article by Marci Julin
photo by Holly Occhipinti https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Some days, I confess, I choose to carry the heavy burden of caring immensely about what others think of me. The last six months have been uneasy ones as God seems to be increasingly directing me towards public ministry. This blog post proves difficult to write because it requires me to analyze and vulnerably share my own struggle with insecurity. Because I know that as humans we all suffer to some degree with this issue, I have decided to grant you a window into what God is attempting to do in me, in hopes that you too might be encouraged.
No matter the struggle, people naturally desire to find ways around it, under it, or over it-- Anything but through it! I could largely shield myself from the torment of insecurity by simply limiting my contact with people, and oh, how tempting that prospect becomes at times. If God would only let me go back to time spent largely in Bible study, with a cat curled up on my lap purring his unfailing affection for me. People, unlike pets, are unpredictable. Ask three people what they think about something and you'll likely get three different responses ranging from negative to positive. Due mostly to large amounts of time spent in God's Word, I find that I frequently fall outside of the cultural norm, or even the "Christian" norm, in my thinking. I, therefore, much prefer the safety of my immediate family and heavenly Father who deeply love me. Teaching, speaking, and writing to a varied audience, who give little or infrequent feed-back leaves me obsessing over other's opinions of me. Not only that, but my vulnerable style of teaching also adds greatly to leaving me feeling, well, vulnerable.
Unlike many in public ministry, I have no desire whatsoever for fame or fortune.
Honestly, I would be as happy as a "pig in poop" to remain safely in obscurity. Yet, I desperately want to make a significant difference for the kingdom of God, and this requires obedience to His desires, not mine. So, this morning, with my head a jumble of conflicting thoughts and the direction God seems intent on directing me, I turned once again to the Bible and then set out for my morning prayer walk/run. I know that this conflict in me is not of the Spirit, and that the God of peace has the internal rest for which I long. Therefore, I set out to seek His wisdom.
Over a period of days, my faithful Lord spoke truth, understanding, and encouragement into my heart and mind. God's specific reminders all fell under one over-arching realization: It's not about me! Ouch! The manner in which insecurity gains a foothold and grows always stems from a focus on self, rather than Jesus.
Here are a few examples of how a wrong focus plays out in my life. Perhaps you can relate.
I say that I want to follow Christ, but balk when He asks me to risk rejection for the furtherance of His kingdom.
I say that I want to follow Christ, but wallow in self-pity when His truth separates me from cultural acceptability.
I say that I want to follow Christ, but obsess over the opinions of others.
I say that I want to follow Christ, but often dwell on thoughts of my outward appearance.
All of those indicate a preoccupation with me, myself, and I. According to Scripture, this is sin. " 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). Ouch, again! Proverbs 29:25 also says that "the fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." It's all about the Lord.
Another area of insecurity for me that perhaps you can relate to, comes from feeling inadequate to the task that God calls me. Again, this indicates a focus on me and my qualifications and abilities rather than on a limitless God. As I considered this, the story of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7 came to mind. In that story God calls a fearful farmer, a complete nobody, to lead the Israelites to defeat the Midianites, who had been oppressing them severely for a time. I imagine that you can relate, as well as I do, to Gideon's fearful response to such a calling. After all, what qualifications did he have to offer? None! Why should anyone listen to little, old him? Surely there were others far more suited to the task of raising and leading an army. Why would God choose Gideon--why should He choose me or you to do a particular task?
Before I answer that question I want to also mention others in the Bible who seemed inadequate for the task of God's choosing. Take, for example, Moses. Apparently he had difficulty speaking, and yet God wanted him to be His ambassador to Pharaoh and to lead the unruly Jews out of Egypt. I imagine that if we had been in his shoes, we too would have balked at God's instructions. "I'm not qualified. Send someone else, Lord, pleeaase." Then I'm also reminded of the disciples, many of whom were largely uneducated, self-seeking, and fearful before the anointing at Pentecost.
What made the difference from individuals bound by human weaknesses to ones accomplishing exactly what God Almighty called them to do?--The Holy Spirit's power. When Gideon asked, "'But Lord...how can I save Israel?' The Lord answered, 'I will be with you...'" (Judges 6:15-16) Later, when the time for raising the army was at hand, we're told in Judges 6:34, "Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him." It was never about Gideon, and what he had to offer. Instead, Gideon showcased what an awesome God can do through the Spirit's power in a mere man. As to the disciples transformation, a very telling verse is found in Acts 4:13. It says, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."
Why does God call ordinary and often unqualified people to serve Him? He does so because then God receives the glory for all accomplishments. The apostle Paul's upbringing positioned him perfectly for reaching the Jews, and yet God sent him to reach the Gentile world. Although God did use Paul's learning, the Lord chose to take him out of his comfort zone for service. Spiritual gifts are not talents; they are a supernatural empowerment so that God's people might bring Him glory through service. Throughout Scripture, these gifts manifest themselves in surprising ways, often quite contrary to an individual's natural inclinations.
Unlike the Bible characters before Pentecost, at the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit indwells believers (Romans 8:9). We believers, therefore, have all that "we need for life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:7). Like me, is there a ministry that God has called you to for which you feel inadequate? Good! Then we're just where God wants us--dependant wholly on Him for any good that might come out of it. Godly young people, do you find yourself worrying over what your peers think of you rather than focusing on what your Savior wishes to do through you? Mothers, do you find yourself insecure in your ministry of parenting and struggling with how the world views your crucial calling? Women, do you find the list of your weaknesses mounting as you think of serving the Lord at this place and time in which He has put you? Men, do you find yourself insecure in your ability to fulfill the role God calls you to of a spiritual leader?
If so, just read the Bible--you're in good company! But, remember: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). The answer in all things is the Lord, not self. What precious promises God has given to encourage us as we repent of a focus on self and step out in service and faith. I must choose what the Spirit desires to do in me and through me and trust that, like in the heroes of old, God will glorify Himself. Is there something that God is calling you to do that stretches you in difficult ways? Will you join me in letting go of insecurity and stepping out boldly in faith? To God be the glory! Amen.
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