rebelling against low expectations

The Self-Centered Pursuit of World-Changing


I’ve had intense headaches and neck tension almost every day for the past two months.

Why? Well, people tell me I’m stressed.

Why am I stressed? Well, that complicated question would take much too long to answer.

I think, though, that this might be symptom of a disease that is unique (but heavily prevalent) among us rebelutionaries.

We want to do hard things. We realize our time and lives are incredibly valuable. We desperately want to change the world.

We’re bearing the weight of our own hopes and expectations. This is often heavy enough, but we tend to add the hopes and expectations of others (friends, siblings, parents) on top of this.

What is this doing to us?

It’s creating a hyper self-focus.

If only I just tried a little harder…

If only I would have done it just a little bit better…

If only I could just finally get my act together and stop messing it up already…

We get caught up in a formula: planning + acting exactly as we think we need to = achieving the intended result.

What is this formula really saying? I plan. I act. I get what I want.

It’s really indicating our hyper self-focus. We cannot focus on two things at once, so focusing on ourselves, we lose sight of why we’re really doing hard things in the first place.

We are prey to self-doubt.

This leads to inaction.

That leads to self-condemnation turned to self-loathing.

That often results in discontentment, unbalancedness, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

We become off track and end up doing no one (including ourselves) any good.

(I know. I’ve been there.)

What can we do to stop this?


We have to recognize the situation for what it is: a self-saturated slide. This means we need to repent. Get on our knees. Ask God for the strength to recenter our heart and focus.

Ultimately, when we are caught up in the pressure of doing hard things and in analysis to get it right and finally meet our expectations, we lose heart. We get discouraged because our hearts are no longer in the right place.

However, as David Platt has pointed out, we must be deeply in love with Jesus as the first step in our missions. In the greatest commandment, what came first? A love for God came before the outpouring of the love for people (Mark 12:30-31). In our desires to change the world, we must first love Jesus and center our hearts on Him.


We must respond to whom we are deeply in love with and deeply committed to: our King. Our response should simply be obedience, faithfulness, and a plea for courage for the next step.

We must choose to obey, first, the truth of the Bible by taking every thought captive (2. Cor 2:5). We need to believe the simple truths – truths that we have value not because of what we do but because we are children of God (1 Jn. 3:1), that we must cast all our worries on Him (1 Pet. 5:7), and that we must pick up our crosses daily in following Him (Lk. 9:32).

From there, we must live surrendered enough – surrendered enough to obey the next tangible step in front of us, to be faithful through whatever comes next, and to continually seek His courage to be able to accomplish any of this.


What does this response mean? It means a release of our obsessive analysis and hope of specific results through trusting prayer and a decision to get walking.

We cling to the peace that – once we’re surrendered and walking – He’ll redirect, for the results are not formed according to formula: they’re released and are in His hands.

You know what? To some degree, the results don’t even matter; we’re holding our dreams and expectations with open hands so that He can give us a full measure of them or replace them as He sees fit. In fact, we’re actually holding something better through all this.

We’re holding His hand, for this is what matters: our relationship to the King, our heart-committed surrender and love of Him. This love isn’t even a love of His “world-changing” plan for our lives but simply a love for Him Himself.

Because, really? What pressure do we need to be carrying?

He said “Come, follow Me” (Matt. 4:19).

And we can come: Re-centering our hearts on Jesus. Responding through courageous, faithful obedience. Releasing the obsessive focus on (and resulting burden of) self-put pressure.

Choosing, instead, to love Him, obey with each step, and commit our plans, desired results, and ourselves completely to Him.

And guess what? Then, we don’t have to worry about it anymore; it’s in His hands. He’s good. He knows. He’s got us, so it’s going to be okay.

Shouldn’t this be enough?

May we have the courage to live filled with just loving Him and walking out in obedience to make His name great among the nations – no matter what specific form that takes for each of us.

This is freedom.

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Photo courtesy of Lauren Rushing and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Deborah Spooner

- a college student and pastor’s kid - is a city loving and avocado eating cultural enthusiast, creative, and dreamer who is addicted to dipping words in candor as she writes for her blog Hope Shining. Her hope is anchored to a man who came to earth around 2,000 years ago – Jesus of Nazareth – and she just wants to know Him and make Him known.


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  • I was so excited when I saw you wrote another article for TheReb, Deborah! And this eye-opening, truthful article did not disappoint. Thank you so much for this!

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Haylie! It is really encouraging. I am so glad to be back to writing again 🙂 Yeah, this has been something that God’s really been working on my heart a lot recently (and He’s still opening my eyes to different aspects of it!). I’ll be praying for you as we are learning these things together.

  • Wow!! This article really expanded my mind! Thank you for taking the time to write this. This is perfect for the situation i’m in right now!

    • Faith, that is so sweet of you! I definitely feel like I need the reminder to fall more in love with Jesus as I cast my worries on Him and step out in faith. I just love to see how we – as brothers and sisters and Christ – have the privileged to go through some of these things as family; it’s my prayer that we are more open and take the time to speak truth and encourage others more often!

  • Amen! Time and time again I’ve felt dissatisfied with the illusory “world-changer” mindset – one which tends to drive me away from focussing on obedience to God. This is a really insightful and much-needed article… Thanks very much!

    (By the way, what is an “avocado eating cultural enthusiast”?

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! Yes, it is just so easy to get caught up in that mindset … so easy and so not helpful! It’s humbling to see how God can bring change to our mindsets, though, as we focus on His truth which really sets us free (Jn. 8: 32).

      (And, I just really love avocados! I’ll eat them on almost anything. I also really am fascinated by and just love experiencing different cultures! That’s what’s up with those two things.)

      • Yes. 🙂

        (I like avocados too! They’re great! And different cultures are certainly very interesting to explore…)

  • Thank You! This is exactly what I’m experience right now. I caught up in a formula: planning + acting exactly as we think we need to = achieving the intended result.

    I Become so self centered simply because I think that I should be good, I Should work harder, I should not wasting any time and so on.. But I forgot to rely on Jesus.

    I’m too focus on my target and Jesus is not my center anymore.

    Thanks again, you remind me to bend on my knees and pray and feel the freedom that Jesus offer.

    Greetings from Indonesia, and oh feel free to correct my grammar 😀

    • I can definitely relate to what you said about focusing on not wanting to waste time! That’s another big one for me that I get caught focusing on too much. You nailed it, though: we gotta rely on Jesus. He’s God. He’s good. He’s enough. And simply having the posture of bended knees and living in the freedom is so necessary.

      Indonesia! That’s great! Thanks so much for the comment.

      • Just a little suggestion, if possible don’t use abbreviation on the books name.

        Yesterday I show my father this article, and he ask me “What is 1 Jn. 3:1?” He didn’t know Jn = John, in Indonesia it’s written Yohanes.

        It’s easier to translate, especially for us that not speak english natively 😛

        Thanks again and keep on writing! 😊

        • Ah that is is a very good point! Thank you so much for brining that up; I was not aware the problems that might cause for translation. I will definitely aim to use the full book names in the future!

  • Thank you so much for this post, Deborah! Thank you for your honesty, comfort, and obvious love of God. I think this is a message that all rebelutionaries need to hear–many people can try or succeed in changing the world, but only Christians can change the world for Christ’s sake and for eternity.

    • Amen! I love that — “many people can try or succeed in changing the world, but only Christians can change the world for Christ’s sake and for eternity.” That is so true, and such a convicting reminder. It’s only for Christ (and through Christ!) that we can bring true world change. It’s my prayer that we would have that fire and find true power through surrender to the One who is Almighty.

  • Thank you Deborah! Holy cow, this came at just the right time. I hadn’t realized my “do hard things” mentality had veered into a narcissistic achievement mentality until I read this. Now I’m realizing I need to go back to my knees every day and seek the Lord.

    Also, where did you find that David Platt quote about being deeply in love with Jesus? Was it in one of his books? Because it’s really good. 🙂

    • Hey Cecilia! Yeah, coming to the place of needing to write the article was definitely a wake up call in my own thought patterns, too! You nailed it, though; we just gotta go back to our knees each day and seek Him. It’s such a wonderful reality to “have to do.”

      I actually heard that quote from David Platt from hearing him speak! I attended Urbana2015 (a missions conference in St. Louis) and went to one of his breakout sessions. During a talk he was giving, I heard him make that point. I’m not sure if it’s in a book he’s written yet, but I definitely think it should be if it’s not 🙂 He has a lot of wisdom to offer.

      • Oh, I’ve heard lots of good things about Urbana2015! One of my friends went to the St. Louis one last month. 🙂 David Platt definitely has some profound wisdom, especially for young people, regarding missions!

  • Deborah — this is fantastic analysis and am thrilled to have stumbled upon it. While the focus on achievement and service is good, often we can fall into the temptation of thinking that these outcomes are what matter, inadvertently replacing God as our Lord with new, benign, and subtle idols! The solution of putting God first and surrendering the outcomes to Him might sound overly simplistic, but it’s really as simple as that. What I’m constantly reminding myself of as well is that my responsibility is just to serve with zeal and intensity to the best of my ability — God will take care of everything else.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post and looking forward to additional insights you’ll have to share!

    • Hey Christos! Thanks so much for your encouraging comment! Yes, of how simply putting God first and surrendering does sound simplistic, and I agree with you and love how powerful that reality can be. What God asks is amazingly simple, and it’s been on my mind a lot the past couple of days how we, as Christians have the tendency to chronically over-complicate things.

      What you said about zeal, too, is so true and so necessary! It’s my prayer that we would not lose our passion for the Lord, but find the joy of Him as our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

  • @deborahspooner:disqus, thank you so, so much for writing this article!!! The first time I read it, this really didn’t sink in. I just ran across it randomly again today, and I am experiencing this exact thing DAILY. I have had headaches, self-negativity, self-doubt, unhealthy coping mechanisms, etc. I drown in the tasks every day, forgetting why I am doing them, which leads to completely avoiding them because they are hard. It is only when I remember why I am really doing hard things (for the glory of God), that I am able to strike a healthy balance of tasks and relationships. Thank you! This was a beautifully written article!!!

By Deborah Spooner
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →