The Authority We Give "Should"s
Do you struggle with “not doing enough” as a Christian?
At the beginning of the new year (2021), I read a book called “Disease to Please”. This particular book was given to me by a friend who cared for me, although I received it in disdain. My pride took over me, “I am not a people-pleaser,” I thought. Yet, I painfully decided to humble myself as to what may be a good observation from my friend and I opened the cover. My fingers didn’t leave those pages for about two weeks. One particular chapter grabbed my attention, a chapter detailing the “Ten Commandments of People-Pleasing.” This chapter demonstrated that the core of people-pleasing and the foundation of these “Ten Commandments of People-Pleasing” lay the stronghold of “should”.
Although this book is not Christian in nature, I certainly am. As a Christian, I desire that all my wisdom comes from God and God alone (Proverbs 2:6-12), so in every turn of the page I prayed; asking God to heal me from what could be a distorted thinking pattern. As I prayed through these strongholds, I came to realize that my desire to please others came from a desire to meet an unsaid expectation I believe they had on me (a “should”). When really, that expectation was never placed by them; it was rather fantasized by myself to create an attainable measurement of success in serving them, with the deeply engrained hope to gain approval.
If I am not careful to knock down this thought-process of the never-ending expectation of “should”, it bleeds into my relationship with God and suddenly becomes an authority that governs my Christian actions. I subconsciously create "The Ten Commandments of God-Pleasing" which therein lay the stronghold of "should". I fall into believing a lie that I have many standards to meet in my relationship with God to be worthy of His approval. These are thought-patterns that must be consistently captured and held obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)... Here I am in prayer five months after reading this book, asking God to help me break these expectations I have on myself and to demolish the authority of the “should".
The Fear of Punishment is a False Fear
The “should'' is directly linked to expectation. Whether that be expectation I feel from others or an expectation I give myself, that is dependent on the situation. However if I am not careful, I quickly associate all of these expectations to come from my true Source: God. I suddenly feel God’s hand not to hold me in comfort, but to hover over me in wrath with the assumption that if I do not reach that expectation, if I do not fulfill that Christian “should”, then I am to be punished. But 1 John 4:18 says this:
"Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love."
So if I am to innately expect punishment due to consistently missing the mark (surprise, I’m a sinner), that means I am fearful. I end up approaching God in heart as a scared dog who sees the hand of his master rise toward him. A healthy fear of God should be a love and reverence that propels me forward in repentance and into His grace, rather than living with buckled knees! Do I understand discipline from my Father? Yes; and I believe that I am fully deserving of such, however I have completely misunderstood His grace if I believe His hand hovers over me like an iron rod waiting for me to mess up, rather than holding me in tight with gentle love and care (Luke 1:68-79).
Living Yoked to the “Law”
I like rulebooks and I like to abide by them. If I don’t have one, I make one. I desire a measurement for my success. Being driven for success is something the world commends but truthfully, something I have had to bring consistently to the feet of Jesus by asking Him to strip my pride and my selfishness in believing “I must do it all, alone. And I must do it to receive approval, Your approval”. This world has measurements of success and demands we do more... and then, they applaud us. But God’s measurement of success is only that we have faith in His Son Jesus Christ. That’s it. Once we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have succeeded! There is no longer a measuring stick, no longer an iron rod, and no longer punishment. And in that grace, we rest.
“Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.” -Proverbs 30:5-6
When these false goals are placed, I suddenly categorize myself under a standard. A standard of a divine check-list. What may this be called? Legalism. Or, in other words, the Law. When I yoke myself to the lie of this self-made law of “should”, I suddenly become a slave to obedience over a false agenda. What does this look like?
“I should be spending more time in prayer, one hour isn't enough.”
“I should have connected more deeply with God this morning, did He leave me because I was partly distracted?”
“I should be doing more to advance the Kingdom of God, I'm not doing nearly enough to contribute.”
“I should go out of my way for every person that needs my spiritual consul, they must be served.”
“I should give every second of my day to ministry, even when I’m not serving out of joy.”
“I should have spoken to everyone I’ve seen today to tell them the Good News, even if they didn't want to hear it.”
Do you believe that you are enough?
And the root of all these?: “I should be better. In every facet. I must do better. Because I am a sinner and I am never good enough.” But no matter how much I mess up, what does He return to me? Grace, and more grace. It is me that has to stop punishing myself. God says I am enough! I am chosen! I am called for a divine purpose (Jeremiah 29:11)! It is me that has to stop saying “I am never good enough”.
God tells me that Jesus Christ paid the price for me. He took the weight of my sin upon Himself as He hung on that Cross. He has been tried and punished for my failure to meet up to a perfect standard. The debt has already been paid. And the punishment has already been taken. Now God tells me I am blameless, pure, and spotless (Philippians 2:15) before Him because His Son Jesus Christ dwells within me (Galatians 2:20).
“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” -Romans 3:21-27
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God...But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” -Romans 7:4, 6
“ 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!...But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” -Romans 6:15, 22
This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. - Ephesians 4:13
The “should” stronghold does not propel a healthy desire to get better but rather it consumes you with a deeper engrained lie that you are not good enough and you must work for God’s approval. God says in His Word that we are already approved by Him, we are heirs to His Kingdom (Romans 8:14-17), and there is nothing that can separate us from the power of His love (Romans 8:31-39). Never serve God out of the obligation of “should”, serve Him and build a relationship with Him out of love (1 Peter 5:2).