I’ve been trying to write this post for months now. In my perfectionist nature, I want it to be… well, perfect. I want it to be cohesive and flow and hit home. The more I try to make it “work” the more frustrated I become. God has me on a journey right now and I want to share it with others in hopes that it will be an encouragement, so I’ve decided to just write and leave the results up to Him.
Last fall, I attended the CCEF Conference with the ladies from the pregnancy care center where I work part-time. It was excellent. (I highly recommend anyone in the Chattanooga area check it out this year.) One of the many books I purchased while there was When People Are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch. I had yet to crack the cover when I found out we’d be reading through it as a staff at the pregnancy care center.
I can honestly say that reading this book has changed my life. Or rather, God has used this book as an instrument to change my life.
The premise of the book is that as we fear God more, we fear man less. Simple, right? Well, yes, it is–the Gospel is simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy.
There are so many different ways that we fear man. Some are more obvious than others. I tend to care very little what others, as a whole, think of me, but I elevate certain people and I care very much what those people think of me. And of course there’s the terrible snare of comparison. But for me at this time in my life, fear of man is most prevalent in my desire to control. I fear, or revere, my own understanding over God’s understanding, so that I can “control” myself, my children, my home, my relationships, my life. And if I think about why I want to control these things, it boils down to a fear of man–a desire to please or meet expectations of certain people.
In an effort to understand, and therefore control, myself, I have taken many personality assessments and they’ve all come out the same–I’m a jumbled mess. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but one personality assessment describes me this way: “I/Cs must contend with two emotions, one positive and one negative, that continually pull at them. They are driven by both a need for close relationships and a need to accomplish tasks. Under pressure, these two drives produce a person who acts like a coiled, quivering spring.” (source)
Recently, I took a StrengthsFinder assessment where I received similar, seemingly-conflicting results.
Is there a glitch in these assessments? Should I throw them out altogether? Well, of course not. But I do believe that God knows me intimately and He knows that I am seeking to find my hope in these assessments. Any hope I may find would be false anyway, but He isn’t even letting me go there. He is pointing me over and over again back to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t call me to understand (or believe in) myself, He calls me to deny myself.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
Jesus didn’t die for me because I was awesome, strong, powerful, or good. The Bible tells us over and over again that we are a stubborn, sinful people. Romans 5:8 tells us that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. Ephesians 2:5 says,
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we are worthless, but our worth is found in Jesus alone. Ephesians 1: 4 says,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
We are holy and blameless, but not of ourselves–it is a gift of God.
In Welch’s book, he quotes John 5:41 where Jesus says,
I do not receive glory from people.
And also Matthew 22:16 where his disciples say,
Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.
I’ve read these passages before, but it wasn’t until I read them in light of this book that it struck me–What if a certain person does accept me? What if I can control my life completely? What if people do think highly of me and my skills? The truth is that it doesn’t matter if a person doesn’t accept you and it doesn’t matter if they do. God is the standard, not man.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
As God has been teaching me about fearing Him above all else, He has repeatedly led me to Psalm 34. I am going to end this post by quoting the entire chapter–I hope it encourages you. I’ll be honest, this post feels disconnected and messy, but I think it’s fitting–it’s not about my writing skills, it’s about Jesus.
Be encouraged, friends. If you have accepted God’s free gift of grace, you stand holy and blameless. Fear Him. He alone is worthy. He alone is your hope.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.