This was going to all be one post but it started to grow, and there were parts I wanted to cover more in depth, so I chopped it up. Here is the second part.
A couple weeks ago, I was having one of those days. One of those days when I just felt like I was living life all wrong. I just felt bad. I was not necessarily tired, or stressed, and I cannot say that there was anything that I actually did wrong, but still I just feel… wrong.
Ever have one of those?
As I journaled that morning, I picked up on a word that kept repeating itself: Need.
I need to have more discipline. I need to work on this. I need to work on that. I need to go for a walk (yes, I journal about such minor things). I need to contact so-and-so. I need to stop procrastinating. I need to pray. I need to call one of my friends. I need to write a letter to another.
It was crushing, really. Mind-numbingly overwhelming.
Imagine, walking into the first day on a new job, or first day of classes and having your boss/teacher give you every single assignment all at once. That’s what it felt like.
God, I can’t do all this. It’s too much.
So my solution: do none of it. I can be such an extremist like that. It’s overwhelming. I can’t cope with it, so I’m not even going to try and go there. I’m not Peter sinking in the water. I’m Peter refusing to get out of the boat. Do you not see these waves? Calm the storm first, and then, I’ll come out.
The problem is, the next day, I wake up with the same list of faults and failures, maybe an even longer one.
That day as I journaled, the word ‘need’ really just pierced me. Was I walking through life as if my faith were some sort of assignment? Did I honestly have a spiritual checklist that I was comparing myself to? If I did, did it line up with God’s?
I think we can find ourselves in this same trap of ‘need.’
It is easy for us to critique ourselves and hand ourselves this overwhelming to-do list of all the personality flaws and character traits that need corrected. When we do that, we feel like perpetual failures- inadequate and unworthy.
I want us to ask ourselves a question: “Need to- why?” When we ‘need’ to do something, there is usually a reason.
For instance, I need to eat or (theoretically) I starve to death. I need to train or I won’t be able to run this marathon. I need to use this meat before it spoils. I need to get to the bank before it closes.
The problem with our list of spiritual needs is either a) we’ve forgotten the goal, b) we actually don’t have a goal, or c) we have the wrong goal.
It is actually a counseling technique I picked up while training to be a crisis pregnancy counselor. You always give a reason. Why? Because reasons bring action. Goals bring action. Needs are just needs. Having a reason changes everything.
Look at the following two statements:
“I need to have more discipline.”
“I should work on better time management so that I can have my weekends free to spend with family and friends.”
“I need to stop lusting.”
“I should start seeing my brothers in Christ the way God wants me to see them so I will stop lusting after them.”
Or the clincher:
“I need to stop watching pornography.”
“I should put boundaries in place to help make pornography less tempting.”
The first statement is condemning. It’s a dead end. It’s a big problem with no plan to fix it. It is just a way of beating ourselves up.
The second is a goal. It still accomplishes the ultimate ‘need’ but in a way that is easy to see progress. I can work with the second statements. There is hope. There is a built-in action plan. I can move forward.
The worst thing we can do is have ‘reasonless’ needs. Reasonless needs are what get us in trouble. Think about it.
I need to watch some porn.
I need to get some release.
I just need to get online for a bit.
I need to get married.
I need to have sex.
I need to be alone.
If we aren’t beating ourselves up over our personal failures, then we are putting ourselves at risk to fail again.
Give your actions purpose. Make them have a motivation and to work toward a God-honoring goal. Stop “needing” and start moving forward.