Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Bible Applies to Everyone But Me

Eph 2:10 – For we are His workmanship ([literally ‘poetry’], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

1 Cor 4:3 – But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.

As a mental health therapist, I deal a great deal with low self-esteem. In my early days in the mental health world, I was a patient, and not a therapist. My therapist told me that she knew what my problem was. She said, “You have low self-esteem.”

Well, at the time, I was a senior executive of a software firm with many people working for me and a great deal of responsibility. I often gave talks to large numbers of people, held my head high with a big salary and a big company car and the whole bag. To look at me, the last thing you would have assumed was that I had a low self-esteem. In my mind, I was the epitome of high self-esteem.

However, after having given her that resume, she still insisted that I had low self-esteem. To humor her (since I was paying her those big bucks), I asked for her advice about it. “Don’t just preach at me,” I said, “Give me some practical guidance as to how to handle my so-called ‘low self-esteem’.” She said, “Oh, you’d love it if I could give you that one-two-three step by step approach to solving your self-esteem problem,” to which I replied, “I don’t care if you give me the long, drawn-out painful version. If I have a low self-esteem problem, give me something practical I can do.“ As much as I loved her and considered her to be a very good therapist, she couldn’t, so I had to go on a quest.

What I found out was this: Self-esteem isn’t one thing, it’s two: self-confidence, of which I had boat-loads, and self-worth.

Uh oh. There it was. As a matter of fact, what I realized was that the very reason I had boat-loads of self-confidence was because I was trying, subconsciously, to overcome my low self-worth with works. I was trying to perform my way into personal value. Since it was impossible, but I didn’t have any other options at the time, I became obsessed with being good at what I did. I was the quintessential perfectionist.

So I went on a relentless pursuit to improve my sense of self-worth (without relying on my works), and I began my recovery from perfectionism. I actually succeeded in that area and started to see my value as a person, and my self-worth improved. This was in the 1990’s.

Then in 2001, I gave my life to Christ and started reading the Bible. One day, it jumped off the page at me that my pursuit of “self-esteem” was all about me, and that’s the antithesis of what God wants for me. God did not create us to have good self-esteem. Paul, in the second verse at the top of this essay, said, “I don’t care what you think, and I don’t even care what I think. I only care what God thinks.” My work on my self-worth was all about what I think about myself, and not what God thought about me. Back to square one.

So I had to give that some serious thought. After some serious prayer and more study, I changed my entire perspective about self-esteem. I am no longer worried about that, because it’s not what God wants for us. What He wants is “God esteem,” which is made up of God-confidence and God-worth.

I could write a whole essay just on God-confidence alone, but suffice it to say that God-confidence says, “I don’t need confidence in myself. I only need to know that God knows what He wants me to do, and as my ‘boss,’ He is imminently qualified to decide what talents, personality, and spiritual gifts I need to perform that job. If I’ve tried and I’m simply never going to be good at something, then that’s my way of knowing that God doesn’t want me doing that thing. If He wants me doing it, then He will equip me to do a good job.” My confidence is no longer in myself, but in God alone. I simply trust Him to make me good at the “good works” He wants me to do. It’s not about me in any way, and I don’t get the credit or the glory. I also don’t get neurotic about what I can’t do. It’s total freedom from perfectionism, low self-confidence, and pride.

So what about God-worth? Scripture says that God created you to spend eternity with Him, and then, being fully aware of your weaknesses (“the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”) and propensity to be rebellious and disobedient, He came to earth as a man, suffered, and died on the cross to ensure that you had a way. The Bible says that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” that He “knit you together in your mother’s womb,” and that you are a child of the King of the universe, a prince or princess for all of eternity. It says that He gave you life, and then He created a job specifically for you to perform while you’re here on earth – and He created that job before the foundation of the world just for you. It says that He gave you all the blessings and skills and personality and spiritual gifts and nature and experiences and everything else you need to be exactly the right person to perform that job. He had you in mind when He created the universe, and He had you in mind when He was hanging on the cross. He has you in mind now, He will help you complete the job He has for you, and He will bring you to Him when He returns to be your eternal bridegroom.

So how much more worth can you have? If you have low self-worth after that supreme evidence to the contrary, you are saying what the title of this essay says: “The Bible (and all of it’s love and proclamations and promises) apply to everybody else but me.”

You can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard that in therapy with people. It’s endemic in the Christian community. So where does that come from, and what do we do about it? Well, it comes from a childhood where we were told, over and over and over again, that we don’t count, we’re too much trouble, we’re not important in the family structure. In this family, we have no worth. We are taught to believe that about ourselves, and it simply follows us into adulthood, and we pin it on God.

But now, as Christians, we read in Scripture that we do have worth and that God loves us, and we’re confused and we’re hurt. We don’t believe it, and we don’t receive it. But why? Why do we refuse the greatest deal on the planet? Because it doesn’t fit with the truth that we already believe about ourselves. It’s our deep, dark secret. Everybody else has worth in God’s eyes, but not me. It says, “Because of the kind of person I am and what I’ve done in my life, I am not worthy of God’s love. Everybody else is, but I’m not.”

The problem is that you’re right, except for the “everybody else is” part. Based solely on the kind of people we are and what we’ve done in our lives, none of us are worthy of God’s love. We can’t be. There’s nothing about any of us that is, or ever could be, worthy of God’s love based on who we are.

Here’s the secret that God is screaming at us. God loves us - absolutely and abundantly – because of who He is, and not who we are. He is pure love, and He loves us because we are His creation. You can't earn or lose it no matter what you do. GOD IS LOVE and He created us so He could fully express that love! Your family said you're not worthy, and then withheld their love from you. God says you're not worthy, and then dies on the cross to make you worthy, not because of anything you've done, but because He wants to spend eternity with you. You're not worthy in and of yourself, but through His blood, you are imminently worthy because He is! His blood has completely erased your lack of worth, so in God’s eyes, you couldn’t be more valuable to Him than you are right now, regardless of who you are or what you’ve done.

Ok, so let’s say you accept that intellectually, but for some reason, you still feel like it doesn’t apply to you. You just can’t seem to shake that, “it’s for everybody else, but not for me” feeling in spite of the evidence. Let’s look at that a little deeper. Right now, think of another person you know to whom the promises and love of God don’t apply. I’ve asked that question many times in therapy, and I always get the same answer: There isn’t anyone. I’m it. I’m the only one for whom the Bible doesn’t fully apply.

So, what does that say? It says, “The Bible’s promises are for everyone but me. I am uniquely the only person on the planet who is not qualified for the promises and attention of God. I am all alone, spiritually destitute, singled out for my exclusion of the promises and proclamations of God.” That’s what low God-esteem is, right?

To really dissect it, that statement says, “Jesus’ blood wasn’t enough for me. He didn’t really wash me clean of my unworthiness. His blood doesn’t completely cover my lack of worth. He didn’t completely atone for my sins. In spite of His death, and in spite of His promises, they still don’t apply to me.”

Remember above when I said that low-self esteem is all about self? Here it is: Paradoxically, low self-esteem is pride. I know we’ve been taught that low self-esteem is all about self-deprecation and self-criticism, but as a Christian, it’s not. Please bear with me and I think I can help you see what I mean.

To really understand, you'll have to completely change your definition of what pride is and see it God's way. Humility, the opposite of pride, says, “I am totally dependent on God, I am totally obedient to God, and I compare myself to only God, and not other people.” That’s what we mean by ‘surrender.’ Pride is when I am relying on myself, that I'm doing and thinking what I think is best, and my self-comparison is to other people. Even if I think I’m a failure, even if I make terrible judgments, and even if I see myself as less-than other people, I’m still all about self. My judgment about what I do or think is superior to God’s.

Please understand that this is not a criticism and isn’t meant to make you feel even worse about yourself. It is meant to set you free through your complete surrender to God, including even the way you see yourself. Stop trying to rely on yourself and who you are for value, as if you have any hope of doing so. You don’t, just like everyone else, and to think you should be able to (even if you’re very clear you can’t), has pride as it’s source.

Try to think of it this way: Low self-esteem says, “What I think of myself is more important to me that what God thinks of me. I know what the Bible says about me, but I know better than God what I’m worth. God is simply wrong about me. He made a mistake with me. I’m different from everybody else on the planet. I’m unique in my lack of worth.”

No, you’re not. Stop relying on yourself and start relying on God. Blindly, with complete surrender, let God’s opinion of you be all that matters. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Dump the distorted view of yourself that you received from your family, and let God’s view of you sink in.

Because of the shed blood of Christ, you are as worthy as the love of God is wide, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Just receive it, be at peace, and get to work – not to earn His love, but because you already have it.

Here's your homework assignment: When you feel yourself sinking into self-recrimination, get into the Word immediately. Memorize scriptures that remind you of how God feels about you. Find a Christian song that, if it were true about you (and it is!), would change your whole world. Then, when you feel the self-condemnation creeping in, start singing it, out loud, and let it be a shout to the enemy that he's wrong about you and that you won't let him win. Out-shout the enemy with God's words, and let them change your heart.

God’s love for us is about His boundless ability to love. The more you see it that way, the more you will love Him back and stop focusing on yourself and your lack of worth. Just let His love wash over you. He is blessed and filled with joy when you do, and He will pour that joy into your heart. Let the angels in heaven rejoice. Surrender to it. Stop rejecting it. Just let it happen.

May the love of God fill your hearts to overflowing , and may Christ Jesus be centered in your every thought.

Sue McHenry


At June 16, 2009 2:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you, SUE, thank you.

At July 20, 2009 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen. thank you :)

At August 17, 2009 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

many, many thanks Sue. God Bless You

At August 20, 2009 9:05 PM, Blogger Sue said...

Thank you all for your encouragement. This is such an important topic for me, but could also be a tough pill to swallow. Thank you all back.

At August 22, 2009 4:00 PM, Anonymous Jeremia said...

Be blessed for sharing this! It really helped me. Thank you.

At October 10, 2009 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sue- i wish Oprah and Ellen and Nightline would ALL have you on so you could share this post!!!! I think it is THAT right on and so needed for so many!!! Now don't get a big head over that LOL couldn't resist :)

At October 10, 2009 7:01 PM, Blogger Sue said...

Wow - what a compliment! Thanks! And no, I only take the credit if it's a bust. If it's on target, God gets all the glory!! Thanks again. Sue

At December 11, 2009 11:57 PM, Blogger Lady Metamorphosis said...

Thank you so much for posting this, I can't thank you enough. This will be a reference for me as I continue on this God confidence journey, this was much needed!!!

At December 12, 2009 6:43 AM, Blogger Sue said...

God is faithful to tell us what we need to hear when we're ready to hear it. Thank you so much for your encouraging comments. God bless.

At April 13, 2011 7:39 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The promises of the bible are only for those that god chose to receive them, not for everyone regardless of their standing with god. This is the same as saying salvation is only for those god chose to receive it, and not for everyone regardless of what their pre-ordained destiny is.

The title of the essay is essentially true on one condition: that it applies to all christians, and of course if you're not one of those whom god chose, its promises will never apply to you anyway.

At April 13, 2011 7:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

One other thing, Sue:

It's not how you decide to fantasize about how you see god that makes him what he is...you need to teach about god in a way that reflects his true nature...not the ooey-gooey one-sided crap that you are promoting that is only going to damn people to hell.

I'm already going to hell, so it doesn't matter what I say in my case - at least I cannot be deceived any longer. Sad part is, you think you're not deceived and you also think you're on a straight path to heaven - which you are probably not if you believe in the phony god you're teaching.

It's in part because of you're teaching messed up theology and this idea that depressed people are that way merely because they are not spiritually mature that will double your punishment when you get to hell.

See you there.


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