Follow Us

Avoiding first world problems

I was complaining last night that I need more friends. I've got great friends, but most of them are scattered around the country. This morning I realized that that was a "first world problem." Dwell on your perceived needs long enough and your world begins to narrow. The thoughts…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I was complaining last night that I need more friends. I've got great friends, but most of them are scattered around the country. This morning I realized that that was a "first world problem."

Dwell on your perceived needs long enough and your world begins to narrow. The thoughts that swim around in your head (like fish) start with "I need" instead of "thank you." As long as you have first world problems, there will always be unmet needs and a sense of lack.

A sample list of first world problems:

  • I need new clothes – nothing fits me.
  • We're out of icecream.
  • I need a new car – this one is junky.
  • I don't like this brand of chips.
  • I'm tired of this town.
  • I'm bored with this job.

Why do we have these thoughts? For one thing, our society is set up to cultivate them. And we become hyper-aware of our needs.

When a person starts to think thoughts that are not really their thoughts, what do we call that? We might say "they're out of their mind." Those thoughts originated in someone else's mind, not theirs. They're thinking someone else's thoughts, not their own thoughts.

But what about those of us who get caught up in a perpetual loop of thinking about perceived needs? To the degree that a majority of our thoughts are not really our own, but are manufactured by others who want to shape our perceived needs, let me suggest that we're out of our minds.

In light of that, consider that we have to fight to retain our spiritual sanity. But how? How can you when everything in life tells you that you deserve better?

My advice is that you practice the discipline of thankfulness as a daily habit.

We cooperate with God as we take note of everything he has placed around us that is a gift. As we thank him for his good gifts, it releases a positive energy – faith – that can be harnessed to accomplish his purposes. Life works much better when we're working in tandem with our creator rather than pulling against him.

You may want to read Psalm 136 to jump start yourself. It begins:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.

Start by jotting down a few things that God has given you. What are you thankful for today?

Comments (11)

  • Thanks Seth for this important reminder. I find that without gratitude there can be no sobriety. At Bethel Colony of Mercy we taught men struggling with addictions to orally recite to another brother every morning three things for which they were thankful. It makes a difference.

    I’m in TN as I send this and just prayed for you and AIM.

    Blessings friend….

  • Seth, thank you for your passion to disciple and the leadership required to stay the course. It’s a honor to serve you and this tribe of radicals.

  • It is so necessary to count our blessings yet we tend to forget to do so. Today I am thankful to God for giving me an opportunity to cheer up an old lady who said, after talking to me, that she felt light after our conversation. Thank you God.

  • And…

    * I need the new iPhone 5!
    * I hate fish!
    * I’m so tired of pancakes and eggs every morning!
    * I need my nails done

    Sitting here so thankful this morning.

  • First world problem: want = need
    Sorry, don’t mean to split language hairs with this – but I know you know what true “need” is. So often we want, but have no true need.

    First worlders require spiritual discernment to know the difference and spiritual power to do what discernment reveals – without that it is easy to squander desire and spend it on the enthusiasms of the flesh. That, however, is not strictly a first world problem. But certainly, first worlders are in a position to be able to feed nearly every desire in gluttonous fashion.

    In my experience, when I have a desire that seems to be at the level of “i need” and take the time to check it out – I almost always discover that what the supposed need is focussed on is not the real need. Beyond that, as I express gratitude to God for what I do have the pressure to fulfill the need is relieved and I gain power to act in a spiritually appropriate manner.

    Seth, thanks. I actually “needed” to be reminded of this and reflect on it, quite specifically, today. This is an excellent post.

  • I come from a developing nation, but recently relocated to the US. The post and video just brings the point home 🙂

    So easy to confuse needs with wants, so easy to slide into entitlement and forget to be grateful for the very breath we breath. Great reminder today

  • This afternoon at lunch we were talking about the storm back east and were grateful we are able to sit outside in the sun, but saddened for those that have to hide.

    Thanks for the reminded on the friends thing, I get caught up thinking that way too. I’m so grateful and blessed by the friends I have and incredibly blessed by my wonderful, god fearing husband! Praise the Lord for him daily!

  • Gud day SETH from down under, i always tell my family when they ask me what i want for my bday and xmas i dont need any thing i am happy with what i have, and i help people who dont have with what i get from people who have more, than me, and my life is bliss. i give not because i have plenty but i know what it is to be without. THANK U FOR POSTING i post all yr stories to my contacts they cant wait to meet u .

  • I am so thankful that the Hurricane “Sandy” has passed thru DE. & there has been protection fr God, an answer to prayer. Somehow, when I am waiting out a storm, God reminds me of His faithfulness. Our beaches have taken a beating, but there hasn’t been loss of life,& many other situations He has helped us overcome. Thank you God that we are able to be concerned about those less fortunate as you command us to do. Being alone, when my phone rang from a neighbor, or a friend, checking on my well being, I also phoned other loved ones too! Dear Lord, help us always to be mindful of the needs of others & act on it! Amen.

  • I’m having the operating system on my phone updated and several days ago was talking about how crippled I feel without my smartphone because obviously a phone should do more than just make phone calls. I stopped and looked at my friend and said, “Well there’s a first world problem for you right there. I should be thankful I have a phone and people to contact.” It has become what I’m accustomed to and therefore feel entitled to and that I somehow need it, but in reality it is just a desire.

    Thanks for the reminder once again Seth.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap