Last Tuesday I did something bold: I decided to chop off the majority of my long, wavy locks and opted for a much shorter hairstyle. And you know what?
I love it.
I had considered this haircut for a couple of years, but never found the courage to go through with it. The greatest deterrent from pursuing this style was a horrid image burned into my brain from over 14 years earlier. I had decided to donate my hair for my 7th birthday to Locks of Love, but the end result was quite bad.
At the time I didn’t think so. I was proud to have donated my hair, but looking back at it, I wish someone had at least granted me a personal, professional stylist to tame my unruly waves and bangs.
It helps that my current hair isn’t as short as it was then. Nonetheless, it’s still the second-shortest I’ve ever cut it during my life. Having access to mousse, curling irons, and straighteners, I feel much more confident in my new hair choice.
But this unwavering confidence didn’t last long.
The first few days were solid, having no regrets about my decision. But only a few days ago, I began struggling with a battle I’ve always fought: seeking the approval of others.
I wanted family and friends to like my choice, but I also wanted random people I interacted with to like it (even if they never vocalized their opinion).
Recognizing this negative self-thinking, I had to put a stop to it. If I was content and pleased about this decision I made, even if others didn’t agree, then my opinion is all that mattered.
I can’t help but draw a similar comparison in our walk with God.
I’m sure that many of us, at some point or another, have felt God’s calling in our life to pursue something. It may be something we’re passionate about, or it may be something of which we’re terrified. Regardless of how we feel, we decide to take that step of faith and trust God’s plan for us.
We fight that internal battle in our minds, the thoughts of doubt and worry — but we push through it, and we succeed because we follow God’s will.
We feel grateful and thankful to God because He showed us His plan, and that He was patient when we did have moments where we questioned Him. We feel proud of our strength and courage to have pursued what He has called us to.
Then the critics arrive…
In the wave of encouragement and prayers we receive from our fellow Christians, the emergence of opinions and criticisms arise from others. They question our motives. They ask if we were qualified to begin with. They doubt our abilities.
Suddenly, that joy and passion you felt from following God in obedience turns into a sinking feeling in your stomach. You start questioning yourself and the journey you’ve made to arrive at this point.
So often in life, my instinct has been to please others. I wanted them to approve of my decisions when it came to my faith and what I pursued.
But I’ve had to remember this: I was not performing for an audience of dozens, hundreds, or even millions. I was performing for an audience of One. The One whose opinion, direction, and critique I seek is that of my Heavenly Father; the One who created me, knows me better than anyone in this life will, and has a plan for my life.
There have been many things within recent years that I have faced opposition for, even from Christians, when pursuing God’s calling for me:
- The sponsorship of my precious girls through Compassion International
- Completing internships at my former church and at Focus on the Family
- Serving in student ministry
- Creating this blog
Paul words this struggle perfectly in Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
It’s easy to fall within a trap of seeking other’s approval, but is it worth compromising what tasks God has bestowed upon us? We have the opportunity to grow in our relationship with Him and potentially serve others, and to see the miracles He works in transforming lives. Yet, we are willing to let it be lost for men’s approval. Even if it’s for one person.
We will not be free from criticism and opinions throughout this life; but in spite of it, I will continue to pursue God’s calling for me.
Where are areas that you may feel this same pressure in your faith, where the fear you experience is almost disabling?
In those moments of doubt and second-guessing, I encourage you to think not of the many whose approval you seek. Think of the One that has called you to your work. The One who believes in you, and has gifted you with the abilities to accomplish what He desires for you to complete.
After all, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”