So many people live with a deep sense of failure. So many people go through their lives convinced they are a constant disappointment to the ones they so naturally long to please.
Children consider their parents and feel a sense of shame, certain that in some way their parents regard them as a disappointment. Meanwhile, parents consider their children and feel that same sense of shame, sure that their children regard them with disapproval.
Husbands consider their wives and wives their husbands and, while they may not know exactly what they’ve done wrong or what standard they have failed to uphold, they are convinced their spouse looks toward them with a displeased eye.
Church members are often convinced their pastor is disappointed in them for their level of involvement in the church or for the minimal strides they have made in sanctification. Pastors, meanwhile, often feel a deep sense of disapproval from church members, perhaps because they are ordinary preachers rather than extraordinary ones or because they simply do not have enough hours in the week to accept every meeting and fulfill every request.
There are so many Christians who live under a cloud of disappointment and disapproval. And we cannot allow ourselves off the hook here. Our husbands and our wives, our parents and our children, our pastors and our congregations—all can feel that withering sense of censure from the likes of you and me.
And, if we’re honest, such censure is often real rather than imagined. It is real because we are all susceptible to expecting people to live up to our standards rather than to God’s. Yet where God’s standards are holy, ours are tinged with evil; where God’s standards are rational, ours are arbitrary; and where God’s standards are fixed, ours are constantly shifting. People fail to live up to our standards because it’s impossible for them to live up to our standards. And neither should they, for we have no right to call people to live to any standard other than God’s.
A great gift we can give to others is the gift of our approval. We can assure them that our desire for them is not that they live according to our standards, but that they live according to God’s. If they heed the will of God and live according to a sanctified conscience, we can, we should, and we must be satisfied. We must believe that the best thing they can do is please God and please themselves. And if they have done that, we must not be disapproving of them or be disappointed in them.
Husband, one of the greatest gifts you can give your wife is the assurance that you approve of her and that you delight in her. Let her know: “Please God and please yourself, and you shall never displease me.”
Wife, one of the greatest blessings you can bestow upon your husband is the confidence that you are pleased with him and that you find joy in him. Let him hear it: “Please God and please yourself, and you shall never displease me.”
Parents, your children want to know that you approve of them. So be sure they know: “Please God and please yourself, and you shall never displease me.”
Children, your parents want to know that you approve of them just as much as you want to know that they approve of you. So be sure to tell them: “Please God and please yourself, and you shall never displease me.”
Pastors and church members, you know what to do. Whether you use these exact words or others like them, make sure the sentiment is plain: “Please God and please yourself, and you shall never displease me.”*
There would be nothing more foolish than to disapprove of decisions that have been approved by God or to be disappointed by actions that please God. There would be nothing more cruel than to make someone believe they have failed in your eyes when they have succeeded in God’s. There would be nothing more disheartening than for them to live a life that’s pleasing to God only to find that they have lived a life that’s displeasing to you. So whether it’s your child or parents, your husband or wife, your pastor or congregation, let them know, and then relate to them in such a way that they believe it: “Please God and please yourself, and you shall never displease me.”
I have seen these words attributed to the Puritan Philip Henry, but have not been able to trace them back to a source.