Updated: May 18, 2020
I sometimes feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I feel the responsibility to take care of everyone and solve every problem. I feel like if I don’t do it all, I will be letting someone down. Let me tell you something – those are all lies that keep me bonded in shame.
I am a helper (a 2 on the Enneagram, if you are familiar with that). And as one of my friends recently put it, my helpful nature is my strength and also my vice. I truly desire to love and support those around me. That is part of how God made me, and it is good. But there are times when I become so consumed with the crises around me that I am filled with anxiety and insecurity over things that I cannot (and should not) control. That is not healthy for me or anyone else.
Recently, I’ve been feeling some of that anxiety well up, and instead of ignoring it and pressing on to save the world, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on the root of the anxiety. It’s been a humbling and sweet process of letting the Spirit show me the wounded places in my heart and receiving his truth.
God is reminding me over and over again that I need to know my role. To be honest, I often want to be the savior. I want to be the one to rescue those who are hurting. But the reality is that I cannot save anyone, and that’s not a responsibility that God has given me to bear. When I think about the commands that God gives us in the Bible, I don’t see him telling us to rescue others. Instead, I see over and over again that God says he will rescue those in need. We, on the other hand, are given the commands to love, to carry each other’s burdens, to show compassion (which literally means to suffer with), to mourn with those who mourn, to speak up for others, to pray for others. All of that requires action that often brings with it sacrifice and discomfort. We are not given a pass to just sit and pray and hope that God comes through. God absolutely invites us into his work of restoration. But there is a big difference between seeing ourselves as the hero and recognizing that God is the only one who is able to save.
I remember a time a couple years ago when I was crying out to God on behalf of someone else and feeling so frustrated and angry that I wasn’t able to change their circumstances. I remember saying to God, “I just feel like I’m not enough. I’m not wise enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m not faithful enough to fix this.” I heard God’s gentle response so clearly. “You’re not supposed to be enough. But do you trust that I AM enough?”
Do I really trust that God is true to his word? Do I trust that he hears the cries of his people and responds? Do I trust that he has the power and the desire to heal and restore? Do I trust that he knows better than I do? Even when God doesn’t move as quickly as I would like or in the way that I think he should, will I still trust him then?
The answers to those questions are so evident in the state of my mind. When I am operating out of fear, I start to spiral into anxiety and I cannot quiet my mind. But when I truly trust in God, he silences the noise and brings peace.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3
Once I recognize that I am not the hero, I can discern what it is that God is actually calling me to do. Sometimes I would rather skip the discernment part. I want to jump into action. I am quick to decide what is needed, and I want to say, “Yes, send me” before I’ve even had a moment to consider my capacity or any other factors. I try to do things by my own wisdom and my own strength. That might work out for a little while, but eventually, I will run out of steam, I will make the wrong move, and I will stand in the way of the restoration that God truly had in mind.
I’m learning that I need to take a breath (both literally and figuratively) before I move or commit to something. I need to acknowledge God and ask what he wants from me. God created us to need him, to depend on him. He intended for us to be sustained by his presence. And he gave us such an incredible gift in his Holy Spirit, who leads us in the way we should go. Why do I take that for granted?
I do not have to respond to every cry for help. It’s hard to admit that, and I’m not sure I always believe it. But I am human, which means I have my limits. I have to release the shame of not being able to be all things to all people. But if I let the Spirit lead me in when and how to respond, I can rest in knowing that I’m being obedient while relinquishing control to God.
For in him we live and move and have our being. – Acts 17:28
Even when we are obedient to the ways that the Spirit moves us, things do not always turn out as we would hope. We cannot control the outcomes, and we also cannot control how others respond to us. That’s hard for me to let go of. I care a lot (too much) about how others view me. I can drive myself crazy worrying about how my actions or words are received. I want others to see my heart, to understand my intentions, and to value my contributions. But when I let my worth depend on other people’s views of me, I will always be wavering in insecurity. When I seek gratitude and affirmation in exchange for the ways that I help others, I am setting myself up for disappointment.
I am not justified by how others respond to me or what they think of me, and I cannot use others’ views of me as a measuring stick for whether or not I’m doing what is right. Most times, I cannot accurately determine what others really think of me. And even if I could, their perspective is just that – their perspective. It is not complete. It is not absolute truth.
I need to find my identity solely in being completely and endlessly loved by God. He is the one that I am trying to please, and he is already so pleased because I am his. I am justified by his abundant grace. If I really believe that, I will be able to experience incredible freedom as I live out the ways that God is calling me to love others.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2
These are all lessons that I’m learning and will continue to re-learn for many years to come, I’m sure. It is one thing to say that I know and believe all this, but it is another to really receive it and live it out. I will continue to be tempted to see myself as the hero. I will continue to move more quickly than I should. And I will continue to question how others perceive me. But as I feel the anxiety start to creep in, I can take a breath, remind myself of the truth, and slowly start to believe it as I receive God’s perfect peace.