I think it’s safe to say that it can be easy to be consumed with what others think of us or seeking the approval from others. I’ve fallen into that trap too and it’s not a Godly place to be. You see, when we seek the approval of man, we are seeking something that’s a dead end. We will never succeed to “win over” man.
I allowed the voices of others cloud the vision God had for me, fill my thoughts, and almost every move I made. I thought if i could just win them over, I could fit in. It was like a constant craving i had that i just couldn’t find a fix to. Where was I trying to fit in? In the church. It took many years before I realized that the church isn’t a place where we should be seeking the approval of those in the pews beside us or the one standing at the pulpit. We are all there in desperate need of a Savior.
When you care about trying to receive man’s approval, you’re a prisoner to it. I was a prisoner to these people and my own thoughts. I allowed them have so much power over me. I did whatever I could to just try and earn a little bit of their approval. I lost myself in the midst of this though. I shoved to the side who God destined me to be to try and please them. What you learn quickly, you’ll be chasing your tail until the end of time because pleasing people like this is unachievable. You know who’s approval you already have? God’s.
“Instead, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, not in order to please men but God, who examines our hearts.”
1 Thessalonians 2:4
I can remember even just last year crying on the phone with my pastor, along side my husband, talking about how people were lying about me or the negative things they were calling me. I really, really cared that people were being misinformed of who I am as a person and that is what they wanted. But he quickly reminded me that I am not those things. I am a daughter of God. I am loved, I am cherished, he knows my heart, and I needed to place my foundation on who and what he says of me, not anything else. Why am I bringing all of this up now? Because I’ve finally felt the freedom of knowing who I am in Christ. People are going to say what they want to say and we can’t control it, but we can control our response to it. We have to stop allowing others to have power in our lives. They do not sit on the throne.
"If all men speak well of you, you're in trouble. You can't please everybody." -Unknown
Now, did I get hurt by those IN the church? Yes. Is that the church’s fault entirely? No. You can go to a church that teaches the correct doctrine but there will still be some bad apples in the midst of good ones. In return of this happening, I struggled to trust people (especially within a church), I allowed them to feed all of my insecurities, and worst of all on top of a long list of other things— I allowed them to make me hate going to church. I dreaded it. I worried more about what the people around me said or how they viewed me than focusing on the sermon or worship. My sin was amplified over their sin although it was the same, I always felt exiled, and unwelcome. I know you’re thinking, “In the house of God?! What?!” Yup. Even there.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this though, and sadly I think that that is why a lot of people leave the church. We become unwelcome in a place all should be welcomed at. We are all sinners by flesh, no one on earth has ever been perfect, but Jesus. For sinners, self-righteousness is more natural than humility. It’s easier to call someone else out for their sin than our own, but God doesn’t forget our sin just because we amplify someone else’s.
But what did I learn out of all of this? There are hurt people even in the church. Even if they’ve been there five or ten years; there’s still people there living in hurt. And what do hurt people do? Hurt people. It’s a continuous cycle until they find a way one day (hopefully) to heal from their hurt.
I’m thankful that I no longer give those negative vices a place in my life, despite how many times they may come running back to try and break me. I will stand firm in the foundation of Jesus and who he says I am.
The church is a place for the broken, the hurt, and the lost. We are all welcome to be a part of the church. Not a place of cliques, gossip, complacency, or division. We can’t stay stagnant though, that’s a dangerous place to be too, but that’s a conversation for another time. We learn, we change, and we grow. It’s a cycle because we are human.
Truthfully, we have as much Jesus as we want and our lives outside of the building we call church, speaks for itself. It’s not just within four walls, but it’s in the hearts of those in relationship with Christ. The church as a “building” is there to empower us, to teach us, to direct us, and be in community with us. There is only so much the church and its people can do to help lead people to Jesus, we have a role to play too. We have effort to put into our relationship with Christ to see change in our hearts.
I pray you find a home church just like that and runs the race of life with you. I encourage you to seek that because we can’t continue to live in the hurt of man and allow them to hold us back. It is important we join a church community. I’m thankful I have, even if it took a few years and being uncomfortable, in a good way. I’ve gladly found mine.
“When people hurt us, we focus on the pain they uninvitedly caused us and what they did wrong. To cultivate the heart of forgiveness, we can focus on all that The Lord has done and made right in our lives.”
- Pastor Jeremy Robertson