By: Julianna Weiss
“I prefer for people to love me when I’m worthy of it, like when I do something nice for them or they feel loved by me so they love me in return. I’d rather have that than someone love me when I’m nasty, that feels so unworthy.” These are the words I typed out to a friend while talking about the experience of undeserved love. I paused before pressing send and saw clearly what I was communicating: I want to earn someone’s love by being deserving of it because that seems fair.
We want to earn what our efforts deserve, be worthy enough, to strive. The heart naturally bends towards transactional relationships. You’ve no doubt seen it in the simplest form of a child’s heart: they’ll clean up their toys so that they can watch a movie. This working-to-earn doesn’t end with adulthood, it just becomes more subtle. We sometimes even unknowingly serve as a means to gain approval. However, the unobtrusive ways in which we come to God as a means to an end become detrimental to our intimacy with Him.
We are not called to walk with God to appease Him, but to please Him. You see, when a child is trying to appease they merely want to do the right thing to get what they think they deserve. Sure it’s relieving when a child listens to the instructions of their parents and obeys, but it’s a different type of thrill when a child chooses to obey out of love rather than duty. It communicates a different message, one that goes from obligation, to delight.
So what does it look like when the heart is bent towards pleasing God versus appeasing Him?
Here is some good news for us, the heart change from appeasing God to pleasing Him is not accomplished through your own will and strength. (Join me in a quick sigh of relief!) The roadblock to pleasing the Lord is not a behavior issue or an overbooked schedule, rather it’s an issue of the heart. I know this can feel like more bad news, “Great, so how do I fix my heart to be motivated by pleasing God instead of appeasing Him?” You don’t, He does. This is a Holy Spirit-led change that addresses the struggle of the heart with the power of the Gospel message.
Dive with me into this picture: Your efforts and wrestling are like a truck stuck in the mud. The harder you toil the more gas you burn and the deeper you dig yourself into a stuck frustration. There is a solid tree about 100 feet away that you know has roots deeply planted in solid ground. But the dilemma of how to get out of the mud and reside on that firm foundation has you toiling and spinning. Then someone throws you one end of a winch, the other end remains securely drilled into the tree. The machine cranks on and the strength of the winch draws you out of the mud and towards the steadiness of the tree. This is the picture of our hearts changing by the power of the Spirit, laying down our efforts as He lures us into Christ.
How does this change the way we approach coming to His Word to spend time with Him?
Behavior modification is not the goal of the Christian life, nor the object of our time with Him. Therefore coming to God’s Word out of obligation, to check it off a list, is not what His heart desires from us. This is good news for the tired Christian who doesn’t feel successful in their quiet time with God. Hear His sufficiency call out to your frustrated efforts, your tired mind, the part of you that feels like you have nothing to contribute. Bring all of that weight bundled up in honesty before Him and bask in the delight of His love over you that says, “Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him” Colossians 3:10.
It is in the showing up to the wrestling, wet and weighed down with the muddy mess of a heart, that the Spirit makes His power so evident by drawing our hearts to God and His truth. It is by the reeling in of the Spirit, that we find steady ground, fortification for our faith, and deep delight in the words of Jesus. There is rest in knowing that we aren’t being drawn to Him by the strength of our commitment to Him or the consistency of our quiet time. We are being drawn to the Lord by the power of the Spirit which produces in us delight in Him and a desire to please Him out of love.
Julianna is a lover of people, feeling most alive when sharing life, meals, and hearts. While in college, Campus Outreach played a big part in her walk with Christ and she continues to be involved in her new hometown of Lakeland, FL. When not doing ministry with students, Julianna works three nights a week caring for precious, new human lives as a labor and delivery nurse.