As a young person who did well in school, my classmates made fun of me if I fell below my usual test scores. It didn’t take long to pick up the idea that excellence was expected. Worse yet, I became ridiculously sensitive to criticism. Long after those classmates stopped picking at me, my own self-talk remained negative. It seemed to me that I never quite reached some invisible and vague higher standard.
Now I realize this was personal pride, but for a long time those notions were not easy to shake. Not only that, they made me a sitting duck for Satan. All he had to do was suggest I’d failed and I was beating myself up and thinking that God was upset with me.
For a time, the idea of ‘try harder’ appealed, but that didn’t rid me of the desire to do better, be smarter, be a better person, a better Christian. Nothing worked. I began to think I was a total failure.
Again, the problem was pride. I’d become a Christian and knew that I could not save myself, but I didn’t want to fully acknowledge that I cannot do anything else apart from Christ. When that reality finally got through to me, I could see that I loved me and my skills more than I loved Jesus and depended on Him.
At that point, I asked Him to restore me to that first love, even to a greater love for Him than I’d ever had. Satan didn’t like it and began hitting me with all sorts of things. Yet God used the enemy attacks to show me many attitudes in my life that had pulled me away or that had stepped between me and God. I had so much to deal with and God revealed most of it by trials that I could not overcome by myself, combined with an incredible sense of His presence and loving care.
Over the course of time, Jesus kept drawing me back to the gospel and what He had done at the cross to prove His love for me. He reminded me of all the ways He revealed His care for me — regardless of my failures, insecurities, even despite my foolish pride. In this painful process, He set me free from my proud desire to be more than I am, and from that self-condemnation. He used verses like this one:
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)
One of Satan’s big lies is that God really does not love us. People try different ways to compensate for that. For me, it was mostly intellectual performance. For others, it could be sports or other skills. Some seek love elsewhere. Some try to be more attractive, the best dressed, richer, more popular. It has been said that there is a God-shaped void within us. Money, fame, possessions, relationships, nothing else fits.
For me, my pride blinded me to the problem of pride. I only saw the symptoms. If I failed, I thought success would fix it, forgetting that the only solution to pride is humility, and true humility only comes when the gospel is heard, understood, and accepted. I felt like a failure because before God, I am. I fall short. I need Jesus. He is my righteousness and my wisdom, my substitute for sin, but also all that I need to please God and to live as God wants me to live. I cannot do anything apart from Him.
Pride also blinded me to the truth that God loves me totally, even when I’m behaving like a jerk, even when I’m thinking He doesn’t. He proved it at the Cross and He proves it every day by His continual presence, kindness and great compassion and patience. I might feel like giving up, but He never does.
"The LORD appeared to me from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." (Jeremiah 31:3).
Jesus, dearest Lord and Savior. Thank You and all glory to You forever!