Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
In longing to be found, I found myself lost. My spirit felt crushed. I wish I could say it was the only time, but the truth is I have found myself in this place before. A well-worn path, my feet step comfortably in the lingering imprints I left behind.
Too often, I have searched for meaning and gotten lost. Not on purpose. I don’t set out to get lost. Somehow though, I wind myself around the places I believe my worth will be found, winding round and round only to be lost, crushed by the tightening of failed expectations I have of God, myself, and others.
What if we grasped where we are truly found?
I live with a fear of being good enough. God revealed this to me a few years ago. I wish I could say once the fear revealed itself, it disappeared. It has not gone away, but the awareness continues to bring healing. The fear of being good enough lays under the surface, calling out and begging me to listen. If I follow the fear, my spirit becomes crushed, and I find myself lost.
If you tend to let your spirit be crushed, like me, I pray these words are a gift to you this Christmas.
Instead of being still and knowing God (Psalm 46:10), the fear of being good enough caused me to search for meaning frantically. In the frenzy of the finding, I didn’t know God, and I didn’t know myself. Everywhere I looked to find meaning, I missed God and His love for me. I drowned myself in expectations. I mistakenly believed I would find significance in marriage, parenting, work, or relationships with family and friends. Instead of finding myself in these different places, I wandered lost. My spirit crushed every time the places I thought my worth would turn up, turned up empty.
Where do you look to find your worth?
When I finally thought I understood, once again, I found myself lost. I kept turning down pathways, wandering and wondering why things did not turn out as I expected. My expectations did not provide what I searched for but kept me in a place of uncertainty. I was trusting in them instead of trusting in God. I put my worth in specific outcomes rather than resting in His Presence.
Our human nature will cause us to chase after worth. We will look to be found in the busy, the rushing, the hustle and bustle of expectancy. We will set expectations of God, ourselves, and others. We will define success, and we will strive for recognition in how we look on the outside, a job, an accolade we seek, or wealth we believe will satisfy. We will trust in expected outcomes as signs of God’s goodness, and when those outcomes don’t turn out as we expect, we will feel crushed. The broken pieces that are left behind become the pieces we gather to define who God is and who we think we are.
I wish I could say I only did this once, but it was a pattern I kept circling back to. There were many different places I looked for meaning and worth. I strove for each of my expectations to be met, believing I would finally feel joy and satisfaction. Deep down, though, the longing did not cease.
I have learned the longing will not cease until the ceasing stops still and quiet before our creator. In His Word, quiet and still, we learn to know Him, and we learn He is the only one who truly knows us. We learn He is Holy, just, faithful, and wise. We grow to see He is good, compassionate, dependable, and righteous. We recognize He is able, generous, true, and loyal. And most of all, we learn how much He loves us.
In the quietness of His Presence and His Word, I learned to ask why questions of my thoughts, feeling, and actions. Through this process, God has and continues to show me who He is and who I am in Him. As I pour out my heart, He reminds me of His love and grace. In His mercy, He has helped me see how I have allowed my spirit to be crushed over and over because I was looking for my worth everywhere but in Him.
In honest prayer, I laid down the hurt from all the places I sought satisfaction. I surrendered the false beliefs I had of who God is and set down the unrealistic expectations I had of myself and others.
What if this Christmas we all set down the expectations we have of God, ourselves, and others? What if we let go of trusting in outcomes and learned to trust Him instead? What if we grabbed hold of the new in the new year–the new we are in Christ? What if we let ourselves be found in Him?
When we lay down the expectations, we find hope because we find who we were created to be. We stop looking everywhere else to be defined, and we receive grace. We live loved because we begin to know the source of love.
1 John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
I once sought perfection. Now I seek God. In His love I am found.
God works in us to change and transform us to be more and more the character of Christ. It is by His Holy Spirit, not our effort. The more we push into our effort, the more we find ourselves lost. We seek meaning, but our own effort, striving, working harder, pushing, forcing will not bear lasting fruit.
The only place I want to rush anymore is to Jesus. In Him, I find who God is. Knowing God, I begin to know myself, and I start to live out who He created me to be. So different than what I once believed. I used to live with a crushed spirit, but joy is returning as I rest in God and trust in Him.
Where are you looking for meaning?
This Christmas, look to Christ. In humility, He came. Let’s turn humbly back to Him and let Him work in the innermost places of our heart. Let’s allow Him to show us who He really is and who we truly are in Him. Here joy rises, and we find the gift of meaning we have been rushing and searching for.