I will always labor under a predetermined ceiling of intelligence.
We are all going to become old if we live long enough.
None of us will be sinlessly perfected in this life.
Everyone is a hypocrite to some degree.
Most people will not make it to heaven.
Jesus died on a cross.
Our beloved Paul could not rid himself of his thorn in the flesh.
If you drop your cone of ice cream, it may land upside down.
My goal is not to rain on anyone’s parade, but to try to gain a better perspective about how we live in God’s world, while possibly releasing a few of us from the pursuit of something we can never achieve. The concern here is how some of us are not comfortable with imperfection. It is a belief, though never admitted, we are to live our best life now, not later.
The word utopia means no place—a place that does not exist. A utopian idea of life is a mirage in a desert. This is an important data point for anyone who has a penchant toward perfectionism.
I am not defending passivity or fatalism. We 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 imperfection must be factored into our plans.
Think about a woman’s fear of becoming older or bigger or less attractive—whatever that means. This 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 world view motivates some of our female friends to over-think sexuality and beauty. Their thoughts bounce from overeating to under-eating 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 their bodies are being transformed by 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, then 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. 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 with reputations that are tied 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 for us and Adam and Eve submitted to his doctrine and the rest of us fell in line (Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 5:12).
My objective here is not to talk you out of physical beauty, material blessings, or marital bliss. The main goal for this piece is for us to see how our human condition will always fall short of perfection, no matter how hard we try (Romans 3:23).
Nearly all counseling happens because somebody is dissatisfied with something, either about themselves or about a relationship they are connected to in some way. The counselee is unwilling (or they do not know how) to live with imperfection.
A teenage girl is 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 being 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, then 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 we want tempts us to sin, then we have an idol in our lives. You can get to the heart of this problem by asking the idolatry question (IQ). Fill in the blank.
I could be satisfied if ______________.
If anything is placed in the blank, other than the LORD, then it is idolatry (Exodus 20:3). You can change the question by using other synonyms.
I could be content if…
I could be fulfilled if…
I could be successful if…
The issue for us to consider is about what primarily characterizes our general attitude and disposition during any given day? What controls us? Who or what has the most power over us?
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 we turned your imperfection on its head? Rather than trying to solve the problem of imperfection by changing our friends or our circumstances, what if we saw our shortcomings as a means of grace for the LORD to use in our lives?
Could it be the LORD wants imperfection in our lives for our good and His glory? We 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. This imperfection was given to help him become all he could be through Christ’s strength rather than his own (Philippians 4:11-13).
Paul, like you and I, 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?
Do you believe you could be better without the fear that regularly sweeps across your mind?
Do you believe you could accomplish more if your spouse was a better person?
How about if your friends cooperated with your ideas and preferences?
Do you think a better church would be a better way to go?
What about if you were higher on the company ladder?
I am sure it would be good if some of these things did change. I am not saying you should resign yourself to something less for a show of false humility, especially if the changes you want are biblical.
What I am saying is your circumstances may not change and if they do not, then we have no right to sin in response to our unchanging circumstances. In fact, if you are regularly sinning because your associations or situations are not changing according to what you believe they should be, then you are stuck in idolatry.
Sinful responses do not force the hand of God. In fact, sinful responses attract the opposing power of God on your life. The LORD will not partner with you or your sin, if your motives, attitudes, and actions are not godly.
What if the LORD never wants to remove what you believe to be imperfect in your life? What if the LORD was the Author of your imperfection because He knows it is for your good? 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: we will never attain perfection in this life. There is a ceiling to our lives, whether it pertains to how we are internally or what we are like externally.
The LORD has set the bounds of our lives just like any good and loving parent would set the bounds 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 to be reminded he was not God. It was not good 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 our strengths, they can easily become our liabilities if we do not regularly humble ourselves before the Gift Giver. We 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 we understand our imperfections rightly, then we will see them as vehicles to get to God, rather than hindrances to a better life. Typically, the things we see as wrong in our lives will move us in one of two directions.
We will experience imperfection and turn to the LORD.
We will experience imperfection and turn to self-reliant means to resolve the imperfection.
Our imperfections remind us we are not God, which should humble us to seek God. Since Genesis 3, we possess a two drive system. We will either drive toward God or we will drive toward destructive choices.
4 – Imperfection allows - The beauty of our imperfections is they allow us to not only find God, but to enjoy Him, while finding strength through Him. This is key thinking about the things that are wrong with us.
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 through imperfection.
The wise person is able to 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 excellence, but is not controlled by the things that have not been granted to him at this time. The wise person has learned to live like Paul, who said,
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 (ESV)
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. – Philippians 3:8 (ESV)