I remember growing up in church. I might not remember every single sermon but there are a few key points I remember to this day. The one with the strongest memory is that every Sunday, every Vacation Bible School that I attended in the summer, and really any church event where the preacher gave people an opportunity to surrender their life to Jesus, I re-dedicated myself to God. It’s kind of sweet when I look back at myself as a young girl, but I think if we’re honest, we can all struggle to believe sometimes. Back then, I wanted to be really really really sure that I was going to Heaven. In my naive way, if there was even the slightest chance that I didn’t say the salvation prayer correctly or believe it in my heart sincerely that I needed to do it again.
As I got older the belief stabilized and new worries and concerns filled my heart. Do people like me? Do boys like me? Am I good enough? Am I smart enough?
Reading the Bible growing up was not as much of a study, but I remember 1 Peter 5:7 being a passage that I found comfort in:
Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you (The Passion Translation)
This tender God was so appealing to me. It wasn’t the God that people around me seemed to fear. Instead it was meeting a warm God. Not a weak God, but a God with tenderness for me and my concerns.
In my house there was a lot of uncertainty. I didn’t always know where I stood with my dad for instance. There was a lot that he did right when it came to childhood Christmases and birthdays but I also remember when that stopped happening. Many nights he would come home drunk and angry and as I got older, I felt less like a child in His eyes and more of a reminder of the sister he didn’t like or included in the arguments he would have with my mom. Looking back I didn’t really realize that my relationship with my dad was also shaping my perception of God. Did God also think I was just like my aunt? Just like my mother? A failure? A joke? Someone to look at because of forced obligation? If I’m honest the first half of my life when it came to Jesus was perfection-based and performance-based. I wanted to do my best at school and be as perfect as possible to please my dad, so naturally I would transfer that same behavior to God. If I didn’t make any mistakes - God would have to love me. God would remember to listen to me and my prayers.
As I continue to get older and more mature in my faith, I’ve learned to have less anxiety about the future. If anxiety creeps up, I feel it, but it doesn’t consume me. It wasn’t a lightbulb moment which changed my whole life, but more like the slow unveiling of God’s character revealed to me in His Word and His faithfulness through many trials in life.
Which brings me to ask myself the question: what would change if I really believed God was for me no matter what?
Not only would I continue to live with less anxiety and be less tempted to perform for His approval, but I would also feel less self-loathing when I do not measure up. Psalm 51:16 says:
For the source of your pleasure is not in my performance or the sacrifices I might offer to you. (The Passion Translation)
So it is not up to how good or bad we are, or whether our faith dwindles through tough times. We can be assured that we are God’s treasure because we were created in God’s image and welcomed into right standing through Jesus. It always encourages me when I think of Jesus looking at me as His treasure and without condemnation or disapproval.
If you struggle with performing well enough for God’s love like I did for so long, remember it was never about us - it was all about Him. Jesus wanted us so badly that He didn’t care about religious perfection and ritual - He wanted us. Be of good cheer, you are the apple of your Father’s eye.
Jessica Brown is a full time manager working in the advertising industry in New York City. In her free time she specializes in blogging about topics concerning twenty-something life while navigating the ups and downs of Christian faith. Oftentimes, you’ll find her volunteering on a Sunday or taking car rides through the state of New Jersey. When she’s not writing, she’s watching British vlogs on Youtube, pinning quotes to her Pinterest board, or reading a new book.