Imagine yourself walking into a room filled with all those you hold dear.
Your friends, family, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and Jesus Himself are all there.
Now imagine you walk into that room and are immediately surrounded by all your loved ones. Everyone is so excited to see you. They want to be near you, talk to you, laugh with you, and simply enjoy your presence.
Pretty great, right?
But then you notice something.
Jesus didn’t get up to greet you like everyone else did.
Suddenly the euphoria of attention fades as you begin to wonder why He didn’t greet you. Nothing else seems to matter except for your growing desire to be greeted by Jesus; to simply feel His embrace.
No amount of attention could possibly hold any meaning because He didn’t get up to greet you.
I have often found it to be my strivings for social acceptance, approval, and praise that draws my attention away from Christ. This is not to say that these things are bad. I truly believe that God places the blessings of friendship and opportunity in our lives to help us grow and prosper. However, they must be approached and valued in moderation; never to be valued greater than the One who gave them.
Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.
All through college and even into the first several months of living on my own, I can see how much of what I did and set out to accomplish was for the sole purpose of social approval.
I went into college with a major that I didn’t particularly like, but it sounded good and looked nice on paper.
I involved myself with a group of people that didn’t necessarily bring out the best in me, but gave me the sense of acceptance that I so desired.
I pushed myself to the limit because it was socially frowned upon to not be as involved as possible; to not do everything I could to have that “college experience.”
Even now, I have found myself striving so hard to be that person that I think will be better accepted and celebrated that I forget to rejoice in the woman God has made me to be.
Being presently preoccupied with our social status keeps us from being eternally focused on Jesus Christ and our heavenly status as Children of God.
In reading through the Psalms, I found a time when David struggled with this very issue of social acceptance. In Psalm 142, we find David crying out to the Lord, expressing his soul aching pain of being overlooked by the world.
Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. (Psalm 142:4)
You can practically feel the pain in his words. While this may not resonate with everyone in the here and now, I can guarantee that at some point in your life, there will be a time when it feels as if you’ve been entirely overlooked by the world.
I’ve felt this way many times in the past and fully anticipate feeling this way again in the future. However, my favorite part about this Psalm is that David doesn’t stop there.
He never ends his prayers with a complaint and he never leaves us feeling sorry for him. In every Psalm, David returns to the glory of God, reminding himself and his readers of God’s perfect and holy character.
I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)
As David expresses the pain of being forgotten, in the same breath he also expresses the joy of being remembered and known by the one true God.
In the land of thriving and amidst the exhausting strivings and pursuits of the American Dream, Jesus Christ is our portion. He alone is our refuge.
Every day we find ourselves in this fight to gain or maintain social acceptance. I’ll admit to that – I’m one of the worst. I like to think that I am confident in myself, but when put in a position to either stay true to myself or gain further acceptance and praise, I will naturally fault to the latter.
This is simply the human condition.
Our human tendencies kick in when life tosses us to the side. Our natural reaction to being overlooked is to create for ourselves our own platform and our own source of glory, because as Pastor Austin Edwards from CityLight Church puts it –
We love our own glory more than we love His glory.
We like to create for ourselves a platform on which we can shine when we feel forgotten by the world and hidden in the shadows of others. We love our glory more than we love His glory, so we speak out, vying for attention and glorification. We scramble to do this and be that to ensure that we won’t be forgotten when we should instead be focusing on the truth that He remembers us and that He loves us.
Consider Noah’s story (Genesis 8:1), or perhaps Abraham (Genesis 19:29). Think about Rachel (Genesis 30:22) and the life of Sarah (Genesis 21:1). God is gracious and does for His people what He promises.
He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:8)
David shows us in Psalm 142 that even when we do feel forgotten by the world, God sees us. He knows us, He loves us, and most of all, He is sufficient for us. The God who remembered His covenant to Abraham and all those ‘Hebrews 11’ heroes-of-faith also abides by His covenant with you – that He will never leave you nor forsake you.
So when we find ourselves in these moments where we feel discounted by the world; cast to the shadows and forgotten – instead of trying to manufacture some means of being noticed, we should seek to praise and glorify His name for reminding us through the solitude that He is enough.
We have this hope that we can find sufficiency in Christ alone; in knowing that none of it really matters because any worldly pursuit, no matter how good it may be, is only secondary to knowing Christ and praising His name.
David knew this and prayed in verse seven that God would set him free from his prison, that he may praise His name.
The prison of social acceptance and approval is a condemning one; one that leaves us feeling empty and broken inside. But God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt.11:30) and the praising of His name will bring with it freedom from our bondage and relief from the chains of worldly pursuits.
When the presently preoccupying things of this world are disregarded, we are freed to look farther and deeper into God, His love, and His Kingdom’s purpose.
So let’s go back to our story and flip the imagery this time – now you walk into that same room, filled with the same people, yet this time, only one person gets up to greet you.
Jesus gets up off the couch and gives you a big hug as everyone else continues on with their own conversations. No one is showing any interest in the fact that you have just arrived, but it doesn’t really matter does it?
No amount of attention could possibly hold any meaning because Jesus got up to greet you!