“Am I good enough? Am I deserving of love today?” These are the types of questions that run through my mindas I seek my husband’s approval. Just recently, my husband, Josh, told friends of some marriage advice he received prior to our wedding. The advice was basically if there is a problem in your marriage, 99 percent of the time, it comes down to the man’s issue. Now, I’m gonna be honest, as a woman, this sounds great. No problems are really mine? If he was better, everything would be better? Sign me up. Of course, what the advice really meant was, please lead your family, outdo her in love, be an example in love and sacrifice. Of course, I know I sin and mess up very often and that these problems of mine in attitude and actions can affect my marriage in many negative ways, just like my spouse’s.
To be even more candid, I do not like seeing my sin for what it is. I wish I was way better than I am. I think the reason for this is the worry that if I am really this messed up… selfish, unkind, lazy, rude, fill in the blank, then how could he love me?. Instead, I can try to find my identity, approval, and self worth in how good I am or my accomplishments.
Desire for Love and Approval
If you are anything like me, you look to those closest to you, husband, friends, co-workers and boss for approval that leads to you either feeling great or feeling undervalued. I want likes and comments, compliments, and tokens of love and appreciation from others. We are built with a deep longing to be known, accepted, and loved, but often seek these in everything besides Jesus.
I have sought identity in my job as a teacher, in my friendships, and most recently in being a wife and mother. I try to be the best, I compare myself to others I know or see on social media. I try to see how I stack up, and when I think I am not good enough, I often feel like a failure in certain areas. I trust many of you can relate.
Despite our own temptations to seek value and approval from others and our accomplishments, God gives us a better way. His love is the only anchor for our identity. Without it, our value and self worth can easily be tossed to and fro by our insecurities and fears. God gives us our identity, value, and worth as he calls us His children. This is beautifully said in Galatians 3:26, “For through faith, you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.”
This verse comes in the book of Galatians when there was infighting among christians based on different beliefs, but Paul restores order by going to the heart of the issue and saying you do not have to compare yourselves or tear each other down to prove your value. We are ALL sons of God in Christ Jesus. We are all heirs. We are all together. Someone else’s success or failure does not have an impact on whether you are worthy and you do well.
Our longing for value, acceptance, and love can be satisfied by Jesus and we can be at peace with others. No longer feeling the need to drag them down, whether literally or in our minds, in order to feel like we have a space, a home, and importance.
Temptation to Earn God’s Love
So what holds us back from fully living in and working from God’s love and acceptance? Why do we so easily forget this news that we are God’s sons and daughters, loved and “clothed with Christ?” (Gal. 3:27).
I am tempted to believe that others’ love and care for me should be based on my accomplishments or what I do for them. If I cleaned the house, made dinner every night, did educational activities with the kids, hung out with friends and was encouraging to them.. then I feel deserving of their love. On the other hand, if I had a week like my current one, where I feel kind of sick, do not make dinner, leave a mess in the kitchen, let my kids watch too much tv, and do not see anyone, then I do not feel worthy. I feel less than. I do not feel deserving of other’s love.
Why do we so easily forget this news that we are God’s sons and daughters, loved and “clothed with Christ?” (Gal. 3:27).
What holds us back from fully living in and working from God’s love and acceptance? For many of us, it can make sense for us to work to earn God’s love. We think we are good enough for God’s love based on our accomplishments or not good enough to come to God based on our failures. We strive to earn God’s love, maybe through a checklist of “good christian things” such as Bible reading, prayer and discipleship with others. If we fail to be patient or kind or if we do the sinful things we desire to abstain from, we think we have failed to earn God’s love. This can make us retreat to a place of more earning and hiding from God.
The Gift of God’s Love in the Gospel
Despite our mistakes, God looks at us and says “you are mine”. Without proving ourselves, without doing everything right all the time, God will still love us.
On the days where I am most patient, most helpful, most loving to those around me, I am loved. On the days where I yell in the car at the person in traffic, respond to the unkind cashier with a rude comment, and make mean remarks to my friends or husband, I am still loved.
The good news of the gospel is that God sent His son, Jesus, into the world. Born of a woman and born under the law, to redeem those under the law. He lived a perfect life, one that we could never live, and died on the cross to take our sins. In exchange for our sins, He placed on us what was rightfully His, the righteousness of Christ. His sonship is now ours to have. We are loved not because we could ever earn it, but because he earned it for us. Thank you, Jesus. How can we wrap our minds around this love? The next time we see ourselves striving, think of the song “Reckless Love” and the “the overwhelming, neverending, reckless love of God.” The song is worth a listen before you tackle the next thing in your day: