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I trust you always strive to improve, be better, and live well in God’s world. I’m not suggesting passivity, resignation, losing hope, or ceasing to do our part to love God and others well. The key to striving for your best life now is to do it with the correct information, which means we must factor imperfection into our plans. Everywhere we look, we see signs of imperfection.
Consider a woman’s fear of becoming older, less significant, or less attractive. The fear of aging is a big deal for some women, as they labor under the burden of our culture’s propagated view of physicality and sexuality. The world’s worldview tempts women to overthink sexuality and beauty. Their thoughts oscillate from overeating to under-eating, shopping, exercising, and physical alterations. You name it. If you examine their heart motivations closely, you will find some familiar foes: envy, jealousy, judging, bitterness, anger, discontentment, depression, shame, cynicism, fear, worry, and anxiety.
Though some women may appear to be free and empowered—the hope of feminists everywhere—they are, in reality, culturally enslaved people. Internal pressures bind their souls while transforming their bodies into objects that represent how they want others to perceive them. Whatever they believe is the expected way to be is the goal they seek to become. This kind of soul discontentment leaves them frustrated and fearful. They never capture the elusive beauty carrot, though they always crave it, while the beauty of Christ is a faint echo of Christian tradition (Psalm 27:4; 1 Peter 3:4). It is a horrible way for any Christian woman to live.
Many men are in lives we do not like because we tie our reputations to the culture’s view of success. We want bigger and better, and just like a woman gazing over the beauty competition, we measure ourselves by our ability to look good in front of others. Coming up short or missing the mark is not an option for culturally enslaved men. This lie from the devil has been placed deep in our hearts. He was the one who first said God is not enough, and Adam and Eve submitted to his dastardly doctrine, and the rest of us fell in line with the deception (Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 5:12).
Nearly all counseling happens because somebody does not measure up; there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with something about themselves or a relationship that somehow connects to them. The counselee is unwilling (or they do not know how) to live imperfectly with imperfect people. I’m not suggesting they should not change, but the sweet spot of contentment is somewhere between striving for perfection and a lack of interest in changing.
No matter where we turn, people are frustrated. The only thing that will make them happy is if their circumstances change to get what they want. When not getting what we desire tempts us to sin, we have an idol in our lives. Though we must always work out what God is working into us, we do this with the peace of God ruling our hearts. Perhaps responding to the following statement would provide the best analysis a person needs to see who or what has rulership over their heart. Whatever you place in the blank, other than the Lord, is idolatry (Exodus 20:3). “I could be satisfied if ______________.”
As you ponder this statement, will you reflect on these six people? Their struggles are common to all of us. Do you see what has rulership over their hearts? Perhaps thinking through a few other scenarios would help to capture the practical essence of how our hearts succumb to temptation so easily.
The things that manage us characterize our general attitude and disposition during any given day, bringing us to the all-important question: what controls you? Who or what has the most power over you? Does the Lord control your mind and emotions? What is the thing that tempts you to take your thoughts away from the stabilizing influence of the Lord? The most effective way to answer these questions is by how you respond when you do not get what you want. Let’s return to our six friends. We would want to ask them some obvious questions if we had a relationship, opportunity, and context to care for them.
Did you know there is a counterintuitive way of thinking about imperfection? What if we turned our imperfection on its head? Rather than trying to solve the problem of imperfection by changing ourselves, our friends, or our circumstances, what if we saw our imperfections as a means of grace for the Lord to use in our lives? Could the Lord want imperfection in our lives for our good and His glory? We find a clear example of this in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul’s temptation was to think too highly of himself. The Lord knew this, so He gave Paul a gift—a thorn in the flesh to harass His chosen servant.
So to keep me from being conceited by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7).
God gave this imperfection to help Paul become all he should be through Christ’s strength rather than his own (Philippians 4:11-13). Sometimes the harassment you feel in your life is from your loving Lord. He is harassing you to help you rely on Him rather than yourself. He gives you an imperfect life for His glory and your good. Paul did not readily embrace his imperfect life. He figured he could do more without a thorn than with one. What about you? I am not saying you should resign to an imperfect life challenge, especially if the desired changes are biblical. What I am saying is your circumstances may not change, and if they do not, you have to guard your heart against responding sinfully to those unchanging conditions.
Suppose you regularly sin because your life, associations, or situations are not changing according to your expectations. In that case, idolatry has captured you. Sinful responses do not force the hand of God. Sinful reactions attract the opposing power of God in your life. The Lord will not partner with you or your sin if your motives, attitudes, and actions are not godly (James 4:6). What if the Lord could use sin sinlessly in your life? You know, the way He did with Joseph (Genesis 50:20), with Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), and the way He did with His Son (Isaiah 53:10). What if the Lord never wants to remove what you believe to be imperfect, wrong, or unfair? What if the Lord was the Author of your imperfection because He knows it is for your good (Romans 8:28)? I can think of at least four reasons He would do this for you.
1 – Imperfection Exists: I will not belabor this point because it is a fact: we will never attain perfection in this life. We are fallen individuals who live in a fallen world with other fallen people. There is an imperfect ceiling, and we live under it. The Lord has set the bounds (Genesis 11:6-7) of our lives just like any good and loving parent would set the limits to their child’s life. It is one of the early and essential lessons for any child (Acts 17:26-27).
Son, you are not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. You work within limits. God has made you a certain way, and the sooner you figure out what way that is and become copacetic with that way, the better off you will be. – Dad
2 – Imperfection Reminds: Paul needed reminding that he was not God. The Lord had blessed him with many revelations, which became a temptation source. It was not suitable for him to live in a frictionless world. Like all our strengths, they can quickly become liabilities if we do not regularly humble ourselves before the Gift Giver. We are no different from Nebuchadnezzar, who lost sight of what he had, thinking the world revolved around him (Daniel 4:28-37).
3 – Imperfection Drives: If we understand our faults rightly, we will see them as vehicles to get to God rather than hindrances to a better life (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Typically, the things perceived as wrong will move us in one of two directions. We will experience imperfection and turn to the Lord, or we will experience imperfection and turn to self-reliant means to resolve the imperfection. Our imperfections should humble us while driving us to the Lord. Since Genesis 3, humanity possesses a two-option system: we turn toward God or move toward destructive choices.
4 – Imperfection Permits: The beauty of our imperfections is they permit us to find God and enjoy Him while finding strength through Him. This perspective is vital when thinking about the wrong things in our lives. It explains why Paul repented from his complaining while embracing his imperfection. He learned the secret to his best life now. It was not through perfection but imperfection (2 Corinthians 12:10).
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
The wise person can live in an imperfect world. This person is constantly striving toward Christ while understanding some of the means to enjoy Christ may come through personal weakness and disappointment (Matthew 16:24; Philippians 1:29). The wise person does not give up on pursuing excellence but the things that are not his at this moment do not control him. The wise person has learned the wisdom of Paul. Think about the next major decision you want to make. Maybe it’s not a big decision, but you must decide so you can move forward.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).