The word Utopia means no place—a place that does not exist. A utopian idea of life is a mirage in a desert. This reality is a major data point for anyone who has a penchant toward perfectionism.
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My goal here is not to rain on your parade, but to try to help you gain a better perspective on how to live well in God’s world while releasing you from the pursuit of the perfect life. My concern is that some people are not comfortable with imperfection. It is a worldview that we are supposed to have our best life now rather than later.
- I will always labor under a predetermined ceiling of intelligence.
- I will become old if I live long enough.
- I will not experience sinless perfection in this life.
- There will always be a degree of hypocrisy operating in me.
- Every person that I know will not make it to heaven.
- Jesus died on a cross.
- Paul could not get rid of his thorn in the flesh.
- If you drop a cone of ice cream on the floor, there is a fifty percent chance it will land upside down.
I am not defending passivity or fatalism. You should always strive to do better, be better, and live better. The key to striving for your best life now is to do it with the right information, a part of which means you must factor imperfection into your plans.
Think about a woman’s fear of becoming older or bigger or less attractive—whatever that means. The fear of aging is a big deal for some women. They labor under the burden of our culture’s propagated view of physicality and sexuality.
This kind of worldview motivates some of them to over-think sexuality and beauty. Their thoughts vacillate from overeating to undereating to shopping to exercise to physical alterations. These are their external battles, which do not include matters of the heart.
Their souls are bound by internal pressures, while they transform their bodies to external perceptions. Though they appear to be free and empowered–the hope of feminists everywhere–they are, in reality, cultural slaves. Whoever they believe is the desired way to be, that is the goal they seek to become.
This kind of soul-discontentment leaves them frustrated and fearful. The elusive beauty carrot is never possessed, though always craved, while the beauty of Christ is never secured (Psalm 27:4; 1 Peter 3:4). It is a horrible way for any Christian woman to live.
Men are no different. Many of us are stuck in bodies we do not like, or we struggle 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 cultural slaves. 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 doctrine, and the rest of us fell in line with the deception (Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 5:12).
Comfortable With Imperfection
My objective here is not to talk you out of physical beauty, material blessings, or marital bliss. The primary goal for this chapter is for you to see how the human condition will always fall short of perfection, no matter how hard you try (Romans 3:23).
Nearly all counseling happens because somebody is dissatisfied with something, either about themselves or about a relationship that connects to them in some way. The counselee is unwilling (or they do not know how) to live imperfectly with imperfect people.
- A teenage girl is a discontent because of the gnawing fear that eats at her.
- A wife is frustrated because her husband is not a good protector or lover.
- A husband is angry because his wife has changed from the person he married.
- A friend is bothered because someone is a pain in the rear end.
- A church member is annoyed because the church is not doing a better job.
- An employee is dissatisfied because he is not climbing the company ladder.
No matter where you turn, people are frustrated. If it is not with themselves, it is with other people. The only thing that will make them happy is if their circumstances change so they can get what they want.
When not getting what you want tempts you to sin, you have an idol in your life. You can get to the heart of this problem by asking the idolatry question (IQ). Fill in the blank.
I could be satisfied if ______________.
Whatever you place in the blank, other than the Lord, is idolatry (Exodus 20:3). You can change the statement by using other synonyms.
- I could be content if…
- I could find fulfillment if…
- I could be successful if…
The issue for you to consider is what primarily characterizes your general attitude and disposition during any given day? 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 power 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 the six scenarios presented earlier.
- The teenage girl who is fearful.
- The wife who is frustrated.
- The husband who is angry.
- The friend who is bothered.
- The church member who is annoyed.
- The employee who is dissatisfied.
If you made yourself the subject of this list, you could ask yourself the following questions—the questions you would ask the teen, wife, husband, friend, congregant, or employee:
- What controls you?
- What gives you your primary satisfaction?
- Where do you find your identity?
- When you fill empty, how do you seek to be refilled?
What if you turned your imperfection on its head? Rather than trying to solve the problem of imperfection by changing your friends or your circumstances, what if you saw your shortcomings as a means of grace for the Lord to use in your life?
Could it be the Lord wants imperfection in your life for your good and His glory? You find a clear example of this in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul had a problem with pride.
He was tempted 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. God gave this imperfection to help Paul become all he should be through Christ’s strength rather than his own (Philippians 4:11-13).
So to keep me from being too elated 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 being too elated. – 2 Corinthians 12:7
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. From his vantage point, he could do more without a thorn than with a thorn. What about you? Are you being harassed today?
I am not saying you should resign yourself to an imperfect life situation, especially if the changes you desire 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.
If you are regularly sinning because your associations or situations are not changing according to what you believe they should be, even if you are right, you are stuck in idolatry.
Sinful responses do not force the hand of God. In fact, sinful responses 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.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. – James 4:6
Four Reasons to Praise God
What if the Lord was able to 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).
But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. – Job 23:13-15
What if the Lord never wants to remove from your life 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: you will never attain perfection in life. There is an imperfect ceiling, and you live under it. You are a fallen individual, who lives in a fallen world with other fallen people.
The Lord has set the bounds (Genesis 11:6-7) of your life just like any good and loving parent would set the limits to their young child’s life. It is one of the early and important 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. It was not right for him to live in a frictionless world. The Lord had blessed him with many revelations, which became a source of temptation for him.
Like with all your strengths, they can quickly become liabilities if you do not regularly humble yourself before the Gift Giver. You are no different from Nebuchadnezzar, who lost sight on what he had, thinking the world revolved around him (Daniel 4:28-37).
3 – Imperfection Drives – If you understand your faults rightly, you 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 you in one of two directions.
- You will experience imperfection and turn to the Lord.
- You will experience imperfection and turn to self-reliant means to resolve the imperfection.
Your imperfections should humble you while driving you to the Lord. Since Genesis 3, humanity possesses a two drive system: we turn toward God, or we move toward destructive choices.
4 – Imperfection Allows – The beauty of your imperfections is they permit you to not only find God but to enjoy Him while finding strength through Him. This perspective is vital when thinking about the things that are wrong in your life.
It explains why Paul repented of his complaining while embracing his imperfection. He learned the secret to his best life now. It was not through perfection but imperfection.
For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10
The wise person can live in an imperfect world. This person is always 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.
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 any and 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
Call to Action
- Think about the next major decision you want to make. Maybe it’s not a big choice, but you must decide so you can move forward.
- How does your striving for comfort or control impact your decision making?
- How does your fear of not getting what you desire influence the decision you need to make?
- Now that you know there are no perfect choices, are you able to rest rather than fret about what you need to do?
- When you make your “pro and con list,” be sure to factor in how the Lord’s fame could spread by not getting what you want.
Also published on Medium.