Fill in the blank with anything that you are, especially the parts of your identity that you cling closest to.
Christian. Friend. Musician. Student. Writer. Trainee.
Mulling over the ways in which I’m failing to “measure up” in those areas has me thinking, maybe I was a little too ambitious going into this summer. It’s a discouraging thought. You know, I started this blog, I’m taking summer classes while working, I changed my diet, and I’m completing this 12-week training program so that maybe I can look in the mirror and be proud of what I see. To think that I’m incapable of doing any of those things successfully keeps my mind racing at night. I’m wrestling with thoughts of giving up and week two begins tomorrow.
Thoughts of incapability put us at stand-stills. I mean, if we know for certain that we can’t be successful then why try at all, right? That’s the thing, though: we don’t know.
To the discouraged writer, I’m right there with you. I’m no good at this. I have friends who bust out blog posts every week and in every possible way they are beautiful. Perfect. I know poets who write with such emotion that to try to compete with them would be suicide. Write what you feel, though. Be genuine, truthful, and all of you, your whole-self – nothing more, nothing less. We can do it.
To the discouraged musician, you have a God-given gift and I promise you this: you were given it for a reason. That passion inside of you to be a musician, to create, was placed there by God. Your style is your own. Keep pursuing your dreams, whatever they are. Continue to be expressive and honest, but don’t lose the fun in it all. We can do it.
To the discouraged trainee, can we work out together? I cannot even begin to explain how awful it feels to be in a gym surrounded by “manly-men” who are benching hundreds of pounds, while you’re the one struggling with the barbell. Well, maybe you already know. Or maybe you’re just struggling with your body-image in general. Whether you feel too skinny or too big, remember this: you are not inadequate. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). If you want to change the way you look, take baby steps towards change and do it for yourself. Don’t work towards a healthier body so you can fit some stupid societal mold. Societal molds are hardly ever filled by people who get there through healthy means, anyway. We can do it.
To the discouraged student, high school is brutal and college isn’t much easier. Keep working hard. There’s always time to improve your GPA and if there literally isn’t, remember that your GPA is not who you are. Also, your GPA doesn’t define your education experience. Your resume is more than your education. What did you do outside of school? Whose life did you impact? There will always be someone who’s doing “better” than you and “more” than you. I have friends attending extremely prestigious universities on full-ride scholarships. However, your life in academia is exactly that. It’s yours. You set the goals and you make it what it is. “Better” and “more” are subjective, because you know how much you can handle and you can only handle so much. Chin up. In addition, it’s okay if you don’t have your entire life planned out. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do or where you want to go after school. Ignore the people who are pressuring you to figure it all out now. God’s got your future taken care of. Stay hopeful. Worry less. We can do it.
To the discouraged friend, if you’re struggling to love one of your friends, I challenge you to keep loving him or her with all that you are. Regardless. It’s easier said than done, I know, but love is not always easy. It’s sacrificial and all-encompassing – in action and in truth, love. On the other hand, if you’re like me and you’re struggling to feel loved in a friendship, realize that one person cannot satisfy your heart. Only God can do that. It doesn’t mean that your friend doesn’t love you. Chances are, they adore you. And if you’re struggling to feel loved in all of your friendships… try loving a little more. Friendships aren’t exclusively about getting love, they’re founded on giving it, too.
I know, though. To feel wanted and needed by the people we hold close to our hearts isn’t always easy for us. We accept the love we think we deserve. However, continue to be vulnerable, joyful, and loving in your friendships. Hope to be surprised. We can do it.
To the discouraged individual and Christian, you are unconditionally loved by a God who acknowledges your humanity (Psalm 103:14) and doesn’t expect you to be invincible. There is no need to worry or fear. Your sins are taken care of. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). He’s walking alongside you in all things, even in the most difficult of circumstances. He has not abandoned you. There is nothing you could do or not do that could make Him stop loving you.
There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” Christian. Yes, there are Christians who devote hours of their day to reading the Bible and memorizing scripture – they attend church every Sunday in their nicest clothing with smiles on their faces. It can be discouraging to look at them and think that they have it all together and that they are the “good Christian,” making you the “bad Christian.” But listen. There are Christians, those who rest in the word of God and His promises, and there are non-Christians. There are no “in-betweens.” We are all miserably broken people being made new everyday. Your salvation has everything to do with Christ and His love for you. Christ and His love are constants that will never change, despite whatever you tend to label yourself as. Out of our love and devotion to Christ and a desire to grow, we read the Word and engage in church communities, but if we don’t do any of those “good Christian” things we aren’t any less saved. That’s impossible. We are redeemed. Don’t doubt that.
Underlying all of these discouraging attitudes is social comparison. The death of us. I struggle with it on a grand scale and I think it’s safe to say that we all do. We’re social creatures who engage with other social creatures. It’s in the name. However, it is impossible to move on to better things and do well in life if we’re constantly counting all the ways in which we don’t measure up to other social creatures. We’re human. We’re so far from perfect that to even say so is an understatement. It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to feel incapable and inadequate sometimes.
I do. It’s in those times that I have to remember who Christ says I am.
Whose scale are we even measuring ourselves on? The world’s? Our own?
Step down from what ever scale you’re weighing yourself on and breathe. Just… breathe.
For me, I rest in the fact that I’m doing the best that I can. In every part of my life, I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). He carries me forward. The only standard I need to adhere to is the one that God sets for me and it’s full of so much grace and simplicity: in all things, love God, love people, and invite others to do the same.
And when I mess up, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and when I am weak, He makes me strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
If anything, all of those little notes above were to myself, encouraging the pieces of my identity that matter most. But to the discouraged, hold your head high and don’t give up. Keep failing forward if you have to. Forward is forward. Better things are to come.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Philippians 2:14–16, ESV).