Since the tragedy of the Boston Marathon, I’ve clung to God a lot more lately. During the week of the event, I felt confused, angry, and so many things that I couldn’t really explain. In times like that, it just makes sense to spend more time with God because I feel truly understood by Him. I don’t have to explain to Him how I feel because He already knows. And that is so comforting.
Since then, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my relationship with the Lord – a pressure that I put there myself. Although I spend daily time with Him in prayer and follow a Bible study, my faith had been feeling much too forced lately. It didn’t feel like a relationship, but more like an appointment that I felt guilty about not keeping. My faith felt stale, anxious, dragging, and lacking – necessary but not extraordinary.
Why? Because I often try to “perfect” it.
When the Perfectionist Takes Over
My intentions are good. I love God and want to have greater faith. I get excited about learning from Him and growing as a Christian, but my excitement goes too far.
I take things into my own hands, buying Christian books and setting out to do special Bible studies, and setting my expectations for myself far too high in the process.
I think, I will pray so much! I will help others. I will stop sinning. I’ll volunteer extra for church. It’ll be great!
But it’s not great because it’s all about me instead of God’s power. And it’s not possible because I am human, limited, and flawed.
When I inevitably fail because I’m putting more faith in my own actions than God’s power, I – unsurprisingly – become gravely disappointed in my faith.
If I could just pray more, then I’d have a better relationship with God…
If I was just less anxious, I could hear from the Lord better…
If I woke up earlier, I could spend more time with the Lord…
If I was just more disciplined, I could do my Bible study every day…
I could go on, but you get the point.
The Pressure’s Off
I put all the pressure on myself to have good faith because I’m perfectionistic – because a deep part of me has such little faith that I think I have to do everything. I have good intentions but they go completely astray. I fall into the trap of believing I can save myself instead of relying fiercely on the love of God and His power.
But the Bible undoes all of this thinking in Ephesians 2:8-9, which says:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
So nothing I do can get me greater faith? All my work doesn’t earn me the love of God?
Not at all.
Cue the sigh of relief. Part of me wants to slap myself on the head when I realize this. But most of me just wants to say, Thank you, God, that I do not have to do it all – even my faith.
The pressure is off because God provides my faith. I didn’t magically discover God. He wooed me into knowing Him. He called me to sit with Him. He showed me His word and the truth. I didn’t do any of this.
It’s about Trust
For me, it comes down to trusting God more than I trust myself. And trust me, trusting God is the way better option. He is constant, sure, and strong – all the things I’m not!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5
God typically reminds me very often that it’s about Him, not me. That it’s about a relationship with a holy God, not a Bible study or “personal time.” He reminds me that He just wants an open heart to pour into, not crazy-long prayers, new revelations, or “work” for Him. He just wants me pointed to Him.
This is one of many lessons that God has taught me about perfectionism. And I continue to learn and relearn this very idea over and over again. My faith is never going to be “perfect.” And that’s okay because I have faith in a God who is perfect for me.
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