Guys, this is a good word of encouragement. I hope you enjoy it! ~Summer
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” -Romans 8
Many times, Christians get caught up in the rat race. We look over our shoulder at others’ accomplishments, envying their successes and secretly hoping to beat them. This is expected in Satan’s domain (the world), but among God’s children it’s out of place. Spiritually-speaking, we live in a different “kingdom” with a different ruler!
God gives each of His kids abundant life, so why are we seeking other people’s blessings? We evidently don’t need them because His Word says, “God shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory.” ALL our needs, my friends.
So why do we waste precious time focused on our neighbors’ activities? Other people’s success at church? Colleagues getting promoted at work? Who’s getting married, having babies, or buying a prettier house when we aren’t? We try to emulate their path instead of traveling our own, thinking that will lead to fulfillment.
I think it’s, in part, because many of us place too much confidence in our roles & talents: I’m the funny one. The pretty one. The one who gets things done. The artist. The sage. The businessman. Super Mom. The graphic designer. The fitness buff.
I’ve heard of pastors competing with each other instead of collaborating to reach their cities, coworkers tearing each other down, cliques ostracizing people :(, best friends backstabbing one another, and of course infamous sibling rivalries Each involve people who should be working together. Instead they’re lured into competition!
Yes, what we do in life is important, but it must first flow from who we are. If our identity is mistaken & placed in the wrong things, we’ll find ourselves frequently threatened by the talented new leaders and mommy-marathoners of the world.
I believe something bigger than insecurity is at work here. What is it?
The Orphan Spirit
My friend Wade Thompson wrote a fantastic book about discovering your life’s purpose. In it Wade identifies a leading cause of division, even in the church: The orphan spirit.
So what’s an “orphan spirit” or mentality?
By definition, orphans have to fend for themselves. They trust no one. Everyone they meet is seen as a competitor for scarce resources like food, money, jobs, power/status/position, people’s time & attention, relationships, love – anything they need.
Sadly orphans (both real & figurative) learn through tough circumstances that “no one” is looking out for them. They believe they’re alone in the world, without a father’s provision and protection, so they resort to scrounging for their everyday needs. They’ve often been left desperate and starving for things to satisfy them.
But God never intended for His kids to have unmet needs. In Scripture He inexhaustibly looks after “the fatherless”:
“In You the orphan finds mercy.” -Hosea 14
“You are the helper of the fatherless… You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.” -Psalm 10
“Father to the fatherless, Defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.” -Psalm 68
“Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives.” -Jeremiah 49
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” -John 14
Many Christians don’t yet understand that once we join God’s family, we’re no longer orphans! It’s easy to forget you’re no longer on your own when you’ve programmed yourself otherwise. Yet a lot of believers continue playing the part and forfeit the outstanding benefits of being His child.
So even as adults, we compete with others we think threaten our physical, financial, social, or relational well-being. Instead of going to our Father with each need, we elbow our way to the table, making sure we’re near the front of the line. After all, we haven’t survived this long through charity! We’re convinced we must always “Look out for number one”.
If one word best defines a person living with an orphan mentality, it’s “vying”. Never content, never at peace, and never truly happy for others, they find themselves always wondering, “When’s it gonna be my turn?” or “How can I get what they have?” They don’t believe they’ll ever be satisfied, that their needs will be taken care of, so they languish in lack & resent other people’s blessings.
God’s people the Israelites needlessly wandered in a desert for 40 years for this reason. They refused to believe God would take care of them. Yet even in their doubting, the Lord cared for His kids like a good Father.
The Israelites shunned God’s care & chose to believe they were orphans. They gave up the peace & satisfaction God had for them in exchange for fear, doubt, and discouragement. Hebrews 4 contrasts us with the Israelites:
“Good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest.”
Belief = Our rest. Faith gives us peace of heart, soul, mind & body – trusting our Dad to give us good things at the proper time. When we know our needs are taken care of, envy has no place in us because we’re resting in faith.
But just like the Israelites acted as “orphans”, our unbelief in our Father can block us from having His joyful peace (if we allow it). This same passage goes on to reassure us that when we’re in need, we can go confidently to God to receive His help (see below). We don’t have to doubt He’ll provide exactly what we need. There is no other confidence quite like this:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
We act like orphans when we don’t show up to God’s house each day expecting Him to satisfy every need. It’s no wonder many of us are stressed & anxious. We’re searching elsewhere to quell our hunger because our needs are not being met by the right person.
Proverbs 27:7 says this:
“The full soul loatheth an honeycomb: but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
When we reject God’s help, we trade satisfaction for bitterness – and call it sweet. This is the root of all addictions: Rejecting God’s love & provision and going elsewhere to try to fill His place.
Addictive cycles stem from gorging ourselves on things – people, food, substances, activities, success, status/positions – that will never be enough. We have to keep coming back for more because they don’t fill us up. This cycle NEVER ends! The only thing addictions give us is a bitter taste in our mouths because we’re worn out from pursuing them (instead of energized & nourished).
How many times have I fed myself things that don’t satiate my hunger – even bitter things that weren’t making me happy – because I neglected the one thing that fills me up?
The ultimate danger in having an orphan mentality is denying our Father’s help.
Clawing our way through life in search of fulfillment will exhaust us and leave us empty. We’ll never meet all our needs ourselves. The good news is we weren’t designed to.
God provides a way to meet our every need – with our permission. If we spurn His assistance, we forfeit the blessing of His satisfaction.
Even if God’s answers aren’t packaged how we expect, we can trust He’s doing everything for our benefit (Romans 8:28).
A New Perspective
One day I was going about my business when I felt the Lord quietly whisper this to me:
“There’s enough for everyone.”
Whoa, was He for real? It sounded too good to be true, but the Bible sure seems to affirms it.
The more we accept that God has enough abundance to take care of us all & that in His economy there is no scarcity, the more we can trust Him to provide all we need. Our trust ushers in great peace & joy, positioning us to receive everything He wants to give us.
Whenever I’ve trusted God in an area, I’ve experienced wonderful & surprising blessings! When He prodded me to believe Him in more areas – ones I held onto with tight fists – He unfurled tiny knots of fear and anxiety in my heart that were holding me hostage. He challenged areas I displayed doubt & mistrust in, not to freak me out (though it may have :) but to free me from their power.
He wants us to have perfect peace that He’ll deliver what we need, when we need it, every day. When we’re at peace, trusting in God’s care, we won’t fear any perceived threats to our well-being.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” -Exodus 14
God encourages us to cast our cares on Him because He has the solution. Even if it’s not a “quick fix”, it’s always a lasting solution.
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Jesus (John 6)
The Cure for Competition & Drivenness
So how should we react when dealing with an orphan mentality? Here are 6 antidotes I’m learning:
1) Accept your adoption into God’s family. No matter what your family tree looks like, you have a Father in God. He’s looking out for your best interests every day, and Hebrews says He wants to give you good gifts – but you must first believe He exists and that He wants to bless you! He’s also given you a family in the church. The sense of family I have with my fellow church members and other believers is indescribable! Many times it feels like they’re my own mothers, fathers, and siblings. It’s a miracle ~ God’s Spirit unites us. This is an amazing benefit of being a child of God!
2) Be grateful to be you! No one else gets this privilege :) Embrace His gifts in you & remember to express them to the world. Our gifts are meant to bless others, so we shouldn’t neglect them. Ask God to direct you to the right career/ relationships/ places He’s carved out for you – then be willing to do what He asks. He’s leading you towards His destiny for you! You can’t afford to miss it through disobedience. I am doing the same.
3) Appreciate the uniqueness of others, including perceived “rivals”. Don’t give into a petty spirit of competition. They ain’t got nothing on you, and you ain’t got nothing on them. You’re both completely unique. Celebrate how God created them and the side of Him they bring into the world.
4) Ask “Whose kingdom am I building?” This is a challenging one. You know you’re living in a self-focused world when you seek accolades and glory for yourself. Proverbs 25 says, “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” When you & I are living in a God-focused world, we’re no longer concerned if the mission is accomplished by us or by someone else (or if we get credit for our part), as long as the mission is completed. That is true success.
5) Start viewing your “rival” as a teammate, not an opposing player. I like what Abe Lincoln once said: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Give your teammate kudos when they excel, and be the first to extend any credit you receive to others. YES – this may not come naturally, but we’re most blessed when we don’t live for another’s praise, only God’s.
6) Trust in God’s provision as your Dad. Remember: There’s enough for everyone! He doesn’t love your “rivals” more than you. He may be lifting them up for a specific purpose… or just blessing them. What’s that to you & me? Other people’s blessings don’t take away from our own – but the day we pray for God’s hand to bless those we’re threatened by is the day we’re most blessed. He draws nearer when we trust His love for us and don’t stoop to competing with other people.
Competition & “sibling” rivalries may happen, but they’re simply a test. They reveal where we’ve placed (or misplaced) our confidence – and in who/what we find our identity. Is it in God’s love, or something else?
We don’t need to step on people on our vain climb up the success ladder. We don’t need to compete with or discredit our rivals. The reality is we don’t even have true rivals because no two people are alike!
If we trust God to supply all our needs with His unlimited resources, we won’t fear when someone more talented, fitter, wealthier, funnier or cooler arrives on the scene. God shows no partiality or favoritism. He loves us all equally, deeply & without reservation, and He gives to us freely!
We can celebrate who they are and be at peace with ourselves and everything we’ve been given – because there’s enough for everyone.
“God sent forth His Son… to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” -Galatians 4