Several years ago, I was being mentored by a Christian lady during a very tense separation from my husband, which at the time I couldn’t see was probably a blessing. I was struggling, not only with my relationship with my husband, but also with God. Therefore, I was struggling immensely with even loving myself. I was struggling with parenting and maintaining all the responsibilities I had accepted as a wife and mother; I simply did not feel worthy. We had eight children between us, his, mine, and ours.
My husband was a narcissist, so I had quite a bit of incorrect programming I was wading through. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of performing to earn God’s approval and love, but for me to do this I had been programmed that first I must receive my husband’s love and approval before God would even acknowledge me. I had to submit in all things regardless of what they were. I was self-sabotaging and didn’t even realize it. If anything went wrong, I blamed myself or assumed the “devil” must be attacking me, or that God was “punishing me.” All of which were wrong, but in the emotional state I was in I could not see it.
Thankfully, my mentor was wise enough to know that none of this could be resolved without first helping me to repair my faulty thinking and begin a true relationship with God through Jesus. I felt I had been rejected, abandoned, and that God could not love someone so broken and unworthy. I felt he wasn’t fulfilling my needs because I wasn’t worthy of even my husband’s love. I was desperate.
Understanding the Basics
There were two things I needed to understand before I could move past the mental block I was experiencing. First, I needed to understand how I had been taught to view and interact with God and then to know that both were faulty. See my article What Filter Are You Looking Through to learn about how we are taught to view God. Second, I learned about the four basic needs every human being has and why, and what happens when we don’t trust God to fulfill them. I was desperately seeking to fulfill these needs on my own. I had become self-sufficient and this is not always a good thing.
These four basic needs every human has are love, acceptance, worth, and security (my mentor called them the L.A.W.S.). We spend much of our life trying to fulfill them ourselves. We find temporary fulfillment in material things and other people; however, this satisfaction doesn’t last and so we set out to find another way to feel satisfied again. People fail us because no one is perfect, money runs out, etc. Over and over we repeat this behavior seeking fulfillment. Some of us have taken to self-medicating through drugs, alcohol, and even prescription drugs to avoid feeling that general feeling of unrest because of our unmet needs.
We perform in some way hoping to earn fulfillment of these needs, yet we are usually left feeling as if we aren’t good enough and nothing we do will ever be good enough. Marriages end, jobs are lost, or we quit them in frustration, we put ourselves in unsafe situations, damage our bodies, and tolerate far more than we ever should mentally and emotionally simply hoping someone will one day love us or accept us. We kill ourselves trying to earn financial security or monetary worth or some status because we want people to love and accept us that way too. We suffer from anxiety and depression because the situation seems hopeless. We fear failure and rejection. Eventually some of us give up and lose interest in things because they never seem to give us the lasting fulfillment we are seeking.
The truth is we cannot fulfill these needs perfectly, and we never will be able to no matter how hard we try. God created these basic four needs so that only He could fulfill them. The reason for this is to keep us seeking Him in all things. Love, acceptance, worth, security - He fulfills all of these needs freely and perfectly.
You Cannot Earn What is Already Yours
You don’t have to earn his love or acceptance because he has already given it to you through Jesus. We are loved through grace. None of us could ever be worthy enough or perform enough to earn a love as great as God’s. He already loves us and continues to love us perfectly regardless. Bask in it. Marvel at it’s perfectness. It’s more than you can even comprehend. You can’t earn it so don’t try. Just accept it. Trust it. Feel it. Believe in it. Don’t expect others to try to earn it either. They can’t. It already belongs to them too. He loves all of us right where we are. That’s the only reason he created us - to love us. It’s kind of like loving your unborn child or a new born baby. They can’t earn it. In fact, they can’t do much more beyond sleeping, crying, eating, pooping, and occasionally spitting up on us. Yet, you love them still. You loved them before you ever laid eyes on them or held them in your arms. This doesn’t even compare to the amount of love God has for us, but it’s similar in that they can’t earn it.
God isn’t picky. He isn’t going to punish you for every imperfection or mistake. He isn’t judgmental or lording over you micromanaging your every move. He isn’t waiting on you to screw up or make a mess of things, so he can withdraw his love or acceptance and punish you in some way. You aren’t being set up for failure. You don’t have to feel shame or guilt or fear. Just know that you are loved. Let it inspire you to love others as you are loved. Allow it to instill in you the ability to forgive as you have been forgiven.
Think for a minute… God sent his Son to pay the price for our sins through the crucifixion. He had to die so that we all could be forgiven - all our sins paid for, past, present, and future. The price has already been paid and you do not have to pay anything. Just accept the most amazing gift anyone could ever give you. Know you are forgiven therefore you are accepted. You, right where you are, are acceptable to Jesus. You are worthy of God giving his Son’s life so that you were forgiven for not being perfect. He loved us all that much.
Security comes in knowing that you’re safe. You can’t lose something that has been freely given and that you cannot earn. All you do is choose it. You choose God’s love. You trust. You know it is unfailing and eternal. You cannot make a mistake and God disown you. If you do make a mistake, seek forgiveness and know it is already given to you. It really is okay. You can relax and stop stressing. You have the most perfect love there is if you choose to acknowledge it.
Complete Freedom From the Bondage of Desperation and Fear
I did not receive the love I so much needed as a child. I did not receive the love I needed in either of my marriages either. I had a corrupt image of love and yet I sought love constantly. I assumed love was many different things, mostly thinking it was approval and acceptance, and I was wrong much of the time. I assumed I had to perform endless acts to gain love, always falling short somehow.
I fell victim to abusive situations because I was willing to do whatever it took, sacrificing self to make my husband love me. I was the ultimate submissive, believing every word he ever said and submitting to him in all things. I even chose friends that were not good for me and they used me and took advantage of me, not truly loving me and feeding me drugs and alcohol and not caring what the outcome would be.
Had I known God loved me so perfectly back then, I would never have felt like I needed to earn my husband’s love and I certainly wouldn’t have had to go through him to have a relationship with Jesus. Had I known my worth, I would never have been in a relationship that was so damaging, not only to myself but to my children, friends, and family. I would never have lied or made excuses for any of it. I would never have supported it or fought for it. I would have known that I was already loved and that a king paid with his life so that I could be forgiven, saved, and loved through grace.
All of this has made me kind. I want to share what I’ve been given - not only the opportunity to realize love, but I love and give freely as it has been given to me. I don’t share it expecting anything in return. I don’t obligate people to anything for being who I am. A candle loses none of its light in lighting another candle; it simply brings more light into the world. I don’t expect people to earn my love or kindness. They don’t have to perform or be any certain way for me to have a genuine concern for them. I don’t expect them to earn my forgiveness if they make mistakes or hurt me in some way. It is always nice when someone apologizes or reaches out, but I never expect it.
Understanding the L.A.W.S. has enabled me to forgive my ex husband and heal from the situation. It took me several years, but I finally figured out 99% of the programming issues and sorted them out. I am not scared anymore. I am not even angry at him. I am relieved that I didn’t let him break me. It made me stronger. I am able to analyze problems and situations quicker and more successfully. Because I have experienced the worst, not much phases me these days. I don’t run and hide from anything. I can stand and face things because I know the situation is not hopeless. I know what battles to choose and when to simply walk away. I know who I am and what I’m worth. I know where I made mistakes and I now know how to correct them. I know God carried me through that entire situation. I was never alone. I am secure, and I now know a love greater than anything I had ever experienced. I never lost anything.
I do not take what happened to me personally. I know there is something faulty in my husband's mind and it never was my fault. I know that he doesn’t know love like I do. I don’t even get anxious when he comes around anymore. Call it coincidence, but when I realized that only God could fulfill my needs, my husband seemed to lose the control he had over me. It took several years for this realization to impact every aspect of my life, and I applied it situation by situation for a long time, but there came a point where I was able to stop the abuse and walk away completely justified in my choice to do so.
I am not concerned about performance or right and wrong so much anymore. I am concerned with abiding in love. Happiness is fleeting, but joy is withstanding. I seek joy. Being kind and extending love and acceptance brings me joy. I am human and it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but there is always love. I feel so free.
What Need Are You Trying To Fulfill, Love, Acceptance, Worth, or Security?
Ask yourself where you are trying to be self-sufficient and why. What need are you trying to fulfill and how is that working for you? Do you keep having the same problems over and over? We do have to survive in this world, but if we change our perception and focus, often times things aren’t as impossible as they seemed before. When you realize exactly what you’re trying to achieve sometimes you might find that you’re sacrificing too much and damaging yourself in the pursuit. Remember, love is free and God fulfills all of our needs perfectly.
© 2018 Tracy Sheppard