If each one of us were to be extremely honest, we would admit that one of the longings of our hearts is to know that people are proud of us. We want to make others happy! We want to feel that sense of excitement that comes with having someone pat your back and say "good job!"
For so many, this seems to be unattainable. It is like no matter what we do, we just cannot seem to get that "thumbs up" from the one we most passionately desire to please. It could be a parent, a spouse, a friend, a boss, grand parents, a coach, or maybe for some, it would be from a child. For some reason, we just can't seem to dig in.
I know I have watched my dad and his siblings wrestle for years in hopes of hearing how proud their dad, my grandfather, was of them. That passion to please him actually passed on to most in my generation as well. He is a man of very high standards, who warred hard for everything he has, and he is a firm believer in pushing everyone to be their best. Often that included dangling a carrot out in front of you in order to get you to move forward. In his case, it was the carrot of his approval.
I love my grandfather and in so many ways I have become who I am because of his pushing me. However, I also begin to see the strain of seemingly never being able to "get the carrot." I watched it in my dad, my uncles and aunts, my brother who carries my grandfather's name, and that drive to "get it" landed in me. Looking back I realized so much of what I did was in hopes of one day hearing him say, "Great job son! You did good!"
Unfortunately, that day just did not seem to ever come. There were little glimpses of hope, after a job well done where he would say a kind word, but it was always followed with, "Now where is your next big deal?" Eventually, I came to realize no matter how good I did, I was NEVER going to be able to completely please him. I lost hope in ever "eating that carrot."
I share all that to say that I begin to carry all that over into my relationship with my heavenly Father. I begin to see him as being just like my earthly grandfather who was never completely satisfied with me! I would work and work in order to "earn His blessing of approval," but no matter how hard I tried, I begin to believe the lie that I would never be able to satisfy Him. I wanted to see Him smile at me and say "good job," but my understanding of His smile was a life of earthly riches and abundance. That is what I had been told would please my earthly grandfather, worldly success, so I begin to believe that was also what it took to please God.
As long as I was making good money and pursuing the next deal, I felt like I was getting close to the carrot. As long as I kept living the best life I could and went to every "Jesus" function I could attend, read my bible, and said a few prayers, was kind to others, and kept His law, then I believed one day I would earn His favor and I would know it once I was living a life of riches here on earth. But as much as I chased it, and even when I tasted it a little, I never seem to be able to maintain it and keep Him "smiling at me."
Once I begin to believe the lie that God would never be pleased with me, I lost all hope. I despaired of life itself. I dreamed of just laying down and no longer breathing. If I could not make God happy, if I could never earn His smile, then what was the point of even going on? There have been many nights in my life, regardless of how blessed I seemed on the outside, that on the inside I begged God to just let me die! I was tired of chasing something I could never reach.
That is when Jesus showed up in my life and I begin to realize I had it all backwards! I was striving to attain something that I already had! I was hoping for approval because I believed approval meant I was loved! Jesus showed me that I was not to run to earn love, but I was to run because I had already been loved!
The truth is, my grandfather loves me, that is why he pushes me to be my best. He may never say how proud of me he is, but I know he loves me and he has shown that to me in more ways than one. He has helped me become better. Gave our family a place to stay when we needed it, and has always been generous in offering his advise when I have asked for it.
The TRUTH is, God has already declared He is pleased with me because He has expressed His love toward me, in that, while I was still a sinner/enemy of Him, He gave his perfect Son to pay the penalty for my sin (Romans 5:6-8). He took everything about me that He hated, and covered it with the One He loves! He covered my sin with Jesus' righteousness (Isaiah 61:10)! He placed me in Christ! (1 Peter 2:9) When he said to Jesus, "this is my Son in whom I am well pleased," He included me in that statement because He has adopted me through Christ (Galatians 3:35-4:7). Now, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:19-21)
That is why today, I no longer have to despair with no Hope. I no longer have to try and earn his approval. I already have it in Jesus Christ! Today, I no longer have to run in hopes of earning his love, but rather, I run the race with patience because I know I am already loved!