Today’s post comes from my personal journal time. It is very intimate, but I feel that the Lord has led me to share it because I am wondering if maybe I am not the only one who struggles in this area- whether we say it out loud or not. I have been struggling with purpose lately. I don’t know what happened, it all kind of crept up on me. I have found myself finding things to do other than studying my Bible because most of my Bible Study is spent in preparation to share with others. I have been in Hebrews for a while now, and I am finding myself being uninterested in finishing the book. It has lost it’s spark to me, which is so funny because a few weeks ago I taught on spiritual immaturity and one sign of it is that the Word becomes dull. It’s not that the Word is dull to me, but that I am having a hard time opening it in the first place. I am stuck in a moment and I can’t get out of it… those were the words I wrote in my journal last week. I was in a particularly dark place emotionally and mentally, but I finally faced it. As I wrote those words more and more came, some that I didn’t even know were in there! I had become so wrapped up in “doing the thing,” seminary, discipleship, home group, etc. that I was losing the reason for doing it in the first place. I wasn’t tending to my own relationship with Christ, or my relationships with others, or my mental health. I am exhausted. I am lonely. I am spiritually hungry. I am finding that more and more I am comparing myself with others. I am loosing track of who I am, both as Carissa the person and as Carissa the daughter of the King of Kings. I am focusing on my own desires and needs- the dysfunctional ones, the old ones, the pre-redemption and unhealthy ones. I am returning to the old patterns that are numbing the discomfort of my heart instead of going to the only place where I know I will find rest…the precious lap of my Lord and Savior.
There is a longing deep within me that I know was placed there by God. I long to help those who feel lost, unloved, alone, orphaned. I want to offer a home to those who are homeless- emotionally, relationally and spiritually. I want to love others where they are and NOT feel as though I am not doing this thing (ministry?) correctly. I long to live without questioning if I am doing enough, if I am doing it right, if I am being judged. I long to not compare myself with others…. about weight, appearance, service, actions, achievements. It’s like a disease- it’s in all of us I think. This comparison disease is eating away at my spiritual walk, my faith, and the call on my life. It’s convincing me that I need to do more, take matters into my own hands, work harder. It makes me feel like I need to do something else because what I am doing isn’t enough. I’m tired of the christian rockstars and the comparison trap that comes with them. I am tired of the allegiances formed to individuals who are serving God, this person is right but this other person is wrong- I follow her, who do you follow? I wish there wasn’t a race to the top in ministry, I am tired enough from running the race of life. I wish there was only mutual encouragement among one another. Women (me) are so susceptible to emotional manipulation and right now I feel like if I don’t achieve “that”- whatever that is- then I’m not doing it right. Do I long to see my name on a flyer or brochure for my name’s sake? Do I want it to make ______ proud? Am I trying to meet some deep-rooted need for approval, affirmation and attention? Or…do I want to SPEAK FOR JESUS. Do I really want more of Him and less of me? Do I really want only to reach others for Christ? Do I want to do this thing, this ministry, because I want to see people healed, restored, forgiven, freed, loved, valued, accepted… If so, then numbers shouldn’t matter. One would bring me as much pride and joy as one hundred. But does it?
Heartbreakingly for me, if I am being brutally honest with myself, I would say there is a shift from Christ and others back to myself in the face of comparison. When I’m in the privacy of my home, studying, reading, seeking- I think about the one, the individual close to me whose hurting. When I’m at a conference or talking ministry with others or reading the blog of the latest superstar who’s adopted 5 kids from Uganda while homeschooling and writing New York Times Best Sellers, I begin to lose track of the “one individual” and shift the focus to the “me.” I think about how many people know who I am and dwell on what it would be like if people stood in line for my autograph or if arenas were sold out for my message. Please don’t get me wrong- these women have changed lives, mine included. God uses them in a mighty and powerful way. I would not be where I am now if it weren’t for some of those dedicated teachers. They have paid their dues in suffering, work and trials, and they have studied and sought after God. The issue is not with them, it is with me. Whose name do I really want to make famous, mine or HIS? Do I want my own name to fade away so that the only one on the mind and mouths of others is JESUS? Or, do I want attention and external validation? I am finding these thoughts and questions in the recesses of my mind and they are causing me to pause. I’ve pulled back because of them. They scare me because I know what the answers are without the continual presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. Because of circumstance throughout my life, I struggle with a need to be loved and validated by others. Praise, affection and affirmation tell me I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, that my efforts matter. The problem is that this mental need should already be met by Jesus Christ. He should fill me up so that I am able to do whatever He calls me to do whether anyone tells me “good job” or not. This deep hole must be filled by Jesus…that is what overflow is. If I am so filled up with the love and grace of Christ, which makes me 100% acceptable in the eyes of the One who matters, it overflows to whoever is around me. I want more than anything to be comfortable in my own skin- ministerially- but that comes with the fullness of Christ alone, rather than the approval of others.
I have gone back to the temptation of Christ repeatedly over the past few weeks and I couldn’t put my finger on why until now. “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” (John 4:5-8) Satan would have me worship myself and the approval of the world. He would tempt me with authority and splendor, praise and affection from others. I am so incredibly thankful for what I know to be true in Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just was we are- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” I don’t know about you, but I plan on taking some time over the coming summer months to park myself at the throne of grace for a while, to drink Him in and fill up to continue the race of life in Him and not in myself. He has been tempted and He knows my weaknesses, He can help me where no earthly person can. He can heal me in ways that must be accomplished if I am going to continue in the call on my life. Are you struggling as well? If I can pray for you in anyway- if you struggle with this or something else please do not hesitate to let me now! It is through Christ and our own compassionate and encouraging words and prayers that we will overcome this world and Satan’s attacks.