She sat in front of me, exuberantly recalling all she’s accomplishing. She described great things—things that included loving Jesus and loving others, using her gifts and glorifying God. As I listened, I rejoiced with her as she told me about all the women she was reaching and teaching. I thought about God’s kindness as she reviewed her life story, explaining why she knows all the things that she does. And I grew thankful knowing that she was caring for women in such particular ways.
But there was another side to this that gave me pause—not about the work God is using her to do or the gifts he’s cultivating within her. Quite the opposite, in fact. By God’s grace, I rejoice in her discipleship efforts and what God is using her to do. I rejoice that she’s serving in beautiful places and in admirable ways. But on the other hand, it was clear that before she walked out of my office, she wanted to make sure that I knew all she was doing. It seemed that her sharing came from a place of insecurity.
We’ve all been on both sides of this conversation; and the problem with this scenario is multifaceted.
Our insecurity is unloving.
One of the main issues with this kind of insecurity is that it doesn’t seek to love God or others. It’s self-seeking—and ironically self-suffocation—and it’s miserable because it’s based on the lie that our standard is more important than God’s. If we believe that’s true for ourselves, then we also make it true for others. Paul writes in Philippians 3:3b, “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could.” Paul has accomplished more than most men could imagine, and if anyone could boast, it would be him. He says, however, that we should put no confidence in human effort because it can never save us. When we set ourselves up to a false standard, we force others to live up to that standard as well, and can wrongly judge them when they don’t.
Our insecurity misses God’s goodness.
Instead of relishing in God’s perfect character, insecure people seek to build up their own perceived goodness. Not only is this sinful, it’s also a painful way to live. When we choose to gaze upon the beauty of Christ, we worship him for his goodness. When we gaze upon the beauty of ourselves, we’re looking for confidence in something that’s not stable or satisfying. He died and rose so that we could bask in his goodness and not have to futilely work out our own perfection.
Our insecurity is not based on reality.
As a Christian, one of the worst parts about being insecure is that we’re not taking advantage of our biblical reality. Jesus willingly gave himself up for us, not because we’re so great, but precisely because we aren’t. Christ didn’t die for awesome people; he died for the weak and ungodly (Rom 5:8). This is the Christian reality. Christ freed us from envious comparison; he freed us from desperate self-improvement; and he freed us to rest in his perfection and look to him alone. We must remind ourselves of this reality when we’re tempted with selfish insecurity. This reality should continually point us to the only one who is worthy. Instead of focusing on my shortcomings and how they measure up to someone else, I get to focus on Jesus and how he has no shortcomings on my behalf. This frees me to live abundantly in his love and grace. It frees me to fail horribly, love lavishly, and to forgive beyond human reason. And it frees me to remember that my accomplishments are only by his grace—that everything good comes from the Father above—so my trust and confidence are in him and him alone (Js 1:7; Jer 17:7).
Our insecurity can be healed.
We heal insecurity by looking at Jesus. I don’t mean this tritely. Relationships are hard work, and a relationship with Jesus is no different. It’s hard work because it takes discipline and effort to learn from him, to spend time with him, and to submit ourselves to his glory over our own glory. As we repent of wanting to be great on our own, of wanting to use God’s glory to make ourselves look good, and of caring more about what other people think of us more than what God thinks of us, God heals our insecurities and teaches us to depend on him. If my ministry flows out of my personal confidence to communicate God’s Word to people, it’s going to fail and I’m really living like a prideful Pharisee (Lk 12:1-3). But if my ministry (and all of life) flows out of certainty of Jesus’ character and his accomplishments on my behalf, then it relieves my insecurities and gives me confidence in the only thing that is stable: him.
My friend who sat before me boasting about her accomplishments was forfeiting her own Christian reality. It made me sad because she wasn’t living in the freedom that comes with being a part of the body of Christ, and because I can so easily find myself in her shoes. Instead of carrying that self-filled burden, we must all “remain in Him, so that when He appears, we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 Jn 2:28-29). But we only practice righteousness through faith alone, by grace alone and because of him alone.
Dear friends, don’t take credit for God’s work. Only he can sustain the standard that we all strive for. Don’t live in your miserable insecurity. Look to Jesus.
Questions for reflection:
Do you talk more about yourself or more about Jesus?
Do you use Jesus to make yourself look great?
Are you eager to let people know about yourself and your ministry?
Is your eagerness out of worship or out of a desire for praise?
Do you regularly spend time thinking about the goodness of God’s gospel?