Seeking God’s Approval: How’s That Working For You?
Greetings. Welcome to my post. My hope and desire is that you will find these posts to be informative and helpful for you. Life is a journey filled with mountains and valleys in our relational life and in our personal life. Sometimes we can predict and make something happen. But sometimes we can never predict an event or relationship difficulty and we need to adjust and cope with these curve balls. At times life can be great but as you know, life can also be difficult and challenging.
As a Christian and a Christian Therapist, I often hear my clients who are believers struggle in their walk with God. They practice their Christianity by going to church, attending a Sunday school class, a small group, a Bible Study, or some type of ministry reaching out to the community. They are active in practicing their faith on the outside. But many times people find that religious activity is not meeting their needs. So they try harder. They may spend an hour a day reading the Bible, praying, reading a Christian book or some other strategy in trying to be a better Christian.
The problem may stem from a message either from their pastor or their church that to be a Christian means you must try harder. And this trying harder and all these efforts are an attempt to either please God, try to reach God, or try to live up to some high moral Christian standard. This ideal standard then becomes the bar or goal of the Christian life. And this goal is all about making sure God is pleased with you.
So the spoken or unspoken message becomes this: God is good, you are bad, stop being bad and try harder to be good and get rid of your bad so that then you will receive favor from God or from the church. This cycle of trying harder only leads to a performance anxiety and performance strategies to meet this standard. This performance then leads to many Christians viewing their walk with God as either a roller-coaster or a treadmill, working and trying hard in their efforts to reach and attain God’s standard, the pastor’s standard, the church’s standard, or your family standard. These attempts then lead to concluding one can only live and practice their Christian life by saying all the right things, dong the right things, and trying to keep up with others participating in the same thing.
Unfortunately, all these activities sound so similar as to belonging to a club. To enter into some type of club, one needs to fill out an application, pay your dues, obey the rules, keep up attendance, and make sure others in the club are pleased with you due to you keeping up the appearance of being a good member of the club. Thus being a Christian gets measured by what you do to keep up your membership and your Christianity gets defined by what you do versus who you are.
So if you find that your walk with God is based upon an approval seeking treadmill of keeping up the appearance of trying to be good, then my heart goes out to you. In other words, when do you cross the finish line? When you die? Does this mean you have to keep trying and trying because you have to, or you feel obligated, then all your efforts only lead to being tired, exhausted, frustrated, and defeated due to thinking that trying harder and harder you will eventually reach the goal of becoming either perfect or in gaining others’ approval.
If you find yourself participating in these efforts, my heart goes out to you. I have tried that approach in my Christian life, but have found this does not work. My hope and pray for you is that you will examine your ways and ask, for whom are you doing this? If it is to gain God, Pastor, church or others’ approval, good luck. It may work for a time, but my hunch is, you will eventually grow tired of these efforts and you will discover that approval seeking is not working. In my next post, I will share some additional ideas.