Our website is currently undergoing maintenance – functionality may be limited on some pages

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!


This Means Everything

Whether or not your life’s rhythms are determined by the school calendar, for many of us September brings with it more of a sense of new beginnings than January. If we are coming back to work from a break, we may find we crave a change.

X Factor is now in its fourteenth series and the core formula remains the same. In chip shops and betting shops, factories, offices, and building sites up and down the land, there are people who know in every fibre of their being that they are not living the life they were made for. This is their one chance to change things for themselves and their families, they say into the camera, to show the world and themselves that they are worth something.

Between them and their dream sits a panel of three judges. ‘What would it mean to you to get through?’ one of them trots out, understandably a bit bored by the whole thing. The screen fills with a face, naked with fearful desperation. ‘Everything… it would mean everything. All I want to do is sing.’ And – the unspoken subtext – have you validate my existence.

Whatever your views on the show, it touches on some profound universal themes – the quest for meaning, significance, and vocation. When there is discordance between who we feel we are and what we spend our days doing, that inevitably creates stress. And if we allow anyone but God to determine our self-worth we become incredibly vulnerable. As Simon Cowell dismisses yet another not-quite-good-enough crooner from his presence, you can see their self-esteem crumbling before your eyes.

As we crank up again for autumn, in jobs we love or jobs we hate or perhaps not in a job at all, as Christians let’s remind ourselves and each other that we stand before only one judge who matters.

This judge, our Father God, created us and pronounced us ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). This judge sees everything about us (Psalm 139) and is under no illusions about our worthiness or lack thereof, yet looks on us with delight (Zephaniah 3:17). This judge tells us we are precious in his sight (Isaiah 43:4) and loves us enough to give the life of his son for our sake (John 3:16). The X Factor he is looking for in us is faith, and faith is a gift he gives to anyone who asks.


Jo Swinney
Jo is an editor, speaker and author, most recently of Home: the quest to belong (Hodder & Stoughton). She blogs at www.joswinney.com and you can also find her on twitter @joswinney


  1. thank you very much, well connected with culture!

    By Sabine Burningham  -  15 Sep 2017
  2. We are human – and we need to be genuinely loved and valued and validated by other human beings – that’s the way God made us; I think it’s important to stress this as well as highlighting God’s perfect love for us and the value that he places on us through a relationship with him.

    By Jean Watson  -  15 Sep 2017
  3. September certainly is a time when we naturally evaluate and reflect upon our hopes and dreams for our families. Keeping Christ in the centre of these and looking to include Him in the academic and playground joys and angst is certainly good for equilibrium and foundations. Thank you

    By Clare Allen  -  18 Sep 2017
  4. Wonderful, inspiring words Jo. Bless you.

    By Alan  -  19 Sep 2017
  5. Thank you, Jean Watson, for your comments above. While my head agrees with what Jo says, my heart agrees with you. In a similar vein I’ve always struggled with God’s unconditional love, because I’m conditioned by living in the world to want the world’s conditional love. Yes, each child is special, accepted and loved, as the song says, but part of me wants to be loved more than you – most of us long for acceptance by the world and for first a best friend and then a partner who will love us in a way that they love no other.

    By Rosemary Grave  -  22 Sep 2017
  6. I also agree with Jean Watson and Rosemary Grave – that’s how we are wired – yet, there is a danger that if we do not recognise the importance of our identity in Christ and the unconditional love He has for us. This makes us all the more vulnerable (and needy) to seek it in people, status and things that are just not capable to fulfil our need (and I include myself!). They will disappoint as flawed and needy human beings as we are.
    No one, no status or anything, I believe, can validate us more than Jesus does – everything else is superficial and loses its gravitas after a time – or do you know where each of the X-Factor winners are today? Only the very few have made it big time and continue with success and others disappear from the scene and are forgotten. Imagine the sense of failure and loss of validation for those that are off the general public radar.
    I think we need to be reminded, yes, we are made to be wired for intimate relationships with friends, family, life partners, but we can’t forget that we are ultimately made for Him and that should be our most important relationship. From that relationship, our view of self has the right perspective with our earthly relationships.
    Ultimately, people, jobs, statuses can disappoint us- people that are “supposed” to love us like no other will love their children more, their job more, their …fill in the blank. Jobs, well, we can become redundant. Status, that can change in an instant, when you become bankrupt, lose your spouse, get “dumped” by the very person you thought would be “The One”, retire from whatever job or status you had. See, all these things change with time, but God’s love for us never changes and is forever.

    By Beatriz Schumann  -  26 Sep 2017

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Thing!

  • Sign up and we'll send you a monthly round-up - our best content direct to your inbox, and occasional personalised emails too. For full email options, see Get Involved.