mentally navigating my way out of the fearful sleeping and waking dreams. Bible verses such as Proverbs 3:25, 26 helped extricate me from the dread of being destitute: “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (New International Version.)

Once again I saw that it is possible for each of us to go through the entire human experience never wanting for anything, not because we come from a well-to-do family, or have been just plain lucky, but because we know God as a generous and giving, forgiving and loving divine Parent eager to bless each of us as we turn to Him.

Bible verses helped extricate me from the dread of being destitute.

Mary Baker Eddy, who knew the cruel face of penury, spoke from her heart when she affirmed how good God is: “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment. What a glorious inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love!” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 307).

As we reflect on such proven Bible statements as “I shall not want,” we grow in confidence that with God’s help we cannot want for money to pay rent or tuition, buy food or gasoline; we grow into the realization that we cannot lack health or companionship, or anything, because good is always in play. 

In my case, I had spent the better part of a lifetime working through that key sentence. But now, it was only as I prayed with those words and the assurances in surrounding verses, that comfort and inspiration began to flow from that frightening dream of bankruptcy. What began as a nightmare became a salutary wake-up call, alerting me to a false sense of security derived from imagining that a well-padded bank account, clever advisors, or Social Security checks constitute a safety net—or define our happiness.

Gradually, I gained a more spiritual perspective on my financial portfolio. Instead of thinking it was composed of stocks, bonds, or investment funds, I came to recognize that if global financial collapse were to happen tomorrow, I would still have seven unshakable and trustworthy investments: Life, Truth, Love, Spirit, Soul, Mind, Principle—the seven synonyms for God given by Mrs. Eddy on page 587 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I also thought of the Psalmist’s call: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalms 20:7).

Anxiety and concern are always dispelled when confronted with the confidence Christ Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mount during which he assured his followers that their heavenly Father always knew and met their needs (see Matthew 6:32).

I knew I was healed of any sense of foreboding when I found myself humming that lovely old Gershwin brothers ballad “Our love is here to stay.” With apologies to lyricist Ira, what rang through my thought was, “The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay, but our love (God’s love for me and mine for Him) is here to stay.” 

Because the earth truly does abound with God’s goodness, each of us can joyously declare, “I shall not want … because I already have!”

Walter C. Rodgers has been a news correspondent in Washington, D.C.; Europe; and the Middle East.

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