There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 1John 4:18
A few years ago failing health forced my friend, Shirley, then in her early fifties, to move into a nursing facility. That doorway, which seemed to be a dead-end, became a gateway to a spiritual garden. In the difficulties, she has mined treasures for herself and others with incredible perseverance. Walk with me in her garden and enjoy its beauty!
Recently as we chatted, Shirley said, “I think maybe I’m too hard on myself.”
Nodding in agreement, I replied, “That is so easy to do, isn’t it? We disappoint ourselves but God knows we’re only made of dirt. We forget that and want so badly to be perfect.”
Light flooded her voice as she said, “My perfectionism is trying to climb back up, isn’t it?” Realizing that the old idol of prideful perfectionism that had dogged her for years was trying to sit on the throne of her heart, she quickly cast it down. Allowing the love of God to reclaim its place, she rejoiced in the sweetness of His presence. We chatted about how easily idols re-create themselves. Those things we battle in life that block our view of God tend to come back in new garb. Learning to recognize them and slay them for the glory of the King is an exciting thing!
The path that brought my friend to the doorway of the nursing home had been fraught with self-designed pits and chains. A life-long battle against depression and self-blame had held Shirley captive to the idea that she just needed to work a little harder at being ‘good.’ A believer in God, she tried very hard to do life perfectly—to please God. She tried so hard, in fact, that peace could never get inside her striving. God used the weakness of Shirley’s body to become the path to His presence. Forced to depend on others, she found freedom that eluded her in independence.
Enjoy her words: “I feel like a new creature who can come out from hiding! I feel like the confident, loveable person God has created me to be! I never realized I was bound with so much fear.”
Can you relate to her exciting discovery?! Fear of failing prevented her from falling into the freeing grace of God. Passionately focused on doing things perfectly, she could not feel the peace of God–who never asked her to be perfect. Finally God allowed her physical body to become a captor that forced her to be still and feel the Truth she kept trying to produce—the Truth that had always been there. God led my friend to freedom through weakness. Today she shares her garden as she continually glorifies God by showing others the treasures she finds in His presence!
Sometimes God has to force us to see our inadequacy, so we can feel His completeness.
God’s love allows us to face every circumstance with confidence because He loves us! We are free to be imperfect, free to be wrong and free to love (and be loved) even when we disagree with others. Our worth is in Him, not ourselves, and that makes us a priceless, useful vessel for the glory of God. May we each learn from Shirley’s experience and soak in His love that we, too, can be free!
God never expects us to be perfect! He is only disappointed when fail to enjoy His presence.