Hello Ashton! I’ve been keeping up with these wonderful posts as they come and have been contemplating what you and the others have been discussing. I think your mental struggles are just what I have gone through myself. I have always been a perfectionist and whenever I realized I was having feelings of envy toward others that I saw as better than myself, I felt so ashamed. That was more common to me about 20 years ago than now, although I have seen that ugly thing rear its head a time or two in the recent past. I think it’s a part of growing and learning who we are and to be comfortable with that. I can tell you that at 43, I am much happier and content with who I am and my role as a Christian than I was in my 20’s! I have said more than once I wouldn’t go back to being that age if I had the choice. What growing pains!
One thing that has helped over the years has been to pray for wisdom. Wisdom comes slowly as does our sanctification, but I believe that the more we faithfully strive to learn and have experiences in life, the more quickly we grow, although it is still such a gradual process. Keep desiring to learn more. An inquisitive mind really helps!
When you compare yourself to others, which may be very natural to those who desire to do good for our Lord in the years of their spiritual youth, as you continue to grow spiritually, even though others may seem to be doing more, know you are being productive where you are right now. Keep in mind too that the people you are comparing yourself to likely have stories to tell of their faults, imperfections, and how clumsy they felt when they first started working for the Lord. Often we see good works that people are doing but don’t realize the internal struggles they have as well. Maybe you could have a conversation with someone you look up to to let them know the feelings that have caused you guilt. They may just be able to relate!
In the meantime, strive to learn all that you can about God’s truths. Study your bible, listen to RZIM podcats and others, sermons from various pastors, and I highly recommend the RZIM Academy courses to help strengthen your faith. I have taken 2 1/2 so far and they have made a huge difference in my life.
Sin. That old thorn in our side. I understand your struggle! As I look back on my life though, I realize that as God has grown me in faith and love for others, the struggle with sin grows easier to conquer. It is hard as we go through that sanctification as we mature, but be encouraged to know that as you grow, sin’s grip on you will grow weaker and weaker. I don’t know that we ever get to a point that we aren’t tempted again, I highly doubt that, but it becomes easier, and it may just be because with stronger faith we are better able to deal with ourselves when we do sin. As we learn more about God’s love for us and how to love others we become less judging of ourselves maybe? If we are to love others as we love ourselves, then the more we love ourselves (in a healthy way) the more we will love others and feel less inclined to sin toward them I think.
I used to be so guilty of envy and comparing myself to others. In that struggle and as I realized how wrong it was, I started intentionally thanking God for the good works of others that I envied. I tried to have a more healthy perspective of them and their works and realize that I should be glad for them that they are able to do what they do, and for those that they bless. I would make myself say, “I am glad that you can be such a blessing to others. How happy you must make them!” One other way I would compare myself to others though even more was physically. Being a perfectionist I also strived to perfect my physical appearance and felt much envy for those that I felt had physical qualities that we’re better than mine, and I worked so hard to perfect my physical imperfections. I am sure my husband would say I succeeded, but I was always working on that tiny thing I saw as a flaw. It’s crazy I know. But I have also over the years learned to be happy with myself and to focus more on my spiritual state which is eternal. But I still love to excessive and be strong and take care of myself.
Do you know what your talents are? We all have our faults as well as talents. God has given us all talents and it helps to recognize them and how they can be used. Some talents may seem less important, but I assure you your talent is special to certain people in certain situations in ways you may not know now. Our God is infinitely intricate and we can’t see how he uses our unique experiences, personalities, talents, mindsets, and lifestyles, for His purposes. God uses each of us as we are and where we are to touch people in ways that maybe those you compare yourself to may never be able to do. God uses each of us in distinct ways.
I have also struggled with the question of ministry. Many of us struggle with the idea that to be a more effective witness we should be in dedicated missions. I think that mindset is deceiving as God wants His glory to be shown in a natural way in our every day lives. I agree with your pastor, in that we are always in missions. They just have different labels and come in different forms. To be a witness and show love to the people we see everyday is to minister in the name of Christ and we will end up reaching people that no missionary or minister will ever have contact with. In the workplace and every day life we are blending in with the lost in such a unique way. They may not see it coming but we have the chance to show them the love of Christ like they have never seen before. They may receive Christ without having even looked for Him! What a privilege to be able to represent Christ in such an environment. God needs us to be His representatives in the military, politics, sports arena, the arts, schools, etc. Your desire to work with others is a great way to do good for them, bless them, and show them God’s love through your works. You will stand out among those in your line of work. And you will meet people that you can help on a very personal level. Of course, if you feel that call to missions and it persists, don’t ignore it but prayerfully consider the matter, and like it was said in a previous post, do think about your motivations. Being prayerful will help you to know where God wants you to be. I always wanted to be a missionary and adopt a ton of kids, but I have learned to be content in this role that I never imagined myself in as a pilot’s wife and mother to 13 children, none adopted. I hear there are people that are blessed to know my family, and that is a style of witnessing that I never imagined I’d be a part of! So I take what God has given me and go with it. This is my ministry. I pray that you will understand what yours is and find happiness in fulfilling your calling as a Christian!