by Jennifer Smith Lane
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
As a recovering perfectionist, I asked myself, why do I get so caught up in being perfect? While I know full well that perfection is impossible, there is still something deep inside me fueling my desire to achieve it. I began to wonder where this notion came from.
Surely it is a godly pursuit, right? I recalled one of Jesus commands from the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NIV) and reassured myself that while perfection was a tall order, I was on the right track in pursuing it.
However, further study of this verse brought new understanding.
First, I looked up the dictionary definition of perfect. Webster’s defined it as “free from any flaw, fault or defect in condition or quality and complete.” Then I looked up the Greek word for perfect, which literally means the condition something is in: its completeness or maturity. A cross reference to that verse is Leviticus 19:2, which commands Israel to “be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (NIV). I realized that the idea of perfect is more about holiness than being flawless or acceptable.
This changes everything.
I had perfection as the goal, and I was failing miserably. But perfection isn’t the goal, God is. The pursuit is about holiness and growing in maturity in my walk with God, not about whether I did everything perfectly. You see, God doesn’t call us to pursue perfection, He calls us to pursue Him.
While pursuing perfection is one thing, striving for it is another. When we take the pursuit of perfection and place it on the throne of our heart rather than God, we stray off course and perfectionism becomes our ideology. Webster’s defines perfectionism as “a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. A doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable.” Obviously not Scriptural! If we adhere to the way the world defines perfection, pursing it becomes the object of our worship, not God.
Life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. It’s messy. It’s chaotic. It’s unpredictable. Living focused on an unattainable goal is not a recipe for success. Instead, it highlights our weaknesses, intensifies our failures, and leaves us unfulfilled. But Jesus said, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). Did you catch that? Christ’s power works best in our imperfections.
Friend, what are you pursuing? Ask God to shine His light to expose your desire for perfection, so that you can correctly see your imperfection for what it is: an opportunity for Christ to shine through you. It will transform your pursuit of perfection into a pursuit of Him.
About the author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance, whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer, her husband, and three children live in Michigan.
Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues. It is an inductive Bible study that teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.
Join the conversation: Do you struggle with the need for perfectionism?