Looking For "Likes"

The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. "We're not defined by the 'likes' of many, but by the love of One." Samuel Rodriquez

 

It is human to want to be liked, and especially to be loved. Many of us spend our lives pursuing this. We find our fulfillment and identity in those who like and love us. When we feel that we have that, we're content, but if it's missing, it can be devastating. It is devastating. Many find their lives, especially their spiritual lives, shipwreck because of the absence of one, or both.

 

Facebook has been a real vessel in showing us the truth of this. We put up "posts" with the hope, often unspoken and not admitted to, that others, our "friends," will like them. We feel good when they do, and feel especially good if the number of "likes" is high. However, if they go unnoticed, or worse, draw a critical response, we can be hurt, even crushed. We hunger for the approval of others, for their validation. When that's present, all is well. If it's missing, than whether we can admit it or not, we feel something is missing in us.

 

I'm a pastor, and it may be that no one has a deeper longing to be liked, affirmed, loved, than a pastor. Called by the Father to lovingly serve and sacrifice for a people, a fellowship, it is very human to want that people to like, love, and esteem us as well. Here's the problem; very often, that doesn't happen, at least as concerns some of that fellowship. There are exceptions I know, but generally, a pastor's heart is a sensitive one. We know when someone has a problem with us. Sometimes those problems are legitimate, and when they are, they need to be addressed in love, and worked out in His grace. Yet there will be people, and they exist in every fellowship, who, no matter what, will "have a problem" with us. We can point to no visible reason why this is so. We know of no time when we've ever consciously mistreated them, or spoken harshly to them. Yet the dislike is there, and we are painfully aware of it. This can lead us to falling into one of two very dangerous traps. The first is to try and make them like us. The second is to become embittered and angry. Both of these will cause us real emotional and spiritual damage...and we miss what is actually going on, in that the real problem is rooted in the person's own spiritual and emotional makeup, and ours as well. We can do nothing as concerns the other person, but we can allow Him to open our hearts to fill what is missing in our own lives....the fulfillment of knowing that no matter how we may be viewed or measured by someone else, we are deeply loved, affirmed, and treasured by Him. When we can really enter into that knowledge, than the opinions and actions of others can't touch us. We are living in that "secret place" with Him. We're no longer defined by another person's actions, but by Him and His love. Not by what they say or think, but by what He says and thinks and will continue to say and think. This is a truth for all of us, pastors or no. We are not defined by the many, or any, who like and love us, but the One who always has and always will. Our identity is in Him. When that's the reality, we can live above the opinions of others no matter what they are.

I grew up with having a lot of friends. I was blessed, even in my days of not knowing Him, with having most people I came across like me. So, it was a considerable shock, emotionally and spiritually, when I entered the ministry and found that this was not always the case with the people I pastored, and I spent many painful years trying to come to grips with it. As I said, we all want to be liked and loved, and when people we have given the same to don't give it back, the pain can be deep. It is deep, and you don't have to pastor to know that.....In Jeremiah 31, the Father stood far off from Israel only because they had allowed their hearts to value other things more highly than Him. Yet all the while He reached out to them with His everlasting love. In these last years of my life and ministry, I have at last heard that call and responded to that reach. More and more, my life has come to be defined by the love of the One and not the likes of the many. I learn ever more deeply what it is to live in the secret place with Him. He calls you there as well. As long we look for "likes" from others, and seek our meaning and worth from them, we'll not know that place. But, "If today we hear His voice," than He calls us into the embrace of His love. Rejection, dislike, withheld love, all will still happen. In our humanity, it will still hurt. But we will be that people who know their God...and His love, and that's what defines us. We at last know who we are.....in Him. When we know that, others may withhold their love, approval and affirmation, but we live deeply secure in His love. We learn what it is to be more than conquerors even in that. We no longer need to be looking for "likes." We've discovered His love.

Blessings,
Pastor O

 

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