Validation. Most all of us seek it in one form or another, whether it be from our spouse, our parents, our relatives, our family, our friends, the opposite sex, the same sex, our superiors at work, our peers, people we want to impress, people we deem more sophisticated than us, and so on and so forth. We run after approval, like a dog chasing after a ball, frenetically at times. Though our tongue isn’t flopping to and fro outside half of our mouth and drool being splattered across our face like it might that golden retriever fetching after the green tennie that his master has just thrown, we often portray similar responses when eyeing the object of acquisition, which could be anything from that nod of the head, that pat on the back, that sympathizing look and gesture or those reassuring words.
And we do all this for what end? What is really at the core of all this fumbling, frantic, insatiable quest for others to validate who we are or what we are or even where we are? Why such desire and need to be validated by others and dare I say, even ourselves?
I’m the first to admit, I’ve struggled with validation issues before. In the past it manifested in my incessant pursuit of the perpetual size 2 body, carried out by brutal workouts and stringent diet rules, all in efforts to win not only the approval, affection, and esteem of others, but chiefly, to find a sense of my own self-worth. (Call me a masochist, but some days I really do miss those workouts; you either love to sweat or you don’t I think!).
Though I now see the folly and error of my ways, it remains a part of my life I am still within reach of, and on low days I am almost tempted to sink back into that old pattern of thinking which feeds the lie that you must look good to be loved or have value. Thankfully, I now have the good sense and the truth of God stamped upon my heart to recognize and know when I am susceptible to these weak moments, and quickly right myself with what the Word of God says about my identity and who I am in Christ. (2nd Corinthians 5:17)
Although my chase for validation often presented itself in the form of external or physical actions, recently I’ve been gaining self-awareness that it sometimes can even manifest in a more internal way than I might at first glance notice. Since getting sick, I have struggled with the need to find validation from others that I am indeed sick. It doesn’t help when you don’t look sick and you are fighting a disease that many others in the medical field won’t even acknowledge is an issue or a threat, therefore little is really commonly known about a quickly rising problem. The epidemic of Lyme disease is often a silent battle, with millions of warring soldiers whose biggest struggle sometimes isn’t the disease itself, but against those who may come upon their path and challenge the suffering that the afflicted endure.
There is nothing worse than bearing the weight and burden of this disease, and not being able to express or effectively share the reality of what you endure on a daily basis with another person. Like the friends who still expect and demand the same attention and energy that you extended and gave before, and the family who continually asks if you’d like to join in on activities you obviously (or maybe not obviously since sickness isn’t always apparent in appearance) can’t. Sure, there may be listening ears in your life, but do they really understand? Do they really know the depth of your pain or your suffering? Would you even want them to?
These are all questions that I wrestle with, almost daily at times. One of the biggest hurdles for me to overcome in this disease is letting go of the need to have my suffering validated by another person. Do they have to acknowledge my pain to make it any more real?…Or any less, for that matter. I have yet to come to terms with the fact that there may not ever be another person who truly understands or knows what I go through on a daily basis. Some days I just want to invent an instrument that enables other people to experience this disease and this pain, so that they can feel what I feel for just a brief millisecond. That way, when they ask me how I’m doing, I can just zap them quickly and they’ll tangibly know in that brief instant what a million insufficient words lack to express. To eliminate the need to explain. So I can get through a conversation without having to jump through these hoops in my mind of fishing for the positive to relay but then once again listing the abbreviated truth so that they don’t think I am entirely a negative Nancy but at the same time DO have a general sense of reality for me. Without this conflicting feeling of guilt for not being well, and the internal pressure to dumb down how I actually feel for fear that I will be labeled or thought of as a complainer, negative, a victim, or any other list of undesirables.
Truth is, my soul yearns to be known, and that none of my striving after validation or approval will ever truly satisfy. True satisfaction only comes from Him, (John 4:14). He satisfies wholly, completely, fully, leaving nothing empty or untouched, (Hebrews 4:12). He is the only one who can truly know us or accept us fully, right where we are, with all of our baggage, birthmarks, blunders, bruises, and blemishes, (1 Timothy 1:15, John 6:37). He takes us as we are: broken, wounded people starving for love and acceptance, like newborn kittens, half blind but still instinctively crying and pawing for their mother’s nourishment, (Revelation 22:17, and others). The good news is, He offers us both and SO much more. He loves us, accepts us, and validates us by giving us identity in His son, Jesus Christ, (see scriptures here). He calls us beloved, children, heirs, royalty, rulers, and so on, (see here for even more). He reaches down and lifts us up out of the miry clay and transforms us into something beautiful, something He is proud to display, (Psalm 40:2).
It’s time we let what God says about us be enough. It’s time we let go of the need for validation from others, especially those of us battling the blurry path of chronic illness. It’s time we cling to the truth that sets us free from the fear of not being known. The truth that says we are loved, that we are accepted, that we are cherished, that we are deeply, and intimately known, (please, if you haven’t already, do yourself the biggest favor of your life and read Psalm 139; it’s an abbreviated love letter from God to you).
It’s time we find our satisfaction and fulfillment in the only true source that will ever quench our insatiable thirst. It’s time we accept what has always been extended from the foundations of the earth as a fragrant love offering toward us. What could we ever desire more than the intimate knowledge and fellowship with the one who formed us in love. What greater love has been demonstrated than the free gift of His Son who so eagerly awaits your acceptance. The one and only invitation in this life that can make all of the difference.
So I challenge you, and I challenge myself: Let God be enough. If you don’t know Him personally yet, ask Him to make Himself known. He’s not into playing games. He’s after our souls. He holds the storehouses of everything we could ever need to feel validated, and accepted, and loved. Answer His call and let Him show you what true life and peace and joy truly look like; even in the midst of your circumstances, and your sorrow, and your pain. It’s all possible with Him.
An Invitation to Abundant Life
““Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.