What God Says About People-Pleasing 

Hear our Father’s broken heart in this lament recorded by the prophet Jeremiah:

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. —  Jeremiah 2:12–13

God declares the heavens to be appalled, shocked, and utterly desolate at the evil that’s been committed against Him. And what is this abomination?

Cisterns. God’s people have forsaken “the fountain of living waters” for a worthless substitute: a water tank that can’t hold water.

While Jeremiah’s original audience was the Israelite people, who continually chose manmade idols over the living God, these words ring loudly in our lives as well. You see, these cisterns we’re reading about represent not only the Baal and Asherah worshiped by the Israelites, but anything or anyone you and I turn to for the satisfaction that can only be found in God.

Our lives are filled with countless examples of times and ways we’ve rejected God for the sake of temporary, earthly satisfaction — the kind that leaves you crawling back for more because it’s never enough.

Whether it’s a newer device, faster car, fuller closet, bigger house, or a better title, we, just like the Israelites, return again and again to our empty cisterns, desperate to quench our thirst. The list of cisterns humanity has forged in a pathetic attempt to replace God could go on for eternity, but today I want to focus on just one: people-pleasing.

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From childhood, we’ve feared being the last to get picked. In high school, we became whoever we needed to be to fit in. And has anything changed, really?

I think, if you’re honest with yourself, it would be tough to find much in your life that’s untouched by the desire for others to like you, to be impressed by you, to want you.

Ask yourself, why the iPhone 12 when I have an 11? Why coat my face in makeup? My hair with dye? My body with self-tanner? Why the luxury sedan? The beach house with a boat? Why the endless hours at the gym? The brand name? The followers? Why do I need the ring? The “perfect” kids? The promotion?

We can even turn something God intended for good into a cistern of our own making. Have you ever volunteered, so others will know you’re a good person? Given so they’ll admire your generosity? Prayed aloud so they can see how spiritual you are?

It seems most decisions we make are defined by a deep-seated need for approval, admiration, or applause.

The problem? It will never be enough. That cistern is broken. It’s empty. And now so are you.

The only way to quench your thirst — your innate desire to matter, belong, be loved, and be “enough” — is the fountain Jeremiah writes to us about.

Next time you’re tempted to chase the fleeting validation of a family member, the envy of a friend, praise from a boss, or likes from a follower, turn instead to the radiant face of God, who looks on you with longing and in perfect love.

Meditate on His Word and be reminded that He made you. He purposed you. He was beaten, humiliated, and killed for you. And He is pleased with you. You’re beloved not for anything you could ever do or earn or achieve, but because you’re His.

So, see your striving to please people as the shattered cistern it is, choose instead to drink from the fountain of living waters, and experience true rest for your tired, thirsting soul (Matthew 11:28–30).

In Part 2 of this blog, we dive into a specific symptom of people-pleasing: immodesty. Check it out to learn how this issue runs much deeper than your wardrobe.