Finding Solid Ground in an Insecure World
Insecurity. It plagues us all at one point or another – often at many points every day. Like a chronic tennis elbow, the twinge of emotional unrest can show up unexpectedly in circumstances and conversations, triggering defensiveness, withdrawal, braggadocio, and an array of other relationally counterproductive responses.
Of course, the world in which we live is becoming more unstable by the day. Terrorist attacks in Paris this weekend have heightened our sense of concern that no place is truly safe in this world. Insecurity seems to grip us, even as we watch the daily news.
Abraham Maslow, although a humanistic psychologist, still had candid insight about the plague of insecurity. He described an insecure person as a person who “perceives the world as a threatening jungle and most human beings as dangerous and selfish; feels rejected, an isolated person, anxious and hostile; is generally pessimistic and unhappy; shows signs of tension and conflict, tends to turn inward; is troubled by guilt-feelings, has one or another disturbance of self-esteem; tends to be neurotic; and is generally selfish and egocentric.” He viewed in every insecure person a continual, never-dying longing for security.
Insecurity is defined as “an unsafe feeling: a state of mind characterized by self-doubt and vulnerability.” Insecure people often feel threatened in a situation or relationship. They struggle with feelings of rejection, anxiety, unhappiness, and guilt. They often react to situations they feel are threatening by withdrawing, competing, or becoming hostile.
Comedian Brian Regan offers a humorous stand-up monologue about our human insecurities. He explains with hilarious detail how we always try to trump one another in social conversations by “parachuting in” and stopping others in their tracks, interrupting them with our superior story. Regan calls it the “me monster.” With the audience in tears with laughter, he explains how great it would be to have been one of the astronauts that walked on the moon. Then he could trump everyone with his incomparable stories of driving the lunar rover over the surface of the moon, effectively securing a place of emotional and experiential superiority.
The Root of Insecurity
Yet, real security is not rooted in untouchable experiences or stories more dramatic than those of our colleagues. It is rooted in our disconnect from the life-giving Source of all things healthy and secure. Our sin has separated us from the Rock, the Shelter, the Strong Tower and Strength of every life – God Almighty. Through the work of Messiah Jesus, we can be restored to a secure rest in God’s extravagant love for us and His full provision for us and the sufficiency of His grace in us.
Yet, our insecure flesh remains. Failing to appropriate all the real blessings of life in Christ to daily relationships, conversations, and trials, we feel shaken and threatened once again. We reenter the superficial competition of the human contest for fleeting superiority, rather than resting in truth and ministering to others out of the abundance of available grace.
A Struggle For All
In a recent conversation with some pastoral colleagues, I asked, “When was a time when you felt insecure? What triggered that? How did you respond?” The answers were honest and diverse. The answers included:
- When I failed to perform a task up to standard
- When I am unprepared for a responsibility (like preaching)
- When I have to confront people about a difficult issue
- When my children do not respect me
We might add:
- Last time I turned on the news
As our pastoral conversation unfolded we each affirmed the common struggle regardless of calling, titles, or age. We also concluded that much of our insecurity is rooted in a failure to regularly affirm our true identity in Christ.
An Assured Security
A secure and reoccurring assurance of who we really are, according to the truth that is in Christ, frees us from the need to always make self the point of reference. Personal well-being and emotional sufficiency springs from our abiding in Christ and our affirmation of what that really means in terms of how we understand or see ourselves.
In my book, The Deeper Life – Satisfying the Eight Vital Longings of the Soul, I revisited this issue. Second to the primary longing to know and experience God is the thirst of every soul to live from a secure sense of identity. This is only found in a daily abiding and regular renewal in the life of Christ.
Colossians 3:10 reminds us that Christ followers “have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” Ephesians 4:24 affirms that we have “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” This is the power and potential of living from a secure core of self-understanding every day, in every relationship, any situation, and all conversations.
A Powerful Point of Reference
It has been said that a proper self-image is seeing yourself as God sees you – no more, no less. Christ has made all things new through the power of the cross, including our core identity. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Now, within this new reality we can live with Christ as the point of reference in how we feel about ourselves. We can be free to live with others as our focus because our joy is found in self-giving, not self-protection. We can pack away the petty comparisons. We can decline attendance at our own pity-parties. We can rejoice in the success of others, trusting the truth that sets us free from insecurity.
This hope and longing has led me to write a personal identity statement that is based in the truth of God’s word about who I am in Christ. Believe me, I review it often because of my chronically insecure flesh. Throughout many days, I have to quote it by memory, just to keep perspective when negative emotions rise and insecurities come knocking. We must remember that our identity (and sense of security) cannot be based on anything that can change – like our appearance, health, family, job, status or safety.
Yes, insecurity is a daily battle for every person. Thank God that in Christ that battle has been won and the focus of our lives can be changed day by day as we engage in an authentic following of the Rock of our Salvation – and our security.
Copyright © 2015 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.