Actress Emma Watson has shared in an interview with Vogue that she felt ‘stressed and anxious’ as her 30th birthday looms in April. Her reasons are reasons that I have personally felt and know others, both Christians and non-Christians, have also experienced. She shared:
“If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.” Source: The Independent
The expectation to have everything that Emma has stated is prominent in our society and unfortunately has made its way into the church. I speak as someone who idolised the thought of having a career and measured my worth by it for many years. Christians have asked me if I rent or buy, if I am having anymore children, and seem to be very interested to find out what I do for a living when they meet me. I know single friends have experienced similar, probing questions about their relationship status. And this excellent post by Sheridan Voysey’s experience of being a childless couple in a church community is well worth reading. Our churches might be warm and welcoming, but these feelings can be experienced by those who we sit next to or come through our doors. All of these feelings can be heightened by social media comparisons.
Sometimes it is hard to see how we are living any differently than those around us. Am I being uptight? I hope not. Nothing is wrong with being single or married, renting or buying, having a career or a different path entirely etc. However, when any one of those things becomes our focus, we have forgotten that, as Christians, knowing Jesus and being in a relationship with Him is where our true identity and purpose is found. This is the most important thing. He is the one who meets our deepest needs and longings any and every single time.
Christians should live with an eternal perspective in mind. The temporary things of this earth will pass away, but God’s words will never pass away (Luke 21:33). I would love to see more Christians encourage one another to know Jesus more and to practically love others with this same grace that Jesus has lavished on us. Maybe that will help in addressing some of the stress and anxiety found elsewhere in our lives and the lives of those around us.
Christians have good news to share and can live transformed lives made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We should be known for our love for God and others. It’s worth remembering that Jesus was single and a carpenter by trade before starting His ministry at 30. He met with the poorest, sick and those on the margins of society. He sent His disciples out into the world with no possessions and made it clear that they would have to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). He warned them that they would have trouble in the world, but to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Whether we have ticked the box of home, husband/wife, children, career or whatever else we are trying to accomplish in life, the only box that needs to be marked is ‘follow Jesus’. And that is marked by His cross. It is His work that brings us a full, abundant life. There is nothing we can do. He loves us immeasurably more than we can imagine. We need to fix our eyes on Him.
We do not have to jump through endless hoops in life to be a success or to win God’s favour. There is absolutely nothing we can do, but it is all because of Jesus who has made a way for all people to come to God the Father through the cross that He bore as the Son of God. He came to take away the sin of the world. We can have an abundant life in Him which satisfies the deepest longing and searching of our heart. It is a longing, a hunger, a thirst in ourselves that can only be met through Jesus.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
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