Religion did nothing for me growing up except leave me empty, ashamed, depressed and broken. So I walked away from it. Unfortunately, the further I walked away from it, the more enmeshed I became in personal development only to find that this too left me feeling broken and in need of fixing.
Religion and Personal Development Bring the Same Results.
I became enmeshed in personal development during a period in my life where I was walking away from religion. Religion that had left me confused, empty, and believing that I was hopelessly broken.
The day it had all changed for me was right before my 22nd birthday while sitting on an old wooden bench in the early hours of the morning. The rest of my family was in bed and I was enjoying the dew on the ground, and the birds singing while watching the sun come up.
I was feeling confused and heartbroken as I chided myself over “mistakes” I had made. I held myself to a higher standard than anyone else around me that I knew of. I expected nothing less than perfection for rules that I made up for myself. When I fell short, I fell broken. I HAD to do better I told myself.
And that’s when God whispered in my ear. “You don’t have to get my attention. I’m right here.” I was shocked. I had never considered that in all my efforts to pursue God, He was in fact pursuing me. I walked back into the house that morning with a strange but peaceful silence in my heart. I didn’t have to work to get His attention, to be seen, and loved. I was already seen and loved just as I was.
While at peace, I didn’t quite know what to do with this new understanding of God. There were no more prayer sessions of anxiously waiting for Him to “show up” because I recognized that He was already there. There were no more feelings of guilt that I had strayed. How could I stray from a God who was pursuing me, who was always there, just a call away?
I didn’t know what to do with myself or where to focus my efforts.
About a year and a half later I was married and facing problems I had never seen coming. There were many things from my childhood that I had swept under the rug. There were issues in my family that were getting bigger with every passing day and harder and harder to ignore or justify.
I was hurting and didn’t know what to do with it, so I did what I had always done. I tried to fix it.
It was around this time that a friend introduced me to a multi level marketing company. I liked the product well enough and the idea that I could make a good income from an hour of work a day appealed to me. ( It was only later that I realized that anyone who had been successful in the company had worked far far more than an hour a day.)
As I got more involved in the company, I was drawn in further and further by the personal development. I listened to all the podcasts and read all of the books. I could be anything, do anything, go anywhere I wanted to go, the only thing stopping me was myself.
But between the old lie that I had to be perfect, between the pain of the past and the problems in the present, between the advice I received over and over again that the problem was somewhere inside of me, my mindset, my lack of faith, my perspective, between the constant flow of information and my broken heart, I was left feeling helpless and hopeless.
I am not exaggerating when I say that at one point I thought I was going insane from an inability to fix myself.
The problems in my life weren’t going away. In fact, they were getting worse. On top of everything that was already happening my husband and I lost our little boy when I was 28 weeks pregnant.
We were devastated.
I returned to “normal” life after my 5 week recovery feeling immense pressure to carry this new heartache with grace.
I tried to do the right thing by letting other people in to pray for me and support me. I felt shame and embarrassment that quickly turned to frustration and anger when they pointed out how I was or wasn’t handling things right. Why could I not do what felt right to me without having someone tell me it was wrong or that I should be doing xyz?
The pressure intensified until once again God whispered in my ear, “Stop. Stop listening to their opinions, stop trying to fix yourself. Let me work in you what I need to work in you.”
Therapy was helpful, but God brought healing.
I gained valuable insight from the books that I read and broadened my understanding of psychology, trauma, abuse, loss and grief, but God made me whole.
The act of being grateful, not from a daily gratitude practice or out of obligation because the bible told me too, but because I came to understand the goodness of God, changed my perspective and brought me joy.
Learning to love myself, not because I read in a book that self hatred was unproductive, but because God loved me and had a plan for me, allowed me to have grace for myself right where I was at.
My faith grew not because I showed up without fail at 5 am in the morning for bible reading and prayer, but because every doubt, every fear, every “why” I asked was thrown at my loving Father’s feet and an answer or some comfort was waited for.
My faith grew not because I forced my feelings into submission or ignored them all together, but because I voiced them to a God that cares, and because that God answered and comforted me.
The confidence that I had carried myself with as a two year old came back full swing, but not because I recited my daily affirmations in the mirror every morning. No, it came back when I started leaning in and listening to what GOD had to say about me.
He answered and comforted me not because I was finally good enough, but because He delights in me.
I found that religion and personal development both produced the same results in me.
The message from both is the same. I am a problem in need of fixing.
I am broken and need to be made whole.
In both religion and personal development we look to ourselves to fix the problems in our life. We look to ourselves to find a way to feel whole, peaceful and complete.
I am not the answer to my problems. Christ is.Tweet
I was running on a hamster wheel. I was going around and around and around and never getting anywhere.
Religion says: You feel far away from God? Here, read your bible every day and pray just like this. Oh, you’re still struggling with feelings of guilt? It’s the devil. Read these verses. It’ll fix it.
You don’t have joy in your life? Well, being joyful is something we are commanded to do, so maybe you’re not actually a Christian if you don’t have joy.
We are commanded to be thankful, so just be thankful.
You’re doubting God’s goodness? Well, that’s sin. You need to repent.
Personal development says: You need a daily gratitude practice. You need to get up at 5 am every morning and spend an hour building your dreams. You need to exercise everyday. These habits and mindset changes will fix all of your problems.
You can’t lose weight? You probably need to love yourself more.
Depressed? Mindset shift.
Religion and personal development is expecting yourself to fix the problems, and while they both have truth to them, like we are encouraged to be joyful in the bible, and exercising every day will work wonders for your life, the truth is, we are not the answer to our own problems.
A mindset shift is not going to fix you. A daily bible reading plan is not going to eliminate your doubts and fears.
Surrendering to the love of Christ and letting Him guide you in everything that you do, allowing Him to be your father and trusting that despite your doubts and fears, He has saved you is the only thing that will bring the fullness to your life that you’re longing for.