Read: Luke 10:38-42, Psalm 46:10
In a culture which consistently reinforces busyness, praises overworking, and assigns value to us by what we do, it is terrifyingly simple to get caught up in the game of chasing approval based on what we accomplish.
Growing up, I desired to follow the rules and do things right. I was a straight-A student (for the most part), involved in all the extracurricular activities, and I always volunteered to head group projects so I could make sure everything was exactly perfect before it was turned in.
Perfectionism was a struggle. I wanted my parents to be so proud of the Jesus-loving girl they had raised, and for my teachers to write things like “It was a joy to have you in class!” in my yearbook. In my mind, praise and affection were things I had to earn. If my life was going to be worth anything, I would have to work hard. I had to prove I was good enough to be loved.
Even years later, I often find myself following in the footsteps of Martha—distracted with tasks large and small and working hard to make sure everything in my home and heart is perfect before I invite Jesus in. While I’m sure Jesus appreciates that we want things to be our best for him, the truth is that he just wants to spend time with us. There are no prerequisites or requirements for inviting him in.
Read: John 3:16; John 14:6; Romans 10:9
The love of God is freely given.1 We don’t have to work to earn our salvation or to be considered enough in his eyes. Scripture says:
“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”Ephesians 2:8-10 (CSB)
The world teaches us we have to strive to earn things—love, money, friends, status—for our lives to be valuable. But God values our hearts as his good and intentional creation and calls us to seek out his will and his way:
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”Romans 12:2 (CSB)
Still, there are seasons of my life where I struggle with feeling like I’m not doing enough. When I’m just going through the motions, existing and feeling guilty for not achieving more, the Lord reminds me of his unfailing, unchanging love for me because of who I am in him. If you need the reminder today of how in love with you God is, read his Word. It is his love note to you. He is a romantic and passionate God, and he proves that throughout the Bible. He longs to be with us—imperfections included—and he will meet us right where we are. He sent his son Jesus to die as a sacrifice so he could be in communion with us forever. Here is what the God of the universe, the Divine Creator of all things, thinks of us:
“And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”Mark 1:11 (CSB)
“You are absolutely beautiful, my darling; there is no imperfection in you.”Song of Songs 4:7 (CSB)
While these things were not said about us directly, Christ’s sacrifice makes them applicable to us. Colossians 1:21-23 says, “Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds as expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (CSB). If we claim Christ as our Savior and keep in the faith, his blood will wash us white as snow (Psalm 51:7), so that we may be pleasing to God.
Knowing the truth of how God sees us in Christ, it can sting to realize that we are once again striving to earn his love and distracted by things that don’t matter as much as our relationship with Jesus. Because of his incredible kindness, he always corrects us, just as he did Martha.
God is perfectly loving. In his correction, he doesn’t rip the band-aid off and allow us to writhe in the pain of our mistakes. Instead, he sprinkles smaller truths throughout our lives that point to his love and grace.
Right now, stop and make a list of the things in your life that point to God’s unfailing love for you. It could be your favorite Scripture, people in your life—such as family and friends—who point you back to Jesus, a song that has been speaking to you lately, a poem or piece of art, a place in nature that reminds you of his awesome power to create with divine beauty—the possibilities are endless.
Near the top of my own list, are my family. The continual display of love they show to me always puts my heart in a posture of thanksgiving and praise for the blessing they are. My youngest brother is only nine years old and he loves it when all of his grown siblings come over to visit and spend time with him.
A few weeks ago, as we all sat together around the big farm table in our parents’ kitchen catching up, my little brother pushed his way through our elbows to distribute coloring pages and crayons. “It’s a coloring contest,” he told us excitedly, “and the winner gets their picture hung up on the fridge!”
So there we sat, six grown adults coloring, just as we had when we were children ourselves, at the will of a nine-year-old. When we finished, my sister’s boyfriend joked with my youngest brother, “Mine is the best! It’s definitely getting hung on the fridge.”
When you’re a child, there are not many things better than the feeling of having your artwork hung on the fridge by your parents, on display for all who enter the home to see. There is a beauty about the minds of the young, and how they are instilled with a deep desire for the love and acceptance of their parents. I believe that need and dependence is a large part of why we are called as believers to have a childlike faith.2
In my life, I have seen my fair share of child-drawn fridge artwork. If we are being honest, I don’t think any of it is going to end up in museums or win prestigious awards. Actually, it’s rather unimpressive, generally speaking. Parents who hang their children’s messy artwork on the fridge clearly aren’t basing the love they have for their children on their work, or any other accomplishments. They love their children as they are for who they are, because their love was created as a reflection of the way the Father loves us.
God is a picture-hanging parent. I imagine myself as a child with wide and expectant eyes, bringing the paper I have joyfully scribbled across—color crossing way past the lines and non-complementary hues mixing all over the place—to God. I know that anything I ever create won’t be sufficient to honor him, because he deserves endless praise forever and ever. I know anything I ever try to make of my life on my own accord probably looks a lot like the artwork of a toddler to the most wondrous and talented Creator there ever has been or will be. Instead of laughing or pointing out inadequacies, he accepts it warmly—a parent proud of his child’s creation.
When we feel like we’re not enough or like we have nothing good to offer to God, we can come to his presence and remind ourselves that he is our loving Father, and he wants whatever messy and imperfect picture we proudly bring to him. I have no doubt he would hang it on his fridge, delightfully displayed front and center. His love isn’t dependent on what we can bring to the table… or what we can draw at it.
In knowing the truth that we are perfectly loved and secure in Jesus, regardless of our accomplishments, we can live in the freedom of not having to strive to earn love, followers, friends, or even salvation.
Further Study & Application
- This week, spend time in prayer with Jesus. Ask him to lovingly reveal to you places in your life where you may be striving for approval or to earn his love. Try jotting down some ideas of how you could replace those things with time in communion with him.
- Read Romans 6:23: How does viewing salvation as a gift change your perspective of God’s love for you?
- Read Mark 10:13-16: Jesus says that the Kingdom of God belongs to little children. How can pursuing a childlike faith help you to trust that God doesn’t expect you to earn his love and reaffirm that you can freely receive and rejoice in the gifts of the Lord?
- When I was child, my mother made us write thank you notes to every friend and relative who got us a gift at a holiday or birthday. Spend a few minutes in the next day or two writing a thank you note to God for his gift of eternal life, which saved us from deserved death by no virtue of our own. Once you’ve finished your thank you note, hang it in a place where you will see it regularly and be reminded of his lavish generosity and love for you.
1 Romans 8:32
2 Matthew 18:3
Photo credit: Michael Marcagi
Alyssa lives in central Illinois and works as a social media manager for a local non-profit organization that helps individuals overcome sexual abuse. A lifelong writer, she began her ministry through her personal blog, The October Opportunist, in 2018. Alyssa is passionate about serving Jesus and leads worship at her church. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, and writing music.