This is crazy, because outwardly I’ve got it all… family that says they love me, friends that encourage and support me and say they love me, a church that I’m so fortunate to pastor (well, maybe I should say that I’m glad to have a job) with people who say they love me, appreciate my preaching, and are thankful I’m there (except for Mr. X, and he doesn’t like anybody, Mrs. Y, and she complains about everything, and Miss Z, and we can’t seem to do enough for her, and some of the elders, and some of the deacons. The 10% use up 90% of my energy.)
My wife loves me and I love her, but…
My children love me most of the time, respect me some of the time, but…
My friends say they love me, and even correct me kindly, sort of, but…
The church was literally “given to me by God” to serve, and I really want to love them, but…
“Yes, but…” You fill in the blank. There are all sorts of people, places, and things that suck me dry, exhaust my body and soul, and though there are people around, I’m all alone. Oh, you tell me Jesus “will never leave me or forsake me.” Thanks, but I know that scripture too, and Jesus is silent, has gone on vacation, or grace applies to you, but not to me.
“So I say to myself, ‘Self, the pain, the loneliness, the exhaustion are so overwhelming and Jesus is no where to be found, what can I do to get a little relief?’”
Unfortunately, most of the relief that comes to mind is going to feel so good and then cost so much… sin is that way. It brings comfort, good feelings, and relief for a little while then comes the truck load of consequences and shame and our dark hole just got deeper and darker.
Try “thinking through the relief,” the road you’re thinking about going down and the experiences of consequence, pain, and shame you’ve suffered in the past when the relief you desired came in a small, short dose, but the consequence and pain came in a dump truck.
And then, hold on. Fake ‘til you make it. Live with the pain, don’t drink, drug, rage, use sex, or work or power or control unless “your ass falls off.” Remember our Jewish brothers and sisters, 400 years in slavery in Egypt. Now that’s a long dark night. Remember Moses trying to lead them to the promise land, and all they did was complain. Sound like your church? 40 extra years in the desert. Then the exiles, all because relief and being liked by those around them was more important than being “liked by God.” Sound familiar. I see a guy like that in the mirror every morning.
Well, maybe this will help… Who are you really trying to please? Me, it was my Dad. He said, “you don’t have what it takes” so I’ve spent my very long life trying to prove I do. It was also my wife, but I can’t be who she wants me to be, or fill the needs she thinks I ought to be able to… no matter how hard I try or how many marriage seminars we go to. It certainly was the church, but trying to please everyone resulted in pleasing no one and getting fired. (Side road: When I criticize the church the way I can criticize the church, Jesus says, “She may be ugly, but she’s my wife, so be careful.”)
And then there is trying to please God. Now grace may apply to others, and Jesus may say about you what the Father said about Him… “You are my brother, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” But as for me, I’ve got to be better and do more, before He is going to be pleased with me. So I’m “sucked dry, bone tired, and all alone”.
Guess what, your feelings don’t match the facts and you’re trying to please all the wrong people, including God. He is already pleased with you, because of Christ. No, we don’t sin that grace would abound, and we don’t use our freedom to indulge the flesh, but it is no longer I who do it, it is sin living in me. The “I” here, is not the “I” in sin, but the “I” as in the new me, the new identity, the born again one, the precious son of the Father, bought by the precious blood of “The Son”… my brother.
Pleasing everyone = pleasing no one, including your self. Pleasing God to earn points is just as exhausting and futile, because Jesus has pleased Him for you. So just enjoy… if you can’t get to the joy yet, just hang on, don’t go for the relief, wait for Jesus, I promise he’ll come, he did for me and if he did it for a screw up like me, I know he’ll come for you. Use the anger as energy to hang on and the exhaustion as an opportunity to go take a nap.