In case you’ve ever wondered, the key to winning my affection is to praise me a whole lot.
Like a puppy in obedience school, my tail wags, and I jump up and down uncontrollably anytime anyone throws a compliment my way. Since childhood society has been teaching me that if I perform well, I get metaphorical treats in the form of good grades, kind words, and pats on the back. Conversely, if I perform poorly, I experience ridicule, feelings of isolation, and my self-worth goes down the toilet.
I want that praise. I need that praise.
The good news is that this is a legitimate longing. It is not wrong or bad to desire encouragement and appreciation.
The bad news is I
tend to ALWAYS look to people for my confidence boost. And, in case you haven’t noticed, people are fickle. They are unreliable. They are here today and gone tomorrow. And even the more consistent people are incapable of heaping on enough praise to satisfy my constantly wavering self-esteem. People don’t have that kind of time and energy to make their life’s mission to encourage me (or you).
The Bible goes so far as to say that people who trust in men for their strength are cursed (Jeremiah 17:5). Cursed? Seems harsh. In the next verse, the Lord says that those of us who trust in men instead of God “will be like [bushes] in the wastelands; [we] will not see prosperity when it comes. [We] will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives” (Jeremiah 17:6).
So we are stuck with a great big problem. We need praise and encouragement. But when we seek it from those around us, we feel like we are dying of thirst, unable to recognize blessings in our lives, overwhelmed with loneliness.
In a word, we are cursed.
I can vouch for this. My favorite place to seek encouragement is from godly men. I want to know that men I respect love me. I want men my dad’s age to tell me they are proud of me. I want men my brother’s age to tell me they believe in me. Basically, I want all men everywhere to praise me every second of every day.
What, too much?
The funny thing is my soul would still say THAT’S NOT ENOUGH!
But God doesn’t leave us hanging. We aren’t destined to be cursed. He offers us a way out.
Verse 7 says, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7).
When we go to God to get our praise needs met, we have a constant source of nourishment. We are unfazed by difficult circumstances. When no one is there to encourage us, we don’t worry. Instead, we remain confident and continue to mature in our faith.
In a word, we are blessed.
It’s easier to look to people for affirmation. But it is infinitely more satisfying to look to God.