It’s so easy today to get caught up in the things of this world. I mean, you don’t have to search far to find others’ opinions, see what others are doing, or listen to the chatter of the world. Just stretch out your arm and reach for your smart phone on your nightstand…the world at your fingertips! Yet, as we engage in open access to the world, we’re also opening ourselves up to the temptation to seek validation from a variety of these worldly sources.
Pinterest tells us what our homes should look like, Facebook tells us who likes us and what our “friends” are doing, and Twitter tells us what’s trending. Although we like to pass time by exploring social media, we might be unaware of the impact it’s making on us. We can find ourselves thinking, “My house doesn’t look like that,” “I haven’t been on a vacation like them in so long,” or “Why doesn’t my husband bring me flowers just because?” It’s a slippery slope because once we use the social comparison trap, we get sucked in and we quickly find ourselves using others as a benchmark for how we are doing. In essence, our approval for how we are doing comes from the world. We desire to be in the know. But you know who else desires to be in the know? Your Heavenly Father!
The Lord desires to know us intimately and to have an ongoing relationship with us. While out in the wilderness for 40 years, David appeals to God in saying, “Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold Lord, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:1-4).
Now, there’s nothing wrong with social media. It’s fun to let friends and family know what you’re up to and likewise. In fact, social media is fast-becoming an awesome tool to reach others for Christ! Our smart phones now have Bible apps, so that God’s word can also be at our fingertips. Being connected is not necessarily the root of the problem…it’s knowing when to disconnect and how to ground ourselves in God’s word daily. It’s knowing that our worth and our self-value is found in Jesus and that God alone is the ultimate judge of how we are doing!
Desire for approval from others is nothing new though. In fact, seeking approval from others is exactly why Jeremiah rebuked Israel in the Bible, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13-14). See, Jeremiah’s frustration with Judah came after a time when Israel had been redeemed and freed from Egyptian bondage, so that they might serve him alone, yet they had fallen to the practice of substituting idolatry for the worship of the Lord. The Israelites were thirsty, but looking to broken cisterns to whet their appetites for fulfillment and value. Yet Jeremiah was clear, only God can sustain our thirst and his cistern will never run dry! So what are we to do when we find ourselves tempted to seek approval from worldly sources, instead of from the only one true source, our almighty God?
- Get into God’s word daily. My grandmother used to tell me, “Garbage in, garbage out.” She was a strong Christian woman and no doubt was planting the seed of God’s word in my heart early on. What we fill out eyes, ears, and minds with on a daily basis will no doubt reveal itself in our actions and our desires. The old children’s hymn comes to mind, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see, oh be careful little ears what you hear, for the Father up above is looking down in love…” I don’t think that God’s desire for us to guard our influences stops when we grow into adults. God wants us to be continual seekers and appliers of his word to our lives. And if we’re to do this, we’ll need to arm ourselves with the word of God to resist the temptations of this world and the influences that will always be all around us (Ephesians 6:10-18)
- Resist complacency in your faith. We should thirst and hunger after God’s word and direction in our lives. The best way to resist the temptation to allow our approval and validation to come from others is to be on the move for God! If we are constantly working at our faith, and growing, we will not be stagnant (John 3:36). Get involved in serving God and he will be at work in you, equipping you for his kingdom!
- Know that you will disappoint others. We can’t always please God and please the world at the same time. Paul tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2) The world operates on the principle of conformity and when we choose to not conform we will be met with some adversity. Jesus tells us that our time on Earth will be met with many trials and sorrows, but to “take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is solace in knowing that we do not ever go it alone in this world when Jesus is by our side.
- Understand that God’s opinion ultimately matters most. We are social creatures and it is very easy to go with the crowd, we’re drawn to others. While God surely wants for us to have relationships with others, he asks the we “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Only after seeking God first should we then turn to others as a source of information. After all, one day we are to answer to God’s ultimate question of, “What did you do with my son?”
- Surround yourself with other Christians who will lift you up to God. One of the most powerful aspects of the Christian life is being connected to a group of believers who support you and truly desire God’s best for you! The Bible tells us “where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20) and God knows that it will take some help to withstand the pressures and temptations of this world. We do not have to navigate it on our own. We don’t even navigate on our own when we’re driving an hour away, we have Siri! SO, don’t navigate this Christian life solo. Get involved in a growth group or a small group and surround yourself with others who will take the journey of seeking God first with you!
I’m constantly developing my daily discipline of relating to God. I am putting my self-value into the promises of his word, sure that the Lord alone will be my benchmark for approval. What will you do today to make God the authority over your worth?