Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m an insecure person.
I care very deeply what people think about me. I want to be popular and respected, and yet at the same time be the guy who wins all the awards for serving “unnoticed.” I want everyone to like me, and when someone doesn’t–or at least when I think they don’t–I freak.
So much so that I’m afraid to even write these words, because what if people don’t like me for saying that I care that people don’t like me? What if I’m perceived as somewhat “less-than-spiritual” because I struggle with this?
I’m a people-pleaser. I fall to peer pressure. I’m codependent. I struggle with self-esteem. Call it whatever you’d like to. It’s all the same: I’m a self-consumed sinner!
The Bible calls it “the fear of man.” And that’s the topic of a book by Edward T. Welch: When People Are Big and God Is Small. Outside the Bible, this book has had the most impact on my life. I’m currently reading his sort-of sequel for a younger crowd: What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? I’d highly recommend these books to you as great reads (and re-reads) for the New Year.
I bought the first book because of how I acted while taking a trip overseas. I wanted to make new friends, build relationships with strangers on the street to share love with them…but I was too scared. What would they think about me?
This struggle was not just affecting me…it was affecting my ministry-effectiveness and possibly even the eternal destination of souls!
Why am I acting like this? Because I feel like I NEED other people. I need their admiration, their acceptance. I needed them to love me–or at least like me! But as Welch so wisely points out…what I need is what controls me.
His illustration is that of a cup–a “leaky love cup.” I need others to fill me up, but they so often don’t. And even when they do, I just leak out and need more. I feel insecure. Unsatisfied. Incomplete.
It was then that a hymn spoke to me–one we sing often in my circles–a little too often if you ask me. But when I was reading it one day, it jumped out at me…
Complete in Thee, each want supplied,
and no good thing to me denied,
since Thou my portion, Lord, will be,
I ask no more, complete in Thee.
“Each want supplied.” I certainly wasn’t living like that. I was living like I was lacking something–and that lack was other people’s compliments.
This January, I’m studying the book of Colossians, and in that book I rediscovered one of my favorite verses…the verse this song is based on.
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
Some translations will read “You are complete in Him,” which is powerful. But I also like how the ESV puts it–“You have been filled in Him”–because it connects back to “fullness” (same underlying Greek word) in the preceding verse. Christ has all the fullness of deity dwelling inside Him, even in His incarnated human body. And the One who is the fullness of God has filled me up! The Head of all authority has topped off my cup–and it’s running over!
In Christ, I am complete.
I remember struggling with this same problem a year ago–Christmas 2014. In Homiletics class, I had just preached on Psalm 23, but the teacher said that I preached it like it had no impact on my life personally. Which was true. Mostly because I’d heard that passage a thousand-billion times!
But not soon after, I was denied a position that I was expecting to win. I didn’t get the respect from others that I thought I deserved. Things started piling up–one slight after another from others. I was frustrated, throwing a days-long pity party.
I was cleaning toilets at my church (my day job)–a great time and place to rehash how unfair your life is. How God isn’t giving you what you deserve. And that’s when that passage came back to me–“The Lord is my shepherd–I shall not lack!” I said it out-loud, almost with tears.
The Lord hadn’t granted me the popularity or positions I thought I deserved. But those were obviously things I didn’t need. I needed only what God had already given me. As my Shepherd, He promises that I won’t lack. And if I feel like I’m lacking, then that thing is obviously not something I truly need or something that would not be good for me.
I don’t need people. Because in Christ, I am full. I’m not a cracked, leaky cup–I’m filled to the brim! Complete. He’s given me all I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The God Who gave me His Son will surely and graciously give me all things (Romans 8:32). I claim those promises.
This year, I have Christ–the fullness of God! What more do I need?