I was looking back at some older things I’ve written and this journal entry I wrote in May stood out to me. It has been edited but the idea is still the same:
“I am struggling to overcome something and everyone I’ve talked to seems to be very understanding that it’s taking me so long to overcome. They seem to be of the opinion that struggles do not necessarily mean I do not have enough faith. However, I’ve convinced myself that everybody is just trying to be nice and doesn’t want to offend me. I’m not sure if what they are saying is true or simply “feel-good” encouragement.
I think this cynicism reveals a lot about my view of God – I am reluctant to believe that God is patient and full of grace. Clearly, God is loving and my heart knows that, but I’ve projected all these qualities onto Him that make Him seem anything but. I’ve essentially made God out to be a more powerful and more demanding version of myself. To me, God is simply the enforcer of every standard I think I need to hold myself to. If I expect something of myself then chances are, I think God does too because the God I believe in is not a self-existent being but an idea that I can mold and form to reflect the perfectionist values that I hold so dear. I guess this hasn’t struck me as wrong because I figure that my personal standards can never be too high considering that God is perfect and holy. I’ve seen no problem in believing that God’s expectations of me are similarly high because His would be the highest of all. While I know my salvation is not based on what I do, I at least want to try to do what’s right.
Unfortunately, this view of God is very unhealthy and entirely inaccurate. My expectations of myself are based on behavior that I consider to be God-honoring so it’s very easy for me to justify my longing for improvement because I figure that God wants those specific things for me too. I am forming God into who I think He is based on my personal goals (which also seem to align with what Christ would want me to do anyway). However, my personal goals are also based on comparing myself to others. If all the friendly people I know are talkative then I think that I need to be talkative as well. Being talkative can be God-honoring so I figure God wants me to change as soon as possible. However, God made me unique and there are advantages to being quiet. If for some reason, I am quite certain that God is urging me to be more talkative, then it is ok to have that desire in my heart, but if that desire comes for any other reason, then I should think twice about assuming that God wants me to be more talkative because, most likely, I am projecting my desires onto God and forming Him into my image.
God’s desire for the good fruit He wants to produce in me is more complex than my simplistic understanding of “good.” Love, joy, peace . . .” – these sound like simple concepts and we can easily think of various behaviors that display these fruits. However, talkativeness is not the only manifestation of kindness. If we equate these immense and wonderful fruits of the spirit to specific actions that we understand to be equivalent, then we are oversimplifying something that is beyond our understanding. We all have a certain interpretation of what kindness looks like but God sees kindness for what it really is. Just like we can never fully fathom God’s love for us, we can never fully fathom kindness and other fruits of the spirit. It’s important to realize this or we will end up settling on a very narrow view of what each of the fruits of the spirit looks like. Just because I’m not talkative doesn’t mean Jesus can’t use me to display his kindness in other ways.
Basically, I have no idea what specific ways God is going to use me to produce good fruit and I should not pretend to understand. It’s probably going to be in an unexpected way and I will be too focused on my own personal goals to notice that one of God’s goals was achieved. In fact, that’s probably been happening all over the place during my walk with Christ but I’ve been too focused on the goals I think God has for me to notice.
A simplistic, narrow and inaccurate view of God really sets you up for disappointment. I need to be open to the unexpected and the incomprehensible because God never disappoints. Any disappointment I have is because of my own personal expectations.
What my friends have been telling me is no feel-good philosophy but truth spoken from the Holy Spirit and I must trust that they are faithful enough to Truth that they would never sacrifice it to simply make me feel good. If I took the time to understand the true nature of God then I would believe my friends when they say that God is patient with me when I’m struggling and does not expect me to overcome as quickly as possible.”