This weekend, my pastor preached about how we should be letting God rule our lives (specifically, the fear of God), rather than people and things. As he was talking at first, drawing from Genesis 10:10-20 as the foundation of the sermon, I was thinking that I didn’t worry too much about what other people thought and I was pretty set on the idea that I’m definitely ruled by the fear of God and not man.
Then, as happens most Sundays, I began to feel convicted toward the end of the sermon. At one point, my pastor began to list off questions quoted from a book by Ed Welch to test whether we were being controlled by the fear of man.
“Have you ever struggled with peer pressure? Well, sure. Hasn’t everyone? That’s teenage fear of man. Are you over-committed? Huh. Yes… That’s fear of man and being a people-pleaser.” (Italics are obviously my inner responses.)
Then he pushed a bit further. Do you ever feel as though you might be exposed as an imposter? Of being found out? Yep. Are you always second-guessing decisions because of what others might think? Jealous of other people? Feel love-hunger? That means you’re controlled by fear of man. Well, shoot.
I guess now that I think about it, all of these things are true of me, and I have definitely let a fear of people control me. Growing up, I was always searching for identity or worth in one thing or another. I tried out just about every sport, I was a part of various clubs in high school, I was on the newspaper staff, I did youth group, I had friends from very different “cliques”, and I always hoped at least one of those things would satisfy me.
This is something I’ve known for several years. It’s something I talk about a lot, actually. I guess I just never would have put the label of “ruled by the fear of man” on it. But hearing the sermon this weekend really put it in perspective. Because even though in college I felt like I was finally able to stop chasing different things for identity and instead rest in the assurance of my identity in Christ, this was a reality check that I still have a tendency to let other people and things rule my thoughts and actions.
I over-commit all the time. I constantly fear that if I reveal my deepest sin struggles to friends I’ve known for years, they’ll see me as an imposter for not saying anything before. I am always second-guessing myself – decisions, desires, thoughts, emotions – because I fear making the wrong choice will disrupt my peace, create conflict within my relationships, and make others view me differently.
These are all things I struggle with on a daily basis. And honestly, it gets exhausting when I really think about it.
When we’re letting the fear, influence, or pleasing of people rule us, rather than the power and fear of the Lord, we will constantly desire more because people (ourselves included) will always disappoint or fall short.
But God doesn’t fall short. Ever. He is the answer to all we need – we just have to surrender and let him rule our lives. He will provide all we need. He’ll even give us the desires of our heart, as long as we are following him and seeking him. Because by doing that, his desires become our desires. He is always enough.
So you know what? Screw what others think. So friends, here are just a few of the things I often let rule my life. If you see me or talk to me, feel free to ask me how I’m doing with all of this and letting God rule my heart.
-I over-commit to things out of the hope that something will give me the fulfillment and joy I am constantly seeking. (Spoiler alert: only God can give me that.)
-I’m 26 years old, I’ve never been in a relationship, and I fear it’s because there’s something wrong with me. But I don’t talk about it much because I’m afraid people will think I’m whiny, desperate, and ungrateful for the blessings I do have.
-I struggled with pornography for almost 10 years, and still only a couple of friends know because I still feel a whole lot of shame about being a Christian woman who has dealt with this. I’ve feared losing something in other relationships by telling people (even though the ones I’ve told have only lead to deeper friendships).
-I’ve let my desire for peace, comfortable friendships, and acceptance rule over me many times. I often turn things over to God and ask for him to be my everything – for his desires to become my desires – only to take those things back shortly after.
As I was mulling over all these things during the sermon, the pastor said three words that drew my thoughts back to God – “but the Lord.” During all those things that have failed me, the Lord stepped in.
Ed Welch says, “However you put it, the fear of man can be summarized this way: We replace God with people. Instead of a biblically guided fear of the Lord, we fear others.”
But the Lord steps in and corrects us. Because without him being the central, defining purpose of my life (and life as a whole), everything else is meaningless.