From what I have seen, a great need among us humans is the need to be accepted. Translate that loved, valued, understood, noticed, heard, appreciated, etc. For now, let’s use the word accepted.
For many years of my life, I struggled desperately with wanting to be accepted. I wanted to be able to accept myself, and I wanted others to accept me. I was extremely unhappy with myself, and quite self condemning. It was crippling, it held me back, and at times, it felt consuming. I suppose that I am still predisposed to this sentiment, though God has done an incredible work in me.
I have noticed from my life, and from the lives of others, that the person who is desperate to be accepted will do “whatever it takes” to be accepted. They will commit crimes, they will give themselves away to others in damaging relationships, they will demean others in order to gain approval, they will anesthetize themselves; the list goes on. Some will even demand that you accept them no matter what they do, and will continue to push the boundaries to make you prove that you accept them.
The Christian has a great advantage that isn’t always understood or received, but yet remains. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus…
“…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6
The Christian who is desperate to be accepted by people they can see, will run past the God they can’t see. They will generally relate to life on the visible plane. Though there is sufficient faith for salvation, it has stopped there, and satisfaction and purpose is sought from that which is tangible.
They overlook the very truth that can liberate them.
The work of God’s Spirit in directing the Believer away from what is seen, and on to that which is unseen, is the critical experience that needs to transpire.
We worry about people’s opinions of us, when the Highest Opinion is the one that really matters. When I understand and experience the fact that the Highest Opinion accepts me because I am in Christ, I can rest.
God tells us that he has made us acceptable unto Himself, as we are forgiven and united with Christ through faith. God really does love me and accept me. As I grow in this truth, I am free to accept others, even though they may be acting out in some of the aforementioned manners. I am free from my desperate need for approval, because I am walking in the acceptance of God, because of what Christ has done, and continues to do in me. I can increasingly not worry about what others think, about where I should be in life, about the failures I have made and do make.
The path of this truth becoming a liberating reality can be difficult. I speak from personal experience, and from 20 years of pastoral observation. How it happens, how long it takes, etc., is different with everyone, but I do know this: The person that experiences the liberating acceptance of God is the one who will not let go of God, and continues to pursue God in faith, and seeks to “live by faith and not by sight.”
The person who struggles with acceptance is in pain, and can believe that pain in and of itself is reason enough to not try to push forward in faith. “Can’t you see that I am hurting”, they ask. “How can I push forward in faith when I feel so bad”?
I have said and felt those same things, but my question to them is this: “How can you NOT push forward towards faith and the promises of God?” It is God who heals, but we must pursue Him will ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, even though we might be in debilitating emotional and mental anguish.
The distance from feelings to faith can indeed seem like an endless journey, but the Truth is still there for us to apprehend, and it is the best rewarded effort that one can put forth.
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (The Problem of Pain, 1940).