There is a constant push to view ourselves highly. We are wonderful. We are beautiful. We can do anything.
The world, and, more increasingly, the “church”, encourage us to accept ourselves as we are. To love ourselves first and foremost. We are even told that we can’t learn to love others unless we have this deep, abiding love for ourselves first.
Even as I write the above sentence, I grimace inside. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And as more and more people are loving themselves first, we find a world filled with arrogance, pride, grudges, broken families, split churches, and miserable workplaces.
The fruit of the self-esteem movement has been less than stellar.
But there’s another side to this word that we don’t often talk about. And that is this: Sometimes we don’t feel all that wonderful. In fact, we feel like a big loser. We don’t have any self-esteem at all–or do we…?
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve personally struggled through something recently.
Let me first state that I am sharing this because I believe that there may be a few of you out there who struggle with this, too. Honestly, I don’t really want to share this and–please understand–I am not asking for you to encourage me or build me up. I am sharing this simply because it has happened. It is happening. And I am trying to work through it in a godly way. And maybe my struggle and how God is teaching me through it will help you, too.
A few months ago, God started allowing a few things to happen in my life that started to dig away at my confidence. While I try not to hold on to anything too tightly, I did possess a comfortable confidence in my purpose for this blog and for life, in general. But, gradually, through a number of different avenues, the assurance that I was in the right place doing the right thing faded away and I was left with a lot of question marks.
It all came to a head one day last week. And, frankly, I just wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. Thoughts poured into my head of my inadequacy, my countless flaws, my unfitness for ministry, my lack of wisdom, my selfishness, etc. If I am honest, I was a little frustrated that God had made me the way He did.
And I started to spiral down into a very dark place.
And then God turned the light on.
And I remembered something just in time:
Self-pity is just another way Satan gets us to focus on ourselves.
Did you notice all of those thoughts that poured into my head started with “my”??
When we esteem ourselves highly we are self-focused and everything that happens is about us. Whether we take self-esteem in the arrogant, prideful direction or we take off in the self-pity, woe-is-me direction, both lead us to a place of self-absorption and away from God.
How important it is that we take our eyes off of ourselves. If we aren’t careful, we can allow circumstances to lead us down one of these paths. Whether it’s the praise and glory of men or it’s their criticism and ridicule, both have the potential to lead us into this trap. We must take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), stay diligent in prayer and reading the Word, and then choose to live with great intention in order to avoid these traps and stay on the right path.
We can take great comfort from Paul’s words to the Philippians in chapter 3–
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (vs 12-14)
In these verses we read that we will never attain perfection. It is here we learn that we must press on amidst the praise and the criticism. We must keep reaching forward and pressing toward the goal. This takes intention and perseverance. It takes single-mindedness. There is no time for pouting or self-pity. These are mammoth wastes of time. As are boasting and arrogance. Both sides of self-esteem are danger zones for Christians.
So be on your guard, my friends, and don’t follow my example. Don’t spend even a second in the trap that I landed in last week. We must take our eyes off of ourselves and rest them confidently on Jesus. I conclude with these encouraging words from the author of Hebrews–
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)