Approval of Others
If God be for us, who can be against us?
~ Romans 8:31
(In this excerpt from her book, “Anything”, Jennie Allen describes her struggle between pleasing the people in the world, and acting to please God.
God told His servant Hosea to go into town and take a prostitute as his wife. God saw Israel pursuing every idol but Him — similar to my ways — and this was His way of talking to Israel about it. Hosea obeyed and married the prostitute Gomer. Together they had several children, and though Hosea was a loving, gracious husband and provided all she needed, Gomer kept going back to other lovers who abused her and never loved her back. The streams of her heart were nearly drowning her.
As I started reading Hosea, though, I thought its purpose was to display God’s wrath — His anger with Israel... with me. He did start off pretty ticked. He said things like, “I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel... You are not my people and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:9)
But then, in the midst of this dramatic metaphor, God says about those of us chasing other loves, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call Me “My Husband,” and no longer will you call Me “My Baal.” For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.” (Hosea 2:14-17)
Every time I sit by the banks of my sin and my other loves, right as I think He is about to wipe me out because my heart feels so out of control, He steps into the river and redirects it.
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
It is only God who moves my heart. He chases me down and lures me back to Him; while I am running to everyone else, He runs after me. God brings me back to the place where it fares well with me, reminding me He is my Husband. There is no spinning, no fear, only perfect acceptance and peace. I can let other people down. If God is for me... the God of the universe for me... who could be against me? Whom else do I fear?
When God became real to me in high school, I came home from the crosses at camp and gathered an assortment of younger girls so we could talk about Him. I don’t remember thinking I was supposed to do that. After I fell in love with God and was filled with His Spirit, I just did it. I started gushingly teaching everything I knew about Him. I’ve lived since then with a very clear sense of what He wants me to do, and usually it’s to talk about Him in some form.
His gifts in my life were never a secret to me or those who saw them used. As He did with every believer, He gave me something to make Him bigger. When I would speak or even write, I was on display — and being on display would at times make me physically ill.
I simply could not handle people’s invisible thoughts about me, or at times their very visible criticism. I dreaded it more than facing God and telling Him that I had sat on every gift He had given me. So I would teach, but I always held back. I always kept the pulse of how I was being received, and I agonized to the point of paralysis when it was negative. I was like a politician worried about the polls.
Rather than dying to my need for approval, I died to the clear callings God had put in my soul and the clear gifts and equipping He had given me.
I just wished it all away... it was costing too much. It was costing me my people, everyone’s approval, the thing I loved most. So I sat on it. The little portion of His work that God gave me to do for a few years before I see Him again, I sat on, praying it would go away. I was no different than Jonah running from God’s clear call to share Him with Nineveh. I was not going. I’m thankful He didn’t have me eaten by a whale.
I did wonder sometimes, when I closed my eyes and let it get scary quiet, if I was missing the best things, the things that matter most, because I was afraid.
He knows we keep chasing other loves until we love Him most. We keep spinning. We keep searching, restless. We keep missing all He has for us. He’ll always feel far away, drowned out by other louder rivers, until every other thing fades away and He becomes the only thing.
Lord, let me seek no approval but Yours. Amen.
~ Jennie Allen, from “Anything”