©iStockphoto.com/S. Greg Panosian

A few years ago when I was down with injuries following a car wreck, I had time to ponder the meaning of each line of the 23 rd Psalm. I received, among other ideas, the personal insight that “I shall not want” could mean more than an assurance that if I accepted the Lord as my guide I would not go without the necessities of life.

For me, personally, it could also be a reminder and an admonition that I should not want (desire) anything not in line with the Lord’s will and the eternal laws He has set forth. If the Lord is my Shepherd I won’t want what I can’t have and what He is not willing to give me. What are some of the “can’ts” I sometimes have wanted?

  • A college level understanding of spiritual things when I’m still in kindergarten
  • To take giant leaps ahead when I’m only capable of baby steps
  • To have celestial experiences when I’m still caught in telestial thought patterns
  • For God to infringe on others’ agency so I could achieve some prideful “ideal”
  • To have the blessings of a pure heart when I still have unrepented sins
  • To have better relationships than I’ve paid the price for, like having the comfort of being listened to when I’m not willing to listen

God’s laws are clearly against my having any of those things, no matter how much I may want them. If the Lord is my shepherd, my “wants” will match His will and His laws.

The Whys and Wherefores

Here are some more “can’t haves” with scriptures or other explanations

  • I can’t have a harvest different from the seeds I’ve sown.
    “For whatsorever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

    Two different times I planted mislabeled seeds in my garden. Once I wanted squash and got pumpkins; another time I wanted cucumbers and got spaghetti squash. My ignorance didn’t save me from the reality of what the seeds really were. And so it is with life – whether or not I know what the seeds are, I’m going to reap what I sow.

    Perhaps this is why Satan is so good at “mislabeling.” He loves to fool me. And why it is so essential to have the Lord as my Shepherd; only He knows what the outcomes will be of sowing certain seeds; only He can give me true and certain guidance in my planting.

  • I can’t have things “my way” and still be a child of Christ.

    “I want what I want when I want it” may be a common mindset for a two-year-old. But maturity dictates that any wants that conflict with God’s will are put aside for a higher good. Charity “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

    Neal Maxwell said, “One of the last, subtle strongholds of selfishness is the natural feeling that we ‘own’ ourselves. Of course we are free to choose and are personally accountable. Yes, we have individuality. But those who have chosen to come unto Christ soon realize that they do not ‘own’ themselves. Instead, they belong to Him. We are to become consecrated along with our gifts, our appointed days, and our very selves. Hence, there is a stark difference between stubbornly ‘owning’ oneself and submissively belonging to God. Clinging to the old self is not a mark of independence, but of indulgence!”(Neal A. Maxwell, “Put Off the Natural Man, and Come Off Conqueror,” Ensign , Nov. 1990, p. 14)

  • I can’t have more energy if I don’t pay the price of adequate rest and righteous living

    I’ve always wanted more energy than I’ve had. When I get even a little I’m inclined to rush around and “get things done” and use it all up on priorities that might not be in line with the Lord’s. Neal Maxwell explains the consequences of using energy for selfish, natural man goals: desire to look good, to earn points, to cover up prideful nature – all of which I’ve done at times.

    He said, “Such is the scope of putting off the burdensome natural man who is naturally selfish. (See Mosiah 3:19.) So much of our fatigue, brothers and sisters, in fact, comes from carrying that needless load. This heaviness of the natural man prevents us from doing our Christian calisthenics; so we end up too swollen with selfishness to pass through the narrow needle’s eye.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Put Off the Natural Man, and Come Off Conqueror,” Ensign , Nov. 1990, p. 14)

    Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote of the need to “shed my Martha-like anxiety about many things . shedding pride . shedding hypocrisy in human relationships. What a rest that will be! The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered,” she said, “is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting.” ( Gift from the Sea, New York: Vintage Books, 1978, p. 32.) There are so many natural laws that govern energy. Even if I’m totally unaware of breaking those laws, doing so decreases my energy.

  • I can’t have happiness if I’m not willing to keep the laws that bring it:

    “Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” (1 Nephi 20:22)

  • I can’t have the blessings of charity when my heart is not yet full of it

    1 Corinthians 13 clearly lists the characteristics of a person with this pure love of Christ and clearly spells out what a charitable person will not do. A person acting with Christ’s pure love is long-suffering and kind, does not behave unseemly, does not envy, is not puffed up, does not seek “her own” [selfish wants], is not easily provoked, does not think evil or rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth. A charitable person bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    True joy of living and serving others comes from this mindset (or more accurately “heart-set”) and no other way. I can’t have that joy if I don’t have the Lord as my Shepherd in my moment to moment efforts to develop those characteristics. There is no short-cut, no other way. He is the only Way.

  • I can’t have eternal life if I’m not willing to seek, find, and learn to know the Father and the Son.

    “And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). My greatest “need” in life is to know my Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.

  • I can’t have a clear view of myself without the help of the Holy Ghost

    I can’t see anything clearly without divine help; I can’t know anything for sure unless the Lord, my Shepherd is guiding me. My unaided, natural man vision is cloudy, marred, distorted, limited to a mortal perspective. I see only a tiny fraction of what He sees . Surely, Alan Jay Lerner must have been referring to seeing with the eye of faith and the clarity of divine help when he wrote:

On a clear day, rise and look around you,
And you’ll see who you are.
On a clear day, how it will astound you –
That the glow of your being outshines every star.

And on a clear day .
You can see forever and ever more.
(Alan Jay Lerner, “On a Clear Day,” © 1965 by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane, Chappell & Co., Inc.)