Sunday, February 7, 2016

Seen by Others

How do others think and feel about me?  Does it matter? Do I need others to see me a certain way? Do I need God to have a good opinion of me? 

These are some of the questions that are coming up as I read through 'When People are Big and God is Small' by Edward Welch.  While I don't necessarily agree with everything Welch writes, it's certainly providing some great food for thought.  (Quotes in italics are from this book.) 

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I like to have the approval and acceptance of others; It feels great to be seen as special, capable and helpful and to be included by others. I like to know that what I'm doing is important and significant to God. I think most people want to know they are loved. 

I feel good, temporarily at least, when these desires are satisfied. 

I've seen God use the encouragement of others to give me direction for the future.  

I can love other people by speaking positive words into their lives. 

I think it can be helpful to let our loved ones know how much we appreciate it when they acknowledge or recognise us in positive ways.

But what about the times when these desires aren't fulfilled and we're left feeling bad?

Is the solution to make sure that these felt needs do get fulfilled, even if it means resorting to demanding, complaining, or manipulating?

 Is it possible that the pain we feel in these situations is more complex than we realise?  Could it be that our unquenchable thirst for love and approval stems from our own brokenness and from our doubts about who we really are?  Perhaps the compliments and affirmations we so desperately seek will never be enough to fully satisfy us.

But what if let the difficult, sometimes agonising, feelings of not being loved or accepted direct us to pursue the truth about who we really are and what we really need?

Here are some questions that I've been considering as I read about unfulfilled emotional desires:

-Do I need to grow in my Fear of the Lord, and 'remember that these people who control you are harmless kittens when compared to the Lion of Judah'? I was greatly helped by Welch's chapters on the fear of the Lord; it's a topic I've mostly glossed over before.

-Am I fully believing who I am in Christ? 

-How aware am I of God's unfathomable love? Am I delighting in the God who fills me (which is the subject of Welch's 10th chapter)?

-Do I know what it means for God to cover my shame?

-Do I know that I'm accepted by God?

-Is the strength of my unmet desire exacerbated by hormones or by a lack of sleep? In these cases, I find it helpful to remember that the feelings are temporary.

-Have I lost sight of some of my deepest needs: To bring glory to God; to love him and love others? Here is something I've discovered in various relationships: If I move my focus away from what I want from my friend, and onto how I can love that person in the way that's best for them, I've been able to maintain a much more happy and healthy perspective.

I certainly don't see any simple answers when it comes to handling these emotional desires.   Things can get particularly messy when issues from the present and wounds from the past bring extra pain and complexity.

I'm also not saying we should allow people to hurl negative messages at us (I'm remembering what I learnt about 'Debunking the Myth of Forgive-and-Forget').

Sometimes we do need to avoid certain unhealthy situations: Perhaps permanently; perhaps until the situation changes; perhaps until we have reached a healthier point in our ability to deal with it.

It's not simple, figuring out how to deal with those feelings that lead us to believe we need to be more loved, more understood, more approved of, more significant etc. I still don't know exactly what I think about it all. But as I notice strong unfulfilled desires within me, I want to react in a way that draws me further into loving and fearing God, loving his people and bringing glory to him.

 Thoughts, comments, and challenges are welcome in the comments section!


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