Words by Sierra Sedge
I struggle with three things: perfectionism, procrastination, and anxiety—especially in my academic career. I am the kind of person who will spend ten minutes searching in a thesaurus for the right word to use in an essay. If I leave myself too much time to edit a paper before I have to submit it for grading, it becomes the battleground upon which my perfectionism and my peace of mind duel mercilessly. And the list continues.
Perfectionism has the tendency to be paradoxical. There is this invisible standard that, subconsciously, you know is unreachable, and yet, you fool yourself into thinking that you can control the outcome if you work just a little harder. When you factor in procrastination, another paradox arises. Procrastination is deferring action on a project for a period of time because of the fear that you may not reach that invisible standard, and in doing so, that standard becomes even more impossible to reach. Naturally, these two tendencies are often the catalysts for anxiety.
There is a kind of hopelessness that can creep in when my mind wanders from God’s promises to dwell on the fear and inadequacy within me. In these moments, the Holy Spirit brings to mind this proverb: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). God has been teaching me to not procrastinate in placing my hope in Him. I am called to trust that He holds my future, just as He has held my past and providentially holds my present. When I meditate on who He is and what He has promised to those who have been chosen in Christ Jesus, there is no doubt in my mind that He has the power to overcome the unbelief and unfaithfulness that remains within me. Like the Psalmist, I have often had the privilege of praising God that “when anxiety was great within me, [His] consolation brought me joy” (Psalms 94:19).
And yet, what about the times when God himself seems to defer in delivering His people? For those of us who are following Jesus Christ, this is a testing point for our faith. We learn that God often works through pain and hardships, sanctifying us in these moments. In the throes of our suffering, however, it can be difficult to see exactly what God is doing. In some cases, it takes years to identify the purpose behind a difficult academic year or a family crisis. In many cases, God’s reasons remain a mystery. Nonetheless, whether clarity comes or not, we do not emerge on the other side of our troubles having gained nothing. Often times, we are gifted with tougher skin, softer hearts, and wiser minds that can distinguish between suffering caused by our own sin and suffering that was ordained for our sanctification.
Ultimately, we are enlightened by the perennial truths that God is good and that His plans are perfect. He sent the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins so that we would become His righteousness. Christ is the visible standard of the invisible God. He has done all the hard work that we were unable to do ourselves, so that we might bring Him glory. So glorify God as you rejoice in Him and strive to obey Him, and find your rest in the finished work of Christ. Do not be surprised if your invisible standards fade away in the light of His true perfection.