"I feel like God is so disappointed in me," my friend whispered between sobs. "No matter how hard I try or how much I give, it never feels like it's enough, and I don't know what to do."
At thirty-two years old, she found herself empty and worn out. After serving for many years as a counselor to troubled teens, she married a pastor of college students and opened her home to hundreds of youth who were looking for answers to life's questions. Then, in five years she had three boys and little sleep. The guilt and inadequacy that had been bubbling in her heart for many years was finally boiling to the surface.
She'd grown up in a wealthy home, where the expectations for her and her two brothers had been very high. She lived under constant threat of disappointing her demanding parents and longed for their approval. When she was seventeen, after many years of fighting ,her parents got a divorce. The foundation of love in her life was further shaken. The devastation she had experienced prepared her to respond to Christ's love when she first heard the message at a youth rally.
Even though she became a solid, faithful Christian, she still carried the baggage from her youth. She believed that God, like her father, was demanding and expected perfection from her. She held on to the lingering suspicion that she was in some way responsible for her parents' divorce, since she often overheard them arguing about her siblings and her. So she entered adulthood with an intense drive to please everyone— her husband, her children, her parents, and anyone she met.
"There are so many needs in the world, and I find myself feeling responsible for all of them! No matter how often I read the Bible or have quiet times, God seems far away, and I know it's my fault. I don't know if I'll ever be adequate enough or understand him," she said. Then she laid her head on her arms and cried quietly.
I didn't mean to be distracted from her sorrow, but next to her was her three-month-old, squishy, rosy-cheeked little baby boy smiling and grinning at me every time I glanced down at him. It was almost impossible to ignore him—and he engagingly called for a response as he grinned and did a jig with his little feet hanging off the end of his car seat.
"Kathryn," I said as I gently touched her arm. "Look at your darling, irresistible little boy." He unwittingly drew a sheepish grin from her tear- stained face. "How do you feel about him?"
"He's a bundle of fun and joy for all of us," she answered. "He brings so much pleasure to my life every day."
"Why do you love him and stay up with him and nurse him and change his diapers? Is it because he has been useful to you or worked for you or accomplished great things?"
"I would do anything for him just because he's my precious little boy and I adore him."
"That's exactly how the Lord feels about you. He has given you the gift of this child to show you how much he adores you. You are his, and he deeply loves you and will always care for you. It's not because you deserve it or have accomplished any great thing. It's simply because he is your heavenly Father." She nodded slightly.
"Think about what David wrote in Psalm 103:13," I continued. just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has com- passion on those who fear Him.' He doesn't love you for your service. He responds to you because you are his child and he delights in your smiles. He is all loving, and he can't notl ove you—it's part of his nature."
How often I have felt as my friend did, weighed down by my emotional baggage, an inadequate view of God, and guilt from my own failures. I have met so many women who live out of fear and inadequacy. They trans- fer their feelings about themselves to God and then feel distant from him.
Julian of Norwich, a saint from church history, said, "This is the cause why we be not all in ease of heart and soul: that we seek here rest [and joy] in those things that are so little, wherein is no rest, and know not our God that is All-mighty, All-wise, All-good. For He is the Very Rest."'
No matter how hard we try, how many achievements we make, or how many ideals we keep, we will never be able to do enough to earn God's love. Such attempts lead us down a dead-end road paved with feelings of life-depleting guilt and condemnation. Only the grace and love that God gives freely through his merciful nature can provide us with that which we long for: peace and joy.
Psalm 103:13-14 says, "Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust."
According to this verse, is God aware of our fragility and limitations? Does he expect more from us than we can give?
What kind of compassion do you think a good father would have for his children?
In what ways have you tried to earn God's acceptance?
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