I think I was in third grade when I volunteered for a solo in the Christmas program at church. I stood in that large sanctuary on the stage in front of the bright lights, remembered all my lines and loved every minute of it.
But I never volunteered for anything onstage again.
As I grew older and more aware of the thoughts and opinions of people around me, something inside me changed. Morphed. A fear of what others might think of me slowly dominated more and more of life – and I didn’t even realize it. As an adult, this fear of people has often influenced what I do or say, and what I don’t do and don’t say and don’t volunteer to do.
This is a more common struggle than we may think. We stumble over our words, replay our latest social faux paus in our imaginations, and avoid people who witnessed our embarrassing moments. We worry about how to phrase requests or news or suggestions so we don’t look silly, and we refuse to say anything in front of an audience.
Why do we let people have this kind of power over us? Why are we so afraid of human beings just like us?
Sees Right Through Us
Fear of people makes people out to be more important than God in our minds (and hearts). Instead of basing our decisions on the Word of God, we form our lives around what other people think – or at least what we assume they will think.
Some of us might avoid most people in general, because we tend to embarrass ourselves socially. Or, like the Pharisees in the Bible, we might flaunt anything good about us, appearing to be proud of who we are but inwardly seeking that approval from human beings just like us. We’re afraid they will see through our façade or see us in our lowest moments and decide that we’re not enough.
But…God already knows that.
It seems to grate against everything that makes sense, but it’s a fact: the secret to our fears of insufficiency is knowing they are true. We are not enough.
God has seen every embarrassing moment we’ve ever had. He knows where we fail, where we’ve always failed, even how we’ll continue to fail. “For he knows the secrets of the heart,” David wrote (Psalm 44:21). And Jesus told the praise-hungry Pharisees, “‘You…justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts’” (Luke 16:15).
There will be no big revelation, some secret sin we can hide from His sight. God knows we are deeper in this darkness than even we realize.
“And you were dead”—dead!—“in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,” Paul wrote (Ephesians 2:1).
One of the best words in the Bible. There was no way we could ever heal ourselves, cure our hearts of this degenerative sickness. We were beyond hope. BUT.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:4-8).
He gave His Son in our place. Our sin became His, and His righteousness became ours; in the worst trade-off since time began, we received hope. We don’t have to stay in this horrible sickness because Jesus came to rescue, free, heal us.
Some days our life is best described by the catch-all conclusion: “Mistakes were made.” We are absolutely not okay. We are not enough. We are not good. But Jesus is good, Jesus is perfect, and Jesus is enough—and He shares His riches with us.
From This Day Forward
We don’t have to be afraid of each other. Not anymore. In Christ we are safe from having to measure up, to our own standards or to anyone else’s. We have come to the awful and liberating truth that we will never be sufficient, and in that hard truth God gives His merciful gift. Through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the children of God will never have to be afraid again.
I would still rather not get onstage. I’d prefer to be in the audience, away from the bright lights and possible embarrassing mistakes. I still wonder about what other people might think and sometimes that affects the choices I make. I still have a ways to go in living free of fearing others.
But the grace of God has given me the first step. In every situation, no matter what anyone else thinks or how I might embarrass myself, I have been given—given!—everything I need in Christ. I am not enough and never will be, but He is more than enough and has given me a place in His family that can never be taken away. Not even by audience vote.