Caught in a Trap

Jonathan has a live trap which he uses to catch animals that are being nuisances around our house. He can usually catch a possum or raccoon who is causing trouble by eating chickens or helping himself to our garden in a few days. Tim then deports the offending creature by delivering him to a wild creek area several miles away. This summer Jonathan forgot his trap was still baited when we left for Arizona. The first night of our trip we received a worried phone call from Kara, who was to join us in a few days. What, she wondered, was she to do with the irate, snarling possum that was caught in the trap?

Lately, I have realized that I have been like that possum, caught in a snare, though in my case the entrapment was of my own making.

I grew up practically living for the approval of my father. I wanted to hear his, “Way to go, babe!” so I worked hard to assure that I was at the top of my game whether it was in school or track. My dad was free with praise, which encouraged me to try even harder to keep getting it. The problem is, even though I am no longer that 16-year old who needed to know her daddy loved and approved of her, I still find myself seeking to gain approval from man rather than from God.

We’ve been reading through Proverbs in family devotions, and a few days ago we read this in chapter 29:

The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. (Prov. 29:25)

Kazam! That scripture arrow pierced my heart. In recent days I have been stressing over feeling like I am not meeting people’s expectations. Was I worrying about not meeting God’s expectations? No, my focus was on pleasing man, not God. My poor husband has had to listen to me fret about this, and has over and over again reminded me what it is that I need to be focusing on. Talking to Tim and also to my wise sister-in-law, Terri, has helped me refocus.

I think women in general struggle with wanting to please people. The good side of this is it helps us to be a servant to others as we care for their needs. The negative side is that we too often care more about the opinion of others than we do about pleasing the Lord Jesus. How hard it is sometimes to discern my own motives! Am I doing this because this is something the Lord has called me to, or am I doing it because I think it is expected of me or to win brownie points with someone?

As I struggled with trying to please people, yet knowing I couldn’t fully live up to what I imagined were other people’s expectations, I became a bit like that angry possum in the trap this summer. I became angry, lost sleep, and generally was a drag to my husband. Tim and Terri have reminded me of the calling God has placed on my life, and helped me to be content with the things I can do rather than fret about the things I cannot do at this time.

So, do I have any sage advice for any of you who feel these same pressures? Nothing radical. First – pray and ask the Lord to show you what it is He wants you to do. Repent of the sin of man-pleasing. If you are married, talk to your husband. Husbands seem to be so much better at seeing the big picture. Never say “Yes” to something new without asking your husband first. And then, you need to actually listen to your husband. (Just talking to him isn’t enough. You need to heed his advice.) And finally, meditate on scripture to see what God says about this. Here are some passages I’ve been reflecting on:

Don’t fear man -

1Th 2: 6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

John 12: 42,43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

Fear God!

Pr 9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Ec 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.


Rebecca Nugent said…
Thank you, Anne. This is one woman who needed to hear that. It was great to see you last weekend!
Kara said…
Mom! I thought your blog died! This is a great post.
Rachel Pierson said…
'Nother bubble popped! {{;C)

Actually good to hear how someone I so appreciate is working through these earthly struggles.

Thank you for this post and godly advice.

(and it was good to see Nick and Rebecca and Thomas last weekend!)

Anne said…
Rebecca, it was so wonderful to see you, Nick, and sweet baby Thomas last weekend!

And, thanks ladies.

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