Many people struggle with insecurity in some area, whether that’s related to a particular role or skillset or a lingering fear of rejection. We might think our struggle with confidence is not only normal but unavoidable. Something to be tolerated rather than fought with the truth and grace of Christ. But our vacillating confidence does more than hamper our mood. If left unchecked, it can cripple our calling and keep us from the full and vibrant life God has for us. Sadly, this doesn’t just affect us. Whenever we resist God’s will, whether from fear or rebellion, we also hinder all the ways God wants to love others through us.
1. It motivates us to turn down God-sized assignments.
Insecurity often stems from feelings of inadequacy. This, in turn, can create a fear of failure that makes us reluctant to embrace Christ-honoring risk. We’ll avoid opportunities we’re unsure of, choosing instead to engage in those that seem most apt to lead to success.
But God frequently places us in situations that are far beyond our abilities and resources in order to reveal His glory through us, teaching us to rely more consistently on Him. In John 6, Jesus told His disciples to feed a crowd of 5,000. From a human perspective, this was impossible. Yet, that was precisely the point.
Scripture tells us, in verses five and six: “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do” (NIV).
Jesus didn’t need or want Philip or any of the other disciples’ money. What He wanted, however, was their surrendered obedience—despite their obvious deficiencies. Jesus told them to have the people sit down, a task that probably reinforced the massive crowd in the disciples’ minds. Then, taking five small barley loaves and two small fish, Jesus “gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish” (v. 11b, NIV).
Once everyone had eaten as much as they wanted, He told His disciples to collect the leftovers, no doubt to reveal the magnitude of the miracle. They complied and gathered enough to fill twelve, likely large, baskets.
Imagine what the disciples would have missed out on, had they chosen not to obey Jesus that day. No doubt Jesus would’ve provided for the people some other way, but they would’ve forfeited their part in the miracle.
Similarly, when Christ calls us to a particularly challenging task, we can trust that He “already has in mind” what He plans to do. The God of abundance certainly doesn’t need our help. But He does invite us to offer up our meager “loaves and fish” (if you will) so we can experience Him.
He will use our surrendered obedience to decrease our fear and increase our faith, just like He did with the disciples. Therefore, the more we say yes to God, despite our discomfort, the less insecure we’ll feel overall as we learn to rest in the power and provision of Christ.
2. It decreases our ability to discern God’s voice.
Most of us find it challenging to know whether a particular idea or inclination came from within ourselves or from our Lord. This is, in part, because we must learn to recognize God’s voice. But Scripture also indicates, while we’re created anew in Christ, with hearts now turned toward Him and His will, we still struggle with sin. We’re constantly engaged in an inner battle between our selfish and sinful desires and God’s will.
Our insecurities often intensify this inner conflict by triggering self-obsession. In response, some individuals withdraw in order to insulate themselves from rejection. Others fall into the trap of people-pleasing, a subtle yet devastating form of idolatry.
Based on Jesus’ words in John 5:44, this was precisely what kept the Pharisees from turning to Him. He said, “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” In other words, they were more concerned with how people perceived them—with gaining respect and prestige—than with the condition of their souls. Hopefully, we will never allow the opinions or perceptions of others to drive us from Christ. We might, however, allow our desire for human acceptance to weaken our obedience and spiritual sensitivity.
As Galatians 1:10 makes clear, we cannot simultaneously seek to please people and God. One will win out over the other.
3. It encourages us to isolate.
Our fears that others might judge or reject us can cause us to withdraw physically, mentally, or emotionally. For some, this might mean pulling back from relationships while others will begin living inauthentically, presenting a persona to whom they believe their loved ones, peers, or superiors will respond best. Over time, we might lose our sense of self completely.
This inevitably leads to increased loneliness, discouragement, fatigue, and stagnation. We grow most mentally, spiritually, and in our unique giftings through healthy relationships. This means those situations that reveal our weaknesses and cause us to feel most uncomfortable can actually have great eternal value. In fact, our interactions with others can reveal problem areas that, if left undealt with, could keep us from our God-given dreams.
What’s more, most of us learn of new opportunities through other people. For example, while out to lunch with a friend you casually mention a desire to try acting. She happens to know someone launching a new drama ministry and offers to connect you both. Plus, most of us tend to recruit and hire people we know. This is true for me as well. When I want to bring someone new onto my team, I seek people I’ve come to trust and who have consistently displayed personal integrity and strong faith.
4. It triggers our defense mechanisms.
When we feel insufficient, we tend to spend a great deal of time trying to prove our worth and capabilities to ourselves and others. Some people might try to mask or compensate for their feelings of inferiority by tearing others down. Other people enter interactions feeling threatened, which in turn makes us feel under attack. As a result, when a boss offers feedback on a particular project, we’ll see his comments as critical and condemning rather than coaching.
Not only do these actions and attitudes stifle grace-based growth, but they can cause us to behave in unpleasant ways as well. Our fear-based reactions can lead to self-sabotaging and lost opportunities and relationships. Unfortunately, this tends to reinforce whatever lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves, thereby increasing our self-doubt.
We all feel inadequate or ill-prepared on occasion, but that doesn’t mean our insecurities are unavoidable or inconsequential. To the contrary, our inner angst can cost us a great deal. It can rob us of our peace, hinder our relationships, and drastically decrease our eternal impact. The good news is that we have everything we need in Christ to embrace every situation and encounter with confidence.
May we all live, and love, like the chosen, empowered, and amply supplied children of God our Father says we are.
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.