I was always a “good kid” growing up. But as I got older, I felt that there should be a higher purpose in life than just being “good”. I felt like something was missing, I had a longing to be better. I felt that life was more than just money, success, knowledge, or becoming the best at whatever I’m doing.
I wanted a life that’s true
In my early twenties, I went through some personal hard times, but I was also very successful in my work. I even won awards for my work, but I felt that something was missing.
On the outside I was living a good life but what I really wanted was a life that was completely true on the inside, where nobody else could see. I knew that I didn’t have that. Actually, on the inside I was very stressed and full of worry, and I had lots of demands on others. I became bossy and hard, and was very unhappy. I could see the effect I had on other people and I did try to do better, but on the inside I was still full of all these demands that made me unhappy.
By nature I worry and stress easily. It became so clear to me that when I let these feelings of worry and stress control me, I also gave in to other things like being irritated and impatient with other people. I was letting these feelings of worry rule over me, and forgot to put my trust in God. It was coming between me and my desire to be good to people. I tried as well as I could, but I always ended up reacting in a way that I hated and that made me restless and unhappy.
I knew that there was a way that things could be different. At church I saw so many good examples: people whom I knew were in difficult circumstances themselves but were still at rest and kind and good towards others. I felt like they were examples of how Jesus would have been. I wanted to have that! I also wanted to be merciful and to be at rest in my situations.
I finally realised that I couldn’t change on my own and couldn’t be truly happy just by trying to be “better” on my own. What I truly needed was to ask God for help.
Learning how to pray
I was reminded about the story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee stood where everyone could see him and said, “Thank God I’m not like this poor tax collector here.” But the tax collector knew he needed help from God, and he prayed, “God, be merciful to me, sinner!” Maybe he couldn’t even put into words what he was really longing for. (Luke 18:9-14.) That’s how I’ve felt most of my life. A lot of times my prayer is just the cry of my heart, even if I can’t put that longing into words.
But I know that God hears my prayers when my longing to change is real and true, just like the tax collector in the story. I have to go to God knowing that I cannot overcome on my own, but that I desperately need His help.
In my longing to change I learned how to really pray. That’s when things started to change. When I stopped trying to control everything myself and gave it over to God, that’s when I got peace. I know God hears my prayers and I know He answers them. Not always in the way that I hope for, but He gives me grace and power. I am learning to accept God’s plan for my life instead of trying to force through all the plans I have for myself.
So my prayer has been that God will help me to overcome these things on the inside like worry, stress, demands, and then the outward things will also fall into place. It’s something that I’m still working on; I’m not close to being perfect in these things. But I know that with God’s help, I am growing. I am no longer controlled by stress and worry, and when I am completely finished with them, this will be my biggest victory!
Paul expressed it like this in Philippians 3:12 (NCV), “I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his.”
I can change!
I have my own business now and the days can be very busy. But through all my situations, God is teaching me. One verse that often comes to me is, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. I have learned to put all my trust in Him, to know that He is in full control. When I choose to place everything into God’s hands, even the smallest things of my life, then I can be thankful and happy for others and for the situations and challenges of life.
I have understood that I don’t just have to try to be a better person, but that I can change on the inside; I can become like Jesus, who showed only goodness, love, and mercy in every situation!
Life is so meaningful now. Now I understand that the longing and lack that I felt on the inside when I grew up, was Jesus Himself calling me to become like Him! I know that this is true because living with this goal has made me absolutely, truly, deeply happy.
Of course, there are other things that give me a happy feeling like music, flowers, etc. But in the end, all those things are just temporary. True, lasting happiness and peace come from having a personal relationship with Jesus and by seeking the things that have eternal value.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." James 1: 2-4 (NLT).