I had never given much thought to the issue of “sustainability” until my daughter entered the master’s program in Urban Planning at the University of California Irvine. Abbie helped me see that while some activities appear to work satisfactorily in the short term, they cannot be successfully sustained down the road.
Perhaps you think of sustainability mostly in terms of environmental issues, but I’ve come to realize the wisdom of applying the sustainability question to just about every area of life.
First, I started getting invitations to free seminars by financial planners who wanted to sign me up for help with my retirement planning. I soon discovered that every planner’s goal was to paint a dire, self-serving picture: Without their help in growing my nest egg, my current standard of living was unsustainable.
And then a number of my friends embarked on dating relationships with women who lived in other cities, states, or even countries. They had met their soulmate, they assured me, and I was very happy for them. But I couldn’t help but wonder about the sustainability question.
Recently I’ve also found myself paying more attention to people’s eating habits. In my younger days, I was a big fan of Krispy Kreme donuts, fast food, and the Golden Corral buffet. But now I see the price many of us baby boomers are paying for our lack of nutritional restraint in previous years. Of course, eating junk food won’t kill you in the short run—but it’s not a sustainable lifestyle if you want a healthy future.
As I seek to apply the sustainability question to these practical areas like finances, relationships, and nutrition, I’m seeing how this approach leads to greater maturity. While immature people take little thought for the future as they seek to satisfy their immediate desires, those who are mature understand the great virtue of delayed gratification.
Inevitably, there are consequences to our lifestyle choices, even choices that seem rather small and insignificant at the time. Often, though, the full consequences aren’t seen until many years down the road.
As you survey your life today, do you detect any sustainability problems? Are you engaging in activities, habits, or expenditures in the short run that will bring about negative outcomes to your long-term happiness?
The good news is that you don’t really need a master’s degree to recognize the wisdom of the sustainability question. You just need maturity and self-discipline.
Ironically, this issue of self-control brings us full-circle—right back to Urban Planning. Solomon warns in Proverbs 25:28, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” You see, self-control and sustainability go hand in hand. The walls of our lives—and ultimately our cities—are broken down when we sacrifice our future for the pleasures of the moment.
Solomon adds in Proverbs 16:32, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” Before we can successfully tackle the problems of our cities, we must first receive God’s help in conquering ourselves.
My prayer for you today is that, filled with God’s goodness and love, you’ll find joy that’s sustainable all the days of your life—and into eternity as well (Psalm 23:6).