by Kristen Narara
Have you ever looked at the “before and after” photos of people in magazines who have lost a considerable amount of weight or used some miraculous anti-aging cream?
Did you ever notice how they look absolutely miserable in the before photos and in the after shot they look as though they are on Cloud Nine?
A friend and I recently spent some time together recounting the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives. In our reflections we took a look at our spiritual “before and after photos” as women who were not believers and who are now walking with the Lord.
At a glance, my “before photo” looked pretty good. I was from a good Christian home and attended church regularly. I had lots of friends and was a high achiever.
But at closer inspection, my heart revealed a different story. I recalled to my friend how I used to be so overcome by anxiety, desperate to please people around me. I yearned for affirmation and approval. I struggled against depression and self-loathing if I didn’t reach the high standards that I set for myself. The woman in that “snapshot” was smiling, but the spiritual cancer of sin was eating me alive.
I had often heard that the Bible commanded us to be holy, blameless and above reproach and I worked hard to make myself and others believe that I met that criteria.
But instead of peace and satisfaction, I only felt more anxious and desperate for approval.
Then my eyes were opened to the dazzling truth that my best efforts to pursue perfect holiness were futile because of my sin. I repented of my sin and trusted that Jesus’ holiness was a gift given to me by faith in his work on the cross.
This passage in Romans 5 became so precious to me, as it still is today:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:6-11).
The Bible says that before we were saved, we were dead in our sin; as a friend of mine likes to put it, we were like zombies feasting on death. But when Christ died for us he made us alive and free from the bondage of sin!
I would love to say that my “after picture” is of a woman who is no longer struggles with this “fear of man” or a prideful desire to be made much of. But fast forward a number of years later and I still struggle with the desire to over-achieve and appear to others as though I’ve got it all together (though certainly not with the same level of anxiety as before).
But just as He loved me when He sent His Son to die for me when I was still a sinner, God doesn’t love me any less today because I haven’t perfected practicing holiness.
I admit that even as a Christian I have often felt weighed down by the concept of being “above reproach.” As if being “above reproach” is about working hard to please other people so they are all happy with me.
But it recently dawned on me (better late than never!) that being above reproach is about how God placed me in Christ and Christ is pleased to dwell in me and make me holy. The Bible tells us that Christians are to be ambassadors of Christ himself (2 Cor. 5:20). As an ambassador of Christ, my life should clearly point to Him and his saving work in me.
That Christ may be seen through us and that all aspects of our lives might point others to him is a privilege that we should cherish rather than shy away from. Therefore, I don’t need to live with anxiety concerned about what others think of me. Instead, I abide in him as he abides in me (John 15:4). My people pleasing and fear of [wo]man must be put in its place– away!
One way I can do this is to boast in my weaknesses and say,
“His grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in my weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9).
When you look at your spiritual before and after photos, what ways do you see that God has changed you? Praise God!
For further reflection, check out Kevin DeYoung’s article on fear of man.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Kristen was born in Papua New Guinea and grew up in Australia (incidentally, with Samantha). Now Kristen lives in Dubai with her husband, Nigel (aka Captain Nigel), who is an airline pilot, and their gorgeous baby boy Kingston (aka Sprout). Kristen is well known for her outstanding baking skills and hospitality, and can turn any stranger into her friend for life.