This was originally posted August 2014 on the Anchorage City Church blog. I wanted to pull it out again because of how important this time in my life was. Looking back, I can now see that this was the start of new chapter in my life. It started with the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It required honesty and courage to allow God’s light to shine in the dirty crevices of my heart. It was the time in my life that Jesus describes in John 12:24:
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
It was a season of dying for me, of letting go of my former life. There was a lot of confession and repentance necessary as God showed me the areas that were hampering my relationship with Him and with others. I am so thankful for my husband and my close friends who supported and encouraged me through this process. I would not be where I am today (physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally) if it weren’t for this season in my life where God truly grabbed hold of my heart.
For quite a while now, I have felt as though people have been judging me in one specific area of my life: My faith.
And when I say faith, I mean my relationship with God, my dependence on Jesus, my heart, my works for God as evidence of a changed heart, my love for others, etc. I felt from what people said around me that they didn’t think I was mature in my faith or that I wasn’t doing enough for God. Because of this judgment, it turned into a competition of sorts. “Let’s see who can be godlier!” “Let’s see how much we can do for the Lord!”
Many of my friends were leading groups, starting churches, taking in foster children, and overall doing so much for their community and the people around them. “They must think I’m just sitting on my butt doing nothing,” I thought to myself. In turn, I would begin doing more for God (in my own strength, of course). And if I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, I would either wallow in my shame or begin to justify not living up to this invisible standard.
The judgment I felt from others who seemed more “spiritual” began to turn outwards and I would start assuming things of others like, “Oh, they must be doing all of this because they feel pressured” or “That can’t really be what God has called them to do.” Blah blah blah. But I felt justified in these statements because I assumed they were judging me.
Several days ago, God knocked me over the head with a big message. “The reason it seems like a competition to you is because you are insecure in this area.”
Ugh. That hurts.
No one was judging me. No one was competing with me.
Matthew 7:1-2 is becoming much clearer to me lately: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
Even if I wasn’t actually being judged, I internalized the same judgment I was dishing out. I felt judgment because I was not finding my identity in Him. I was allowing the pressure I felt from others to dictate my “godliness”. I was attempting to follow the standards of others to make me feel better about myself and my faith. When I was doing well in my own strength, I felt very proud. When I felt as if I was not doing enough, I felt ashamed. It was only in those close moments with God as I dwelled in his peace and presence that I felt assured of my identity in him.
Perhaps you need to ask yourself these questions: Do you feel as if the people around you are constantly competing? When do you feel judged? In what area do you judge others? (Side note: Keep in my mind that judging does not refer to noticing an actual sin and confronting someone in love. Judging is assuming something unknown (such as motives) or acting in God’s place as Judge.)
What about your appearance? Do you feel like all your friends try to outdo you in hair, clothing, and physical fitness? What about the area of success? Do you feel like you are constantly trying to “keep up with Joneses”? Are you continually dissatisfied with what you have, like it’s never enough? Does it make you angry and discontent hearing about all the vacations your friends go on? How about your marriage? Does it seem like everyone on Facebook is competing to show how much they love their spouses? Or maybe everyone competes to show what good moms or homemakers they are. Or perhaps how cute their kids are. And here’s one: The competition for busyness, as if your friends are saying, “See how busy I am? I’m doing more than anyone I know!” Maybe you’re more like me and see godliness or church activity as a competition. You know, perhaps some of these people do, in fact, make it a competition, but it only matters to us when we’ve wrongly drawn our identity from these facets of life.
For me, the biggest part of overcoming this insecurity was realizing that, in fact, I was insecure. That may be odd, but I honestly did not feel I was insecure because I was constantly placing the blame on others. I wasn’t taking responsibility for my emotional reaction from seeing others succeed in this area. In my head, I was happy for my friends and I knew they were doing awesome things for God. My heart, on the other hand, felt threatened. It was only until God spoke to me that I realized why I felt this way.
Now begins my journey of placing this aspect of my life completely in God’s hands. I look to him for my identity and reassurance. It will most likely be a struggle for some time as God continues to remind me to rest in him, but the more I learn to do this, the more encouraged I become and the easier it will be to trust God that his yoke truly is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). When I begin to feel internal pressure to be a certain way or do more, I realign myself with God and his truth.
Update: It’s been a few weeks since God has been working on my heart in this area and I just wanted to mention the absolute freedom I have been feeling in this area. The fact that I was allowing the pressure of others to affect certain things in my life doesn’t mean I didn’t have a close relationship with God. I think that’s important to note for others going through a similar situation. This isn’t a matter of whether you’re saved or not, or whether you’re living a life devoted to God or not; it’s about throwing off “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1). It’s about the sanctification process and the journey that God has us on.
The difference in my life, though, is quite significant. Now that God has been removing this unnecessary burden, I have more freedom to act in the overflow of love I receive from God…and it feels so good and natural. Instead of helping others so that I appear like a good Christian, I’m helping through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit! And, again, this is not to say that the work is finished. It’s a constant decision of yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit and his faithfulness to complete the process.