Do You Feel not Spiritual Enough

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Faith, Uncategorized | 70 comments

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Do you feel like God is constantly disappointed in you?

I’m enjoying some downtime this summer, and so I’ve been wanting to share with you some thoughts from some amazing women, highlighting them and giving them some much deserved exposure (so you can follow them too!).

Recently Emma from Ramblings of a Mum has been posting some amazing things about our book She Deserves Better.

Here’s one of the things that really struck her–that we judge certain things as godly and certain things as not godly, and put a ton of pressure on ourselves to do spiritual disciplines without understanding that God sees our circumstances:

I have been reading this book, She Deserves Better, by Shelia Wray Gregoire.

One particular section I read really hit me and woke me up to something that I had been unintentionally doing, and believing for years.

In chapter five of the book Sheila talks about the teaching so many of us were taught, that God comes first.

If we are seeing someone (dating) it needs to be with the thought and belief that if we were to marry them, we can do more for God together than we could alone.

She also talks about the pressure put on teen girls to not allow themselves to think of a guy so much that she has less time for “Godly things”.

And the belief that a girl should look for a man who puts God first (before herself), one that will, when married to her, spend time with God and doing things for the church over spending it with her and the kids. Or putting so much money into ministry that family is left without their needs etc.

These are just some examples.

But this teaching goes so much deeper.

I personally relate to this because I believed as a teen that the more time I spend praying, reading the Bible etc the more godly I was, the more spiritual I was becoming.

Then I got married and had kids. I tried to keep up the long morning Bible studies and prayers but with each child and challenge of life it became harder and harder to spend that same time I was able to as a teen.

Now with 5 kids and another on the way, I barely have time for myself, let alone to spend hours reading the Bible.

And the guilt of this has got worse and worse. Even to this day, I realised, I feel guilty, like I’m not godly enough, because I’m not spending all this time praying, reading the Bible or doing “godly, kingdom building” things.

And that guilt has led to me unknowingly, pulling away from God and a relationship with him because of the feeling of, “I’m not “godly” enough cause I’m not doing X, Y and Z.”

So looking at this from a new perspective, this teaching actually can not only be extremely stressful for a teenager who’s going through changes and emotions, and having feelings that are actually normal and even healthy, but it also reaches far into the future.

Possibly causing more damage than good.

I’m sure I’m not the only mum out there who has been feeling this guilt, and pulled away because they feel inferior.

But God knows our situation. He knows our kids need our love and attention and he KNEW it would mean less time to spend on these things that we have been taught are priority.

And it doesn’t make us less godly, or mean we love Him any less.

The last thing He wants is us to pull away from him because of guilt he never placed on us.

Severe teaching did that.

For me, realising this today at 34 years old, is a huge ah huh moment, and very freeing.

It’s also very sad because I’ve lived with guilt that was never mine to carry.

I can’t be the only one. How many women out there, who were brought up with these teachings, who have kids and are trying to juggle life, are feeling guilt and pulling away because of it?

Emma

Ramblings of a Mum

I thought that was so interesting–she’s 34 years old, and she’s finally having this ah-ha moment! I love it. 

It reminds me of this talk of Scrupulosity and religion.

One of my favourite Twitter follows is @AlethiaWrites, and recently she wrote about the phenomenon of “scrupulosity” when it comes to religion.

Religious Scrupulosity

A condition that includes obsessions or compulsions, intrusive thoughts or urges, often with a religious theme. Often called Religious OCD. 

From @rebekahdrumsta

Basically, when scrupulosity is combined with religion, it can create almost OCD like compunctions as you wonder if you measure up.

You can find her thread here:

Here’s the whole thing if you don’t have access to Twitter:

Scrupulosity, like so many things, appears on a spectrum.

Many ppl connect scrupulosity w/obsessive fears about damnation or worry about committing the unpardonable sin (accurate examples), but it also manifests re: spiritual practices. In people prone to it, scrupulosity can be exacerbated by teachings like: listening to the Holy Spirit, confession of sin, doing the right thing, & idealizing aspirational spiritual practices and/or pedestaling disciplined Christian heroes.

For instance, something normative like confession of sin becomes tortuous for ppl who have scrupulous ways of thinking, b/c they worry they might not have been thorough enough; any thought, including all past sins, that come to mind must be confessed, often to others.Beneficial spiritual practices morph into chains & general Xian teaching unknowingly applauds it.

In 8th grade I made list of every single person in my classes & prayed daily for growing list of everyone I knew for yrs.

How could I bear to delete anyone w/such high stakes?

Of course it’s a good thing to pray for people, but scrupulosity=a spiritual treadmill with no way off. The intensity & speed at which you run amps up, taking you nowhere.

When we pedestal spiritual heroes who also lived at this pace, we idealize impossible & (in my opinion) unhealthy aspirations. We assume extreme spiritual devotion must be an unqualified good & as a result inflict ppl with unexamined models like Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions or William Carey’s missionary zeal or Therese of Liseaux’s spirituality.

I don’t think it’s possible to retroactively diagnose Christian heroes, but it might give us pause to ask ourselves why we admire extreme devotion & which kind.

Because such models are limitless & rigid taskmasters for someone being told: this is how to please or pursue the Lord.

The scrupulous person confuses their own ruminations & compulsions w/devotion.

Helpful red flags for me:

  • can I skip this practice for a few days or is that distressing?
  • what is the level of rigidity re: devotional thoughts/practices?
  • are there roots of fear/drivenness?

I think it’s especially important for parents/spiritual teachers of young people to familiarize themselves with scrupulously because children can be particularly sensitive.

In general Christian parents think: teaching kids about God=good (granted). But we pile it on: Noah’s ark in the nursery, sin & crucifixion & hell in preschool classes, board books with doctrine, prayer always.

It is irresponsible to presume that because we understand something to be Christian teaching, it will nourish children to have steady unexamined diet of it
Same with ourselves. My most telling indication that I’m veering scrupulosity-ward is when practices I’m taking in or spiritual thoughts I’m having land like a heavy weight in my body.

Children might show signs of distress like crying or sleeplessness. They may “need” to pray. Christian parents are prone to admire and praise young devotion, to respond with more prayer.

Please let’s examine this. Jesus simply took young children in his arms & blessed them. Does our spiritual teaching land like His blessing on children? Now more than ever there are endless streams of podcasts, sermons, books & Christian teaching.

That can help & nourish us spiritually. It can also keep a vulnerable person’s eyes fixed on the control panel of a spiritual treadmill rather than Jesus Himself. Religious scrupulosity is a heavy yoke that can cloak legalism in ways that seem right.

Jesus promises that those who come to Him will find rest for their weary souls.

@AlethiaWrites

 What would it be like to know that Jesus’ yoke is easy, and burden is light?

 Do you feel like you can rest in Jesus? Or do you feel like you never measure up, like you have to try harder, like everything rests on your shoulders?

 Why do you think you got there? How can we find joy in Jesus again? 

 (And you may really appreciate this podcast I did with Krispin Mayfield which gets at the root of much of this!)

Passion 4 Dancing

I thought these were excellent conversations these two women started, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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70 Comments

  1. J

    I never connected this term with religion until I started therapy. I never got to the OCD-like level, but I did just assume I wasn’t a good enough Christian because I wasn’t regimented and consistent. I spend a lot of time just talking to God, and that is often deemed lower than structured time.

    My husband struggled with it more, and it wrapped right in to other issues he was having (addiction, people pleasing, isolating, depression, anxiety, low self esteem). None of this leads us to the love us Jesus. My new test for everything is “Does this lead me to bondage or freedom in Christ?”

    By the way, this teaching may have been passed on by GenX, but it didn’t start there. I think we need to go further back in Church history to see when the tide changed from joy to doing. The Evangelical church can skew really works based.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  2. Amy

    I’ve been pondering the origins of these very individualistic “spiritual disciplines.” For example, for the vast majority of human history language was only verbal and if they did have a written language most couldn’t actually read it, because printed material was expensive and difficult to produce. So, a spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading makes no logical sense because having printed scriptures and being literate was reserved for only certain populations. The daily Bible reading thing appears to be something made up after the development of the printing press. So, why do we get so hung up on these things? Isn’t one of Jesus’ key messages to serve others? How is reading a Bible for hours a week serving anyone, including myself? Not that I’m necessarily against Bible reading, but we seem to have lost a lot of perspective in these things.

    Reply
  3. Phil

    My personal journey and challenge with this term has been more on the side of misinterpretation of Gods will vrs my will. I clearly understand that raising a child for example is Gods work even if I am not praying “enough” or reading the bible – or even not talking to God because – well – I am busy…. See, I am purposeful in listening and actively seeking out God. I am bold enough to tell you I am also very good at spotting Him. However, my fault lies in wanting to work for Him. I am so grateful for his Love and what he has shown me and given to me. I just want to give him that love back! The problem? I cant ever do enough…his Love surrounds me and encompasses me. There is nothing more I can do than accept Jesus as my savior. NOTHING. Yet I still try. I want to do something that is so big that would make him joyful. But he is already joyful. And so…even in the face of goodness, I make errors in judgement. Here is the Good News: The TRUTH remains the same. Only the circumstances are different. So I trudge on and recalculate. Faith with out works is dead.

    Reply
  4. Jo R

    It’s ever so much easier to tell who’s a strong Christian or a weak Christian or not a Christian at all if we have all these checklists and rules.

    Then all we have to do, with others and ourselves, is see how many of those boxes we’re ticking off on whatever schedule is recommended—or demanded.

    Of course, when every pastor, teacher, author, church member, friend, and family member has a different list, some people decide to just combine ALL THE LISTS AND DO ALL OF IT.

    But the treadmill, no matter how detailed or general the lists are, simply never ends. The belt is a continuous, infinite loop, and we can never, ever step off.

    Yeah, that all sounds exactly like an abundant life, and an easy yoke, and a light burden.

    But we sure can judge one another, and that’s really all that matters, anyway, right? 🙄

    Reply
  5. Lindsey

    I think this is where we have to emphasize the importance of understanding the Gospel. Phil, you touched on this well. The Gospel is about God’s free gift of salvation to us. It’s free. We can do nothing to earn it. It is gift.
    I understand that there are probably teachings that lean heavily towards legalism and even for me in my Christian walk there have been times that I have slipped into legalism on my own thoughts thinking that I need to perform for God, but reading the Gospel clearly says otherwise. It is out of God’s love for me that I spend time reading His word and praying. It is out of his love for me that I crave time with him in different spiritual disciplines.
    I will say that in different seasons of life that can look very different but the Gospel piece here remains the same. There may be seasons for some who can spend hours in prayer a day or reading the Word and there will be seasons when that is not doable. I understand that that can induce guilt for some. As I mentioned above, I myself have experienced that at times but then I go back to what God’s Word says. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1
    I would also say use caution because while I think I see the point these ladies are making in this post, it appears there may be a lack of biblical wisdom in some of what they are saying. We are called in Deuteronomy 6 to talk about God’s commands with our kids, when we sit, when we walk. I think if we are presenting the Gospel to our kids the way it is laid out in scripture then it is less likely to lean toward religious scrupulosity. We would be doing our kids a disservice to teach them less of God out of fear of scrupulosity. So just know the Word, test everything to it! I didn’t learn this until years of being a Christian. It is something I’m hoping to impress on my own children, that they know the Truth. When we know the real thing, it’s easy to spot the counterfeit!

    Reply
    • Phil

      Lindsey – Romans 8 is my favorite chapter in the Bible. 😃. For It is the Spirit…

      Reply
      • Lindsey

        Phil- Yes, so much goodness to unpack there!

        Reply
    • CMT

      “So just know the Word, test everything to it…When we know the real thing, it’s easy to spot the counterfeit!”

      Could you say more about this? I’m curious, because the things you suggest (affirming salvation by grace, being biblically literate, etc) weren’t all that protective for me. They also didn’t seem to help the adults around me recognize or help me with a tendency towards scrupulosity when I was a child. Your experience seems to have been different. I wonder why that was.

      Reply
      • Nessie

        I’m with CMT- I’m curious to know more too because a LOT of verses I learned were so intertwined with toxic interpretation that it has been really difficult to untangle/unlearn. The Word of God was abused and used to abuse, so keeping only the good and getting rid of the bad has been like separating the chaff from the grain in a windless season. When you present it as being so easy, it makes me feel like I have failed in my relationship with Jesus since it isn’t just as easy for me.

        Reply
        • CMT

          “a LOT of verses I learned were so intertwined with toxic interpretation that it has been really difficult to untangle/unlearn.” Yep. If you were given a black-and-white, shame- and control-based lens on the Bible, then more immersion in it may reinforce compulsive spirituality rather than providing relief.

          For the record-I don’t think having that experience means we’ve failed!

          Reply
          • Nessie

            CMT- I know deep, deep down (when I take time to examine) it doesn’t mean I have failed, but reading how easy someone else says it is, like there is no other acceptable path, feels very discouraging if that hasn’t been my path. It feels like it is adding on to the legalistic “rules” which is opposite of what the point to the article was.

            Thanks for your encouragement. <3

        • Lindsey

          Nessie, I’m sorry you had this experience as well. It is heart breaking to hear stories of this in local churches. I have a dear friend who experienced similar and has gone through that process of untangling that you speak of and it has been hard to see her walk through that journey but so encouraging to see God’s faithfulness in that work as she has come out on the other side of it. I also want to say that you have not failed, but you cannot compare my (or anyone else’s) walk with your own. Our hope is in Christ because of what He has done for us, not what someone else has done. We all have different and unique stories that God uses in different ways. I would like to encourage you to continue in the hard work of the untangling. I realize that may sound insensitive coming from someone who has had a different journey but I’ve walked through plenty of other trials to feel confident in saying continue showing up with Him, and He will be faithful.

          Reply
          • Nessie

            No, none of us should compare our paths with others, but a blanket statement like, “When we know the real thing, it’s easy to spot the counterfeit” is not in fact true for everyone. I’m glad you had a different experience, truly I am. But to say it is easy *when* we know the real thing carries an implication that if it is not easy for me and others then I/we do not truly know the “real thing.” Does that make more sense?

          • Lindsey

            Nessie, sorry this will probably be mixed up. I didn’t have a reply button option on your last comment. Ok, yes, I think I am tracking with you, but I think I see it through a different lens, and my hope is that it will encourage. Let me explain. I think there are plenty of examples of knowing the real thing and spotting the counterfeit that for me that does ring true. We see this with currency, legal forms of identification, other legal documents, and even apparel.
            Now, if someone who is training to spot counterfeit money cannot spot the fake bill, then the logical explanation there is that the person needs to study the real bill again. With studying the Bible the same could be true. Perhaps where we differ is that I don’t see that as discouraging. I see that as an opportunity for growth and sanctification. Sometimes for me, reframing things goes a long way. And I think there’s times when that could even be the Holy Spirit’s conviction for some individuals. I want to emphasize there though conviction, not guilt.

          • Nessie

            Lindsey, I absolutely believe you see it through a different lens. I guess I just wish people could see that when blanket statements are made that don’t actually apply to everyone (myself included- it would be wrong of me to say that all who have been hurt via spiritual abuse have the same feelings and experience over it that I do), it can tack onto the harm that too many have already been through. I do feel that you want to be encouraging but for some that have been hurt, when things get presented as “it’s easy!” that can add to our burdens and cause discouragement instead of the intended encouragement. That’s what I’m trying to get seen here.

            And I don’t necessarily find it discouraging to have to study the Bible again and again- but where it is easy or joyful for you, it is difficult, triggering, and challenging work for many who have to put in a LOT more effort to slog through and separate out the good from the bad we have been taught and conditioned with for years.

            Again, I’m glad your experience has been so different. I hope you appreciate that you don’t have to put in that extra effort and that the Word of God can come as a joy and only a joy to you because you don’t have to keep sifting and sifting and sifting in the same way some others must.

          • Lindsey

            Nessie, I still think you might be misinterpreting what I’m saying. I’m not just saying “it’s easy!” I’m saying it’s easy to spot the counterfeit when you know the real thing. We can certainly disagree on this, but for me this is the reality with not only the Bible, but the other examples I mentioned earlier. (Genuine question here) If this is disheartening how then can I encourage without blunting the truth?

          • Nessie

            Hi again Lindsey,
            Saying it is the case for you instead of a collective “we” honestly helps. For some who have been through struggles of having God’s Word weaponized against us, it may never be easy to spot. For me, it can feel draining to read the Bible because I know how much energy it takes. I may always have to search out and test the scriptures and the people preaching and teaching to a greater extent than yourself because when I read His Word, I have a bunch of bad sermons and teachings and readings arguing against it in my memory bank. I can learn and know a scripture and what it actually means now but it doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes have a trauma response to it as well because of that previous weaponization. I may always have to fight to discern the truth.

            And maybe that’s just as well in some ways. I can empathize better with people that have gone through similar experiences in a way you can’t, just like you can reach people without those experiences better because I have this baggage to keep working through.

            It sounds like praying and reading God’s Word is extremely joyful for you. For me, I find the most joy and closeness to God in serving other people. I don’t think either is better or more prescribed. DIfferent experiences, different giftings, different sources of feeling closer to God.

          • Lindsey

            Nessie, I think we are both hammering on different points, neither of which is bad or wrong, but it does appear that way. You seem to be speaking mostly to the process piece and I am speaking more to the principle piece. And as you said, with our different experiences God will be able to use us in different ways which is a win!

            A real life scenario I thought of is…when I was in nursing school, there were certain classes that were more challenging for me than for my peers. I had to work harder and study longer than they did and the understanding came so much easier to them. This, however, did not change the truth that I had to pass those classes in order to graduate.

            I am against legalism and turning prayer and Bible reading into a check list mentality. One thing I hope people understand though, is that the Bible and prayer cannot just be taken out of the equation. Can God use other things/ways to speak to people, yes! But we cannot ignore the fact that the Bible addresses prayer and the reading of God’ Word.

          • Nessie

            Lindsey,
            No, we shouldn’t take the Bible or prayer out of the equation for the long run but if people are sharing how they have been so deeply hurt or abused by those very things then telling them they need to rely on them more (because it has been your source of joy and strength) when they really need a season of healing from it doesn’t help matters any. It actually ends up feeling like more of the same- that it is meant to beat them over the head until they comply.

            To use your example of spotting counterfeit currency: If a person has had a weapon held to them and had to identify the fakes under threat of death or harm for years, is the best thing to advise them to not neglect studying that currency? Perhaps the best advice would be to say, “I support your decision to step away and instead cut the paper for real currency, or spot fake art, etc. Once you are ready then you can get back to looking for the currency counterfeits. Until then, I won’t tell you how important it is that you study the real currency.”

            So yes, perhaps we are hammering at different things: I just hate seeing people continuing to be hurt by well-meaning people who push the importance of what they feel is best because it works for them even if that is how others have been hurt.

          • Lindsey

            Nessie, I read that and the question that I immediately thought was “Would Jesus tell me to step away from him, and ways to commune with him, to find healing?” I just can’t get on board with that. I even view that as an opportunity for the enemy to create more space between you and your Creator. I actually thought what could someone go looking for in the “short term”, and the potential harm that could come from that route. Even in what could have been Jesus’ most difficult moment he drew himself toward the Father in prayer shortly before his crucifixion. Important side note…I think I noted this elsewhere but walking through things like this are done better in community and not intended to be done alone. No matter the hurt that came from false teachings, I could never in good conscience recommend someone stepping away from God’s Word. I would recommend having someone come alongside you and helping you untangle the lies you were taught and going through the Word together, but never walking away from it.

            I have sympathized here with hearing stories of what people were taught. And as I have said, these are heartbreaking stories. I have walked through my share of difficult seasons in life where things have been painfully hard for me. We are all going to share that common thread while we are on this side of heaven. But this cannot be missed, no matter what our feelings might be, the Truth remains the same.

            “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

          • Nessie

            I’m not saying to step away from Jesus! I AM saying be gracious enough to allow people TIME to heal as they get to know Him in OTHER ways instead of shaming them. (Nor did I say we should isolate ourselves from other believers!) God is not contained in a box, and in your rigidity and legalistic bent I see a lack of understanding or faith that God can work in and through other methods for a season when He knows His children have been deeply wounded by the hands of the devil abusing His Word. God is strong enough and creative enough to allow the wounded different ways to heal depending on how they have been hurt. I believe He has much greater power than written words alone. I certainly hope so since there are still many people in the world who are illiterate or cannot access a Bible in order to know Him better for themselves.

            People with rigid views such as yours were a stumbling block to me, slamming the wedge in further between me and God, telling me I wasn’t doing it right. It wasn’t until I stepped away from people beating me over the head with how I should do it that I was able to start healing and start knowing the real Jesus. The devil had a foothold of me when I was reading the Bible with erroneous interpretations echoing with each written word.

            I’m telling you directly I needed time away from the words in the Bible to heal and that is what helped create in me a desire to re-find Jesus and may very well help others, and you are telling me that what I have done is wrong because you know the ONLY right way and my suggestion for some only brings about the devil’s playground. Even Jesus simply said Mary had chosen the better way- He didn’t go about berating Martha. I’m thankful God has shown me mercy and grace in my time of need, understanding I needed time to heal.

            I don’t have any other words to help you better understand people hurt like I was. You sympathize, I empathize. I just know that the actions you are demanding absolutely everyone follow always are what nearly kept me away from Jesus forever. I’m signing off from this now.

          • Lindsey

            Nessie, your response is riddled with assumptions. Some of that may be partly because communication gets lost in between the lines over the internet, but nonetheless.

            You are right, God is not contained in a box, but if you are saying that God cannot work to untangle the lies of scripture you have heard even as you are going through the Word with Him, then what you are doing is putting him in a box.

            When Jesus was tempted in the desert, how did he fight the lies of the enemy? With God’s Word. Jesus knew the Word and that is how he recognized satan’s lies and misinterpretations.

            From the very beginning of this conversation I said it is important to know God’s Word. I’m not saying ‘reading’ the Word is the only way. I don’t think it matters how you receive the Word (if you read the Word, listen to the Word, have someone else read you the Word, learn and sing songs about the Word, etc). I haven’t even told you ‘how’ to do it as you claim. The truth does not change the fact that we need God’s Word.

            I think people do others a huge disservice when they water down or side step the truth based on what we are feeling. The greatest lie we are facing from this world right now is that our feelings/self is supposed to be on the altar, not God.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Actually, Lindsey, in our focus groups from She Deserves Better it is very, very, very common for people who have been hurt in church situations to have “The Word” be triggering to them.

            Most people who deconstruct from fundamentalism and find Jesus again (or really for the first time) do have to step away from the Bible for a time.

            Many come back because of the person of Christ. Remember that Jesus is the Word. Jesus reveals Himself in many ways. It is very, very common for the throngs of Gen Z/Millennials (and others) who are deconstructing now to have to step away from church and Scripture, but that doesn’t mean they don’t end up with a stronger faith. It’s a process.

            I think pointing people to the person of Christ is the important thing. Scripture has been very, very twisted. There was a period where the only thing I could read was the gospels–everything else was too triggering. Once you find Jesus for real, the rest of Scripture can open up again. But remember that Jesus is on the throne, not Scripture. Scripture points us to Christ, but Christ is the King.

          • Lindsey

            Hi Sheila, thanks for jumping in. Again, I want to reiterate that our feelings (triggering or not) don’t dictate the truth. We agree that pointing people to Jesus is important. And we agree that God is on the throne. But it sounds like you are saying at the end that “Scripture points us to Christ” (the goal as you stated is to point people to Christ) but we won’t use Scripture to get to said goal. That doesn’t make sense.

            I just go back to the example from Matthew 4 when Jesus is tempted in the desert, and how can we read that and recommend walking away from Scripture, particularly when Jesus used it to combat the lies and misinterpretations of the word that satan used. The recommendation then is to have people step away from what God has given us to combat the very thing that has led people to be in the situation to begin with (false teachings).

            Sometimes I think we forget that this is not a relationship with another mortal human being. This is the Holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-sufficient God. If we think it’s necessary to walk away from God’s word I think we are saying there is a limit to an all-powerful, all-sufficient God. I just don’t think this recommendation lines up with Scripture.

            Also, I directed a question to you below about what your data has shown. Could you please answer that when you have the time. Thanks.

      • Lindsey

        CMT, I’m sorry you had that experience. I will say that I am very thankful to have grow up in a church that was not legalistic, and it is heart breaking to hear of other experiences. First I’ll say, my personal opinion is that bible literacy is a big issue. I could go on a rabbit trail with that one but maybe another day. We can’t fight the lies in the world if we don’t know the truth and have the Holy Spirit working in us. I wanted to go back and read your original comment below about the culture you grew up in to make sure I have an understanding. Was your experience different because you and your parents were taught in a local church that was works-based focused? Correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like maybe the church was teaching this so y’all weren’t even getting the true message of the Gospel?

        Reply
        • CMT

          The church I grew up in was a conservative, Baptist-adjacent nondenominational congregation. It was literally called M- Bible Church and strongly emphasized scripture. I think from an evangelical perspective it was entirely orthodox and “gospel-centered.” In fact I could have heard something like your original comment from the pulpit or in a Sunday school or Bible study in any given week there.

          Thing is, for me, internalizing that approach (“read your Bible more! Pray for peace!If you really understood the gospel you wouldn’t feel this way!”) made things worse. Because if that’s your only model, if it doesn’t work then you’re pretty stuck!

          Reply
          • Lindsey

            Ok, I want to understand more because we did experience things differently so I’m sorry if the questions keep coming. So you normally were hearing at your church that the Gospel is NOT about striving and doing and earning or even shame? Or did they actually say the words “If you really understand the gospel you wouldn’t feel this way!”?
            (When I hear, “read your Bible more” that sounds more legalistic just to my ears perhaps versus someone telling me that the Bible is God’s Word and He reveals Himself to me through it…If we want to learn about God, the Bible is where it’s at because that’s why He gave it to us. Part of communing with God is being in the Word, that is Him speaking to us. It is God-breathed.) There is a difference in wording and presentation there and I think that matters.
            You would hear about the spiritual disciplines though and you would then in your mind make them about a check list? If this is what you mean, I totally get that. I have done this on my own in my type A-ness 🙂 I have walked through different seasons of my life where I fall into my own strivings and the check lists, but then when I do pray and remind myself of God’s goodness, my experience is that I am able to mentally shift back if that makes sense. It sounds like this hasn’t been your experience though and are saying that reading the Bible and praying doesn’t help you? Can I ask why you think it hasn’t helped? Also, have you walked through this with a community of believers alongside you?

          • CMT

            Replying to Lindsey, below (I don’t see a reply option after her comment)

            “reading the Bible and praying doesn’t help you? Can I ask why you think it hasn’t helped? ”

            What are personal devotions meant to help with? Unmet emotional needs? Unfinished developmental tasks? Unrealistic expectations pushed on you? Praying or Bible reading isn’t a solution to everything. But you have to figure that out yourself when you grow up in an environment where every problem is a spiritual problem. I could say a lot more, but for me I think it boils down to what you could call a misdiagnosis.

          • Lindsey

            It’s odd the reply button doesn’t show up on all comments.

            CMT, when you said you were “hearing frightening, shame-inducing, perfectionistic teachings from Sunday school teachers, preachers” I just want to reiterate that that is not the Gospel. If you read any of the Bible, read the Gospels so you are getting the real thing and not what was preached to you growing up. Read about what Jesus taught and his interactions with the Pharisees. It’s unfortunate that pastors get things wrong. It really really is. We live in a fallen world and people get things wrong all the time. So go to Jesus, who is perfect, see what He says because His Word is inerrant, and does not return void.

            Prayer and spending time in the Word is our way to commune with God. I personally find it not only helpful but crucial for my spiritual life. I don’t go to God to fill my unmet emotional needs or help with unfinished developmental tasks. I go to God to know my Creator and He in turn fills me and gives me what I need to deal with all other things.

          • CMT

            Reply function still wonky-maybe a cue to stop taking over the thread haha. Last thought:

            Lindsey, you said “Prayer and spending time in the Word is our way to commune with God. I personally find it not only helpful but crucial… He in turn fills me and gives me what I need to deal with all other things”

            Ok, so the recipe works for you. Great! I still wonder – why? Maybe our answer is “I don’t know why these practices fit me, but here’s my experience.”

            Personally, while I’ve circled back to some “spiritual disciplines,” I’ve let others go. Has God given me what I need? Yes, mostly via other people caring for me, and not through the “daily devotions and church every week” approach I grew up with. It’s been through growing as a person, therapy, reading and listening to new perspectives. It’s an ongoing journey.

          • Lindsey

            CMT, I had the same thought on the response button when I typed my last response lol!

            I think the “why” could be unpacked more, but I would say doing that with someone in person would be more wise than doing it over this type of communication. I have often found it helpful to go to an older, more mature believer than myself, someone who has been walking with the Lord for longer than I.

            Maybe where we differ is that I don’t think you can take the Bible and prayer out of the equation. Does practicing those things look different for everybody? Absolutely! I believe the Bible addresses the many points on the importance of God’s Word and prayer. I can list those if you desire. But I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not they are intended to be a part of our Christian walk.

  6. Wild Honey

    Regarding God seeing and understanding our circumstances, preach it, Sister!

    John Piper had the nerve to tell a first-time mom of an 8-week-old, when she admitted to struggling to find the energy for devotions, that “If you lose your communion with God, you will lose not only a source of strength for the sake of parenting, but you will lose the very thing you want most to impart to this child.” Thus setting up this vulnerable woman for complete failure.

    I analyzed his response in depth here: https://www.whyhavewefasted.org/john-pipers-advice-for-exhausted-new-moms/

    Reply
    • Nessie

      Wild Honey,
      Wow, that is a horrible thing to say to a new mom! Or any mom! Clearly by even asking, she was trying her best to please God. I’m guessing Piper never once suggested that her husband should step up and give her that time by watching his child either?

      I eventually learned that I had to change my “time with God” into something that worked for my life… Instead of “quiet time” with God, I realized that my time with Him was when I wondered over a butterfly’s beautiful colors and movement with my child, or noticed the swirling milk in my tea/coffee and asked my kid if he thought God saw and felt similar awe when observing the clouds that He made to swirl over the earth’s surface, or said a prayer over the rescue workers and individuals in need of help when we heard sirens. We can still have time with God- but it sure doesn’t have to be held to a rigid standard that is of man’s making instead of God’s. I honestly feel my faith was stronger in those moments sharing God with my child.

      Reply
      • Tim

        I read the original JP article and he does more or less say that actually.

        “Negotiate with your husband to take turns in getting up in the middle of the night. He should know you need sleep as much as he does. God’s ideal for child-rearing is two parents. There is a reason for that. So, tell your husband that I said he should help you. Make room in your schedule not only for rest, but also for reading.”

        https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/soul-care-for-exhausted-young-mothers

        Could probably have gone further, and it seems out of step with some other things I’ve heard him quoted saying, but fwiw.

        Reply
      • Tim

        Oh, and I found your last paragraph really beautiful too, Nessie.

        Reply
        • Nessie

          Tim,
          What I notice in the response you shared of JP’s is that it isn’t enough that the wife asks for help. It takes JP telling the husband to do it to actually get that done. And that he says it needs to be a negotiation is problematic, too… but I’m glad at least there is some recognition that dads should be involved.

          And thank you.

          Reply
          • Tim

            Interesting point. I read the “tell him I said he should help you” bit as a joke but there’s nothing I can see to rule out your interpretation. At least not in the transcript, I didn’t listen to the audio so can’t comment on tone.

            As a dad I find words like “help” (implying that it’s not an equal partnership) pretty patronising in this context too. But never sure how helpful it is to dig deep into semantics.

          • Nessie

            I didn’t listen either so I can see your side, too, and I agree with your feelings on the word, “help.” Belittles men, assumes more responsibility of women. A loss all around imo, but I understand your point on semantics, too, which I somewhat got into myself. Once you’e had a man tell you to tell your husband that HE said to do something (because trying to be useful/kind to your wife for her sake isn’t enough incentive, a man must be the one to direct/convince him), you notice that more readily.

          • Tim

            Yes, the two put together do kind of paint a picture. And on the one hand I’m sure if anyone wanted to pull apart everything I said on any given day they could pull out all sorts of things I didn’t actually mean. On the other hand, if your job is communicating you should probably think carefully about possible miscommunications too.

            It’s crazy-making if you let it be.

  7. CMT

    “Children might show signs of distress like crying or sleeplessness. They may “need” to pray. Christian parents are prone to admire and praise young devotion, to respond with more prayer.”

    Oh, this was me. Crying in church, agonizing over trivial misbehavior, lying awake worrying I hadn’t “properly” confessed every sin I committed that day. I think my earliest memories of this pattern go back to age five or six.

    “Please let’s examine this. Jesus simply took young children in his arms & blessed them. Does our spiritual teaching land like His blessing on children?”

    This made me tear up. This is what I want for my kids and where I think the culture I grew up in missed the mark so badly. It wasn’t enough for my parents to try to reassure me. Not when I was hearing frightening, shame-inducing, perfectionistic teachings from Sunday school teachers, preachers, at summer camp, on the radio, in books. I know I don’t want to pass that on. The really difficult thing now, though, it that I don’t have any other model of how to share faith with my kids.

    Reply
    • Stefanie

      Look up Meredith Anne Miller on Instagram. I think she’s great at reframing how we pass on our faith.

      Reply
      • CMT

        Thanks, I’m not on IG (call me a dinosaur haha) but I’ll see if I can find some of her stuff.

        Reply
        • Stefanie

          Yes. That’s her.

          Reply
  8. Stefanie

    What I find super interesting is the research about who is deconstructing now – it’s all the kids who had religious scrupulosity (me being one of them). I looked like a super spiritual and strong Christian teenager, but it was literally killing me (anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, etc). It also made me an easy target for recruiters from a high control religious organization.

    It turns out that the kids who were thought of as less righteous, less committed, less holy are doing a whole lot better in Christianity and in life. And I also think it’s funny, and ironic, that all the people still left in Christianity are criticizing the ones who leave by saying “well they were never real Christians anyway.” The less “serious” Christian teenagers, (the ones who stayed and are doing well now) are criticizing the most radical Christian teenagers (the ones who got burned and left) as never having been real Christians. That’s hilarious. Also classic older brother/younger brother dynamic from the parable of the prodigal son. The “heathen” brother ends up ok in the end. The “good” brother who slaved away with religious ocd devotion did not end up in a good place.

    I would love to hear more sermons geared toward parents to look out for signs of religious scrupulosity. It’s more of a danger to your kids than tik tok. My parents were worried about MTV and premarital sex ruining me. They helped me avoid both. But it turns out I carry trauma from Christianity. They should have worried about that instead. Thousands of dollars in therapy, antidepressants, not out of the woods yet.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely echo this comment! This is what we found over and over again in our data and our focus groups. The ones who believed the most were more likely to be burned.

      Reply
      • Lindsey

        Sheila, could you elaborate on that from your data please? “Those who believed the most” of what specifically? I know this is not your intention but my first read through of it, it sounded like a sentence of doom ha…the more you believe in Jesus, the more likely you are to be burned.

        I think it is neat to see research being done on why young people are leaving the church. I recently heard on a podcast that there was a Barna study done (I think on college aged kids) and why they had left the church. Apparently most described God as someone that did not line up with the God of the Bible, then that led into a conversation about the attributes of God. So it sounded like to me that what they were being taught just didn’t line up with Scripture. No wonder the New Testament talks so much about false teachers!

        Sheila, do you have ideas/suggestions on how we can talk about spiritual disciplines and how they are addressed in the Bible all with religious scrupulosity in mind?

        Reply
        • Phil

          I have been following the conversation. Something that has come to mind while reading the discussion is that it seems people want to read the Bible to get to know Jesus but for me, that’s not how it worked. I don’t really remember exactly, but I somehow know that as a young child not being able to read and write, I was told about Jesus. I think about what took place in Sunday school as a young child without specific memory it was Jesus loves me. I was taught Jesus loves me, and then my father died, and I didn’t pay attention to church. I was angry, and then our youth pastor molested me and I didn’t pay attention to church and was angry, but I also never knew scripture. I knew church, but I didn’t know scripture. This is what the reference above was to knowing/believing less….About seven years ago I found Jesus and since then I’ve learned scripture. I reflect on my past that long list of reasons why I didn’t pay attention at church. Here is the thing: There was a lot of people in my church that served as an example to me and I could I could name them one by one and the list is long. See it wasn’t scripture that showed me Jesus. It was people who led by example…even why the youth pastor was molesting me. The Bible is documentation of what God did and what Jesus did and we can see his example there, but it is meaningless unless we live it out. Seems that many were taught to have a relationship with the Bible instead of Jesus. So what I am getting at is that we are not to have a relationship with the Bible and our religion we are to have a relationship with Jesus. How do we do that? Through people. God speaks through People. I cant explain exactly why, but today when I read scripture I read it through the eyes of WWJ do. It is the example that people have shown me that I see. Not the ugly stuff of my past. I had to do a lot of work to get to that place…for that I am grateful. I wish the best for those reading here and those who struggle with the message. I have my list of struggles – by the grace of God it is not with understanding God and his love for me. Sigh..

          Reply
          • Nessie

            Phil, Love this. People can sure hurt us but they also sure can show us Jesus well. Some by praying for or with us. Some by showing us love reflecting Christ. Some by serving us and others by allowing us to serve them. Some by teaching, talking, discussing gently.

            I think asking people to pray for me when I just could not pray for myself has been huge for my journey, and getting to serve people made me feel worthwhile, like God had a use for me and could even want me. People in this online community being real and raw and vulnerable about struggles and successes has been immensely helpful, too!

  9. Talitha

    So good!! In our church recently they had an event for the teens, who were sent out to be a witness. I felt so cringe! This is NOT a childs job, found nowhere in Scripture! Just the pressure of that, they now need to change the world. I have always found this burdensome, so thats why I react to it. But I honestly think it is not developmentally right, they are still trying to figure out themselves and their faith.

    Reply
  10. Leta

    My mom grew up “old school” Assembly of God where hell and damnation was preached always and she ‘thrived’ (did she really??) on that. I grew up ‘knowing’ I wasn’t good enough and could never measure up. I constantly was asking forgiveness of all my sins, over and over again. Going up front for prayer every time because I ‘knew I was going to hell’ and was a pitiful wretched sinner. I didn’t pray enough, I didn’t go to church enough (I was there every time the doors opened) I definitely didn’t read my Bible enough. That followed me into my marriage and in our first couple of years after surprise twin pregnancy and hubs porn addiction things were getting bumpy in the marriage (I wanted to quit, leave and felt I just couldn’t handle anymore) we went to counseling and I was told I needed to be less selfish and lose me and become “content” in being a wife and mom. I went to counseling by myself to ‘work through MY issues’. That was the start of learning to live in an abusive relationship. Fast forward 16 years and my twins were teens. I then realized I would never want them in the situation I was in or require it of them. I went back to counseling (this time a good one) and started truly processing. I ‘caught’ the hubs in porn again but this time called him out on it. We struggled for a year with counseling where I put in most of the work to keep our relationship until I decided I was worth more and told him to get help for his addiction or we were done. It was the best thing I ever did for our marriage and for me. I quit trying and let go. My hubs actually stepped up and started going to SA and is actively in recovery. He has been sober for a little over a year now and I feel so much more free. We pray with each other before he heads to work, and I pray as I drive to all the activities going on with kids. But I am no longer worried about going to hell or trying to ‘measure up’ because I know Jesus already paid for my sin and I am forgiven. I am teaching my kids about a good and loving God who wants to be with us, not one who sits just waiting to smite us when we mess up. I am amazed and kind of sad now when I go see my mom to see how enslaved she is because of that thinking. She is constantly preaching to me about how I’m not ‘doing enough’ and how there are online preachers to listen to. And how many sermons she listens to telling me she feels so bad about how this younger generation is ‘missing out’ on the power of God because Noone preaches hell and damnation anymore. I am proud of how I am raising my kids to love Jesus and to know He actually loves them. Salvation is not just ‘fire insurance’. I know it is growing up with the idea of spirituality and ‘being good’ that kept me in an abusive relationship for so many years. While my husband is a good Godly man, he had an addiction, which turned him into an abuser. I also know I somewhat allowed him to be one because I didn’t have boundaries. It was once I realized I was worth something and started putting in boundaries that he saw what he had done, wanted to become the good man he was beyond his addiction.

    I am thankful I found Sheila and this website 2 years ago because it helped me to realize I had worth and what I had been taught growing up was wrong. Please keep up the good work Sheila and Rebecca because you are doing so much to help! You are changing lives!

    Reply
  11. Angharad

    I think the big problem comes when we take something that has been helpful for us personally (or that God has challenged us about personally) and try to turn it into a rule for everyone to live by. For example, you might love to get up at 4am and spend 3 hours reading your Bible and praying. And if that is feeding your spiritual life and helping you grow closer to God, that is amazing! But if you tell everyone else that they must do the same thing to be a ‘real’ Christian, then that moves from being a practice that is personally beneficial to you and into legalism.

    I found the comment about only dating someone if you believe that “we can do more for God together than we could alone.” very interesting, because I actually prayed that God would keep me from marriage unless that were true. But that was something that I wanted and not something that was imposed on me by others (and I think came out of my love of my single life and my reluctance to give it up!!!). I would never, ever suggest to anyone else that they must do the same.

    Noah built an ark. David became king. Ruth left all her family behind and moved to a foreign land with her mother-in-law. These were all things that were right for them to do – but it doesn’t mean that we all have to do the same to be obedient to God!

    Reply
    • Nathan

      That’s a very good way of looking at it. While there are a FEW legalisms in Christianity (one God, spiritual authority of the Bible, God is perfect but we aren’t, Jesus lived perfectly then died and rose), God works differently with every person.

      Trying to force everybody down the unique path that God has for you basically turns you into a Pharisee.

      Scrupulosity is just another way of measuring how “good” of a Christian you are by surface legalistic activities: How often you read the bible, how many times a day you pray, how often you go to church, etc.

      Reply
      • Nessie

        Noah, David, Ruth, etc. … yes. Descriptive stories and situations, not prescriptive.

        One of the things I love about God is that He made us each uniquely. He is too interesting and unfathomable and creative to lock Himself or us into boxes of only prescriptive, always the same for everyone behaviors. Why would He give us different areas of spiritual gifting, different occupations or interests or ways of learning?

        “Trying to force everybody down the unique path that God has for you basically turns you into a Pharisee.” Yes!

        Reply
    • Mara R

      Angharad: “I think the big problem comes when we take something that has been helpful for us personally (or that God has challenged us about personally) and try to turn it into a rule for everyone to live by.”

      There are entire books like this.
      My example: The Purpose Driven Life.

      Well, okay, I don’t know if the entire book is like this. But I know the first line of the first chapter was a negative and non-God directed slap in my face.

      It said, “It’s not about you.”
      My reaction as a woman married to a narcissist was, “No fricken kidding, it’s not about me. It has never been about me. It’s all about this man I’m married to because he makes it all about him.”

      The message I needed was, yes, sometimes it is about you. It’s about you knowing that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. It’s about me finding the believer’s rest and actually resting in it. It’s about me realizing how abused an wounded I was and taking the time to figure out what to do about it and taking time for myself to get healed from it so that I don’t run around and vomit my trauma out on other people. Sometimes IT IS ABOUT ME and YOU and all the wounded and traumatized people chewed up and spit out by the church.

      I am sure there are people that needed to be reminded that it’s not about them. But that wasn’t me. Nor is it all the people who have been buried by legalism, twisted scripture, abuse, and trauma. We HAVE to take time and make it about ourselves. Otherwise we can’t be effective in anything we try to do for God.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        And why is it considered so holy to make it about “everyone else” anyway? Why is it OK to care about my sister’s heart as she deals with her abusive marriage but not my heart as I deal with my own? If I don’t matter, then why does my neighbor matter? If grieving my own losses is selfish, then why is it so imperative that I walk with someone else as they grieve their losses? Isn’t that helping them to be selfish? Hmm?

        Reply
        • Tim

          Well said. It all comes back to “love your neighbour as yourself AS YOURSELF”. You can’t love others well unless you’ve understood how loved you are.

          Reply
        • Nathan

          Yes. to say “It’s NEVER about me” is just as wrong as “It’s ALWAYS about me”. Sometimes you need to come first, sometimes the other person needs to come first, but overall, we all need to love and care about everybody equally, including ourselves.

          Reply
          • Angharad

            Yes. to say “It’s NEVER about me” is just as wrong as “It’s ALWAYS about me”.

            Definitely. My husband is a church minister, and one of the things that ministers in his denomination have to commit to is that they will make time for self care!

            If we don’t look after ourselves, we are abusing God’s creation (because we ARE His creation) and also making ourselves far less effective in serving Him, which destroys the argument of those who say you need to ignore your own needs so you can serve God!

          • Lisa Johns

            Amen, to all!

  12. Jim

    I feel like I am not only disappointing God but everyone that depends on me.

    I have a severe case of imposter syndrome and I live in constant fear that I will be found out and rejected by everyone. I work myself to exhaustion but it never feels like it is enough.

    Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      Jim, that is heartbreaking. I pray you find peace, rest from all your works.
      Have you read Krispin Mayfield’s book, Attached to God? It addresses this issue (and others that are similar) really well. It really helped me to clarify some things in my own life. We are not called to work for what God gives us!

      Reply
  13. Curly Sue

    I feel like a disappointment to God because I don’t evangelize. I’ve prayed for passion to evangelize for several years, but finally gave up. About five years ago, our church reprogrammed and pivoted to be 100% “on mission.” All bible studies are geared towards the end goal of evangelism (you will have better arguments, you will have more information, you will be better equipped, etc). Most sermons get around to evangelism. Sermons I’ve heard in my church (from three different pators) include the following statements: “You should be leveraging every break and lunch hour at work to figure out how to evangelize to your coworkers.” “If you aren’t evangelizing, I have to question whether you actually have a saving faith.” And from this morning’s sermon: “I want everyone to consider memorizing the Bible. Just think of how much more effective you will be evangelizing!” He also announced that we will be starting up small groups in October to facilitate serving and loving our neighbors in order to evangelize.

    Aren’t there other spiritual gifts? Isn’t evangelism a gift that God gives to some and not others? What if churches lifted up and supported all the spiritual gifts? And finally…(I could get some backlash for this)…is the single-minded focus on evangelism a form of idolatry?

    Or..am I really just not a Christian? Am I not evangelizing because I’m not really saved?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, Curly Sue! That’s so hard to be in that environment.

      I would say that your church’s stance on evangelism isn’t in line with data. Most people, when they become Christians, don’t do so because someone gave them an airtight argument. It’s emotional; it’s a matter of faith.

      I think the best way to evangelize is to stop thinking about evangelism, and just live your life and love people. When we think about evangelism, we actually stop thinking of people as people. We think of them as targets. So it’s not about listening to them and loving on them, it’s about listening in order to defeat their arguments.

      I would say, just love people. That’s the way to introduce people to Jesus.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        “When we think about evangelism, we stop thinking about people as people. We think of them as targets.” Sounds like a multi-level marketing organization. We can definitely learn to love people better than that!!

        Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        “When we think about evangelism, we actually stop thinking of people as people. We think of them as targets.” Sounds like a multi-level marketing organization. We can definitely love people better than that!!

        Reply
    • n

      I’m so sorry. In my experience, immature and sometimes dangerous “pastors” hyperfocus on evangelism because increasing the number of church members/tithers is the primary way that they can feel more successful and get a raise in pay.

      God says for us to seek peace and pursue it, and also to manage our own households well before trying to minister outside them. I do enjoy handing out Gospels of John from Pocket Testament League, and I’ve found that asking people “Did you know that Jesus is good news?” has led to some good conversations. But I only do it when I feel that God has given me peace about doing it.

      Some people have been berated with Bible passages, and need simple kindness or generosity more than hearing the plan of salvation for the umpteenth time.

      Reply
  14. JoB

    I am not sure that Jesus offers rest to everyone, or if he offers it in the same way to everyone. He does say that his yoke is easy. But it’s easy for me to imagine him be frustrated with me, because he frequently expressed frustration with his disciples. I’ve always been really bothered by his reaction when Peter tried to walk on water at his command- when Peter got frightened and started to sink, he chastised him for having “little faith.” He didn’t offer any emotional support or reassurance. And it’s hard to experience emotional rest or security when there are so many warnings and teachings and parables about how many people are going to be deceived into thinking they are saved, but finding out that they aren’t, or thinking they are prepared when they aren’t. Why shouldn’t those verses apply to me? If Jesus was anything, he was unpredictable- he didn’t give people the praise or reassurance that they expected most of the time… so why should I expect him to say anything good about me? I didn’t feel I was more spiritual when I did more or worse when I did less. Instead, I felt confused, because I got all these teachings about “doing things in God’s strength and not my own,” and I finally had to admit that I had NO idea what that even meant. It seemed like spirituality was a kind of “secret sauce” that was given to some people, but not everyone, and definitely not me. I felt like I collapsed spiritually a couple of years ago, and Jesus didn’t come looking for me. I wish I could feel rest or acceptance or love, but I just don’t. I have stopped doing most spiritual practices, because it’s a little less painful- like when you finally stop calling the person who never answers, you finally stop trying to think of ways of pleasing the person who never notices you. If you stop reaching, you don’t feel the rejection as keenly. I’ve tried doing everything and I’ve tried doing nothing, and the results seem the same. I know that I still hope that maybe my eyes will be opened and I will get it and will experience the love that so many people say Christ offers, but I don’t know how or when. I guess what I want to say is that it’s complicated, and the verse about the light yoke doesn’t always help.

    Reply
    • Nessie

      JoB,
      (Sorry this is lengthy!) I have had these doubts, too, and felt similarly re: how Jesus felt about me/the disciples, etc. Here’s my experience in case it helps.

      Talking with a few healthy pastors over the years, what I have come away with is that a lot of my thoughts on Jesus’ “tone” was rooted in past teachings or my anxiety. (The devil excels in targeting our weakest links.) As I learn(ed) more about Jesus’ love (and it is great because God IS love), I view Jesus’ reactions more as a parent with a child; having taught him 50 times to wash his hands after using the toilet but it just doesn’t stick is, well, frustrating and exasperating and I wonder at how I can get him to “get” it. It doesn’t mean I love my child less though, or that he loves me less. It means I want him to grow into a better version of himself.

      I think we don’t see Jesus giving much praise because He didn’t need to for their sake. We can’t read a verse and see the beaming smile on His face when a disciple did well, or a pat on the back. Moments aren’t recorded like the disciples busy healing and teaching people when perhaps Jesus took a step back to observe the good they were doing and just breathe in that moment. I can’t prove any of that happened, but while there is so much in the bible, it doesn’t begin to cover all these moments that were possible. It isn’t recorded that Jesus smiled, but if He was filled with fruit of the Spirit, I’d wager He did. Probably even laughed as He lived life with His disciples. And much of the Bible is recorded by people who, the closer they grew to God the less perfect they realized they actually were. Given that, I’m sure they would record the ways in which they didn’t measure up more than bragging about how they did. The disciples were human and flawed, just like we are.

      Some verses that help me are:
      Hebrews 12:5-6
      John 3:17
      1 John 4
      It also helps me to realize that God WANTS me to know Him. He isn’t trying to trip me up with a trick question.
      2 Peter 3:9

      As for the yoke, assuming it was a yoke like on oxen (I’ve heard various thoughts), I would say that it still implies some level of work. There is still a burden included. However, I take that verse now as: I have work to do to serve God- out of a sense of loving and pleasing Him- but it is not loaded down with rules, legalism, and heavier burdens we weren’t meant to carry, like what the Pharisees were trying to load on people.

      I hope something here offers encouragement and a new way to view some scriptures. Praying for you.

      Reply
      • JoB

        Nessie, thanks for your thoughts, and also your prayers. I will check out the verses you cited.

        Reply

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