I’m usually a happy and positive person, but in the past few weeks negative thoughts crept into my mind. I realized I’ve been putting myself down, degrading my self-esteem, and ruining any self-love. During my small group this week, I came up with the idea of writing down all the ways that I don’t love myself and then finding verses countering what I was telling myself. These verses are either ways that God loves me or ways he gives encouragement or direction when I start self-shaming or thinking negative. I know these thoughts aren’t unique to me, so maybe one of these verses will stick out to you.
“I don’t always try my best (school work, relationships, exercise, etc.)”
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
I can’t do my best if I’m only relying on my own strength, which I do a lot. Everything I do should be for the glory of God, and if I try to do things not with the purpose of fulfilling His will, they will fail. If I keep God ever in my mind and the focus of everything I do, I can go further than I thought I ever could. An example I’ve seen in my life recently is with my running. Next week I’m running a 5k to help feed the hungry, and I was trying to push myself that extra mile, but I just couldn’t do it. I kept thinking “Come on Abby, just a little further; don’t think about your burning lungs or tired legs or sweaty face or stinky clothes. Yeah, stop thinking about all of that”. That mindset wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go because it was focused on myself and relying on my own strength. When I changed my mindset to “You’re running to feed the hungry. Every step helps fight hunger.”, I found that I could go further, and I radically increased my endurance. When I had a purpose and focus greater than my own little world, the temporary pain and discomfort faded away. No longer were they stopping blocks, but they turned into milestones that I passed, energized with God’s strength.
“I try but fail at disciplining myself (eating, exercise, reading my Bible, praying, etc.)”
“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.”
If I do rely on God’s strength to do my best, I have greater trust in Him. When I trust in Him, I allow for His guidance to reach my ears, and He helps me maintain discipline. My Bible notes that “You who revere my name…” can be read as “You who fear my name…” i.e. “You who reverently trust in the LORD and are committed to his will as revealed in his word…”. So when I trust in the LORD, I can be renewed by Jesus, and the disciplines that I sometimes groan about will become not burdens; I will “frolic” because as my mindset changes and I begin to enjoy practicing the disciplines, I am released from doing stuff I don’t want to do. I’m not good at reading my Bible often, but when I begin a Bible study trusting that God will speak to me, I find myself eager to find what He says.
“I compare myself to others (body image, extroverts, faith depth, how well liked”
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-one on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.”
-Matthew 18: 12-13
From this parable I see that in His eyes I am so precious, and He will come look for me. I am special to Him because He created me unique. If I were like the others and not unique, what difference would I make if I were lost or not? I was created for a special purpose, and He prepares me to succeed at that purpose. Comparing myself to others is comparing apples to oranges: yes, we’re both humans, but our purposes in life are so different that there’s not much to draw comparison of. Everything we’re made of (physically, intellectually, spiritually) is for our purpose. Every detail of our being was created unique by a God who has a purpose for us. There’s a girl in my small group whom I found myself comparing myself to spiritually, but then I thought of how different our purposes are. She’s majoring in theatre, and I’m majoring in Communications which are going to lead us down completely different paths. If we trust in and obey God, our spiritual journeys will be well suited to wherever He takes us.
“I build walls and keep people out”
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Sometimes I realize that it really doesn’t make sense to push people away. Others are here to support me and help hold me up when I can’t stand. I think it’s a mindset of self-protection that I push others away, but by sharing what’s going on inside, I’m not alone in my struggles. When I get stressed, I usually become quieter and try to act like everything’s okay even though inside I desperately want someone I trust to ask me what’s wrong. Whenever I do eventually open up to a friend, there’s such relief afterwards. It’s like when I was a child and had nightmares; my mom told me that if I told her about the dream, it wouldn’t happen again. Friends and loved ones are there to help support during trying times, whether it’s stress or bad dreams.
“I don’t love myself if I feel like others don’t love me”
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Find love in the LORD. His love is everlasting, so there is never a time when He does not love me. Yes, His love can be seen in the love from others, but that brings about the question Do we love the people of God more than we love the God of the people? If I realize how much God loves and adores me, I’m not sure I would be able to not love myself. Not only is His love everlasting, but it is a deep, intense love. Is the cross not enough to prove that? I’ve started doing something to help me love myself a bit more. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to smile. I love myself most when I’m happy, so even if I don’t feel super smiley inside, seeing the smile on my face makes me feel a little happier.
“I’m lazy/waste my time”
“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
If I persevere, the wonderful plan God has created for me will be realized. Keeping the end as my focus and maintaining a reliance on God’s strength, I can do all things. I can overcome laziness and change the world in God’s name. My hopes and dreams could be realized. Just by being obedient. The second part of the verse speaks of imitate others who are diligent. This may seem like procrastination, but often times when I feel lazy or unmotivated to go workout, I go on Pinterest to the Health&Fitness section and look at the motivational quotes and people who have changed their lives for the better. I also have a few fitness and spiritual blogs that I follow and look at whenever I need someone to imitate.
“Even when I achieve something, I’m still not good enough.”
I am not worthless. The God of the universe sees me as His treasure. Even more astounding is He sees me as His daughter. And it’s not because of me that I am enough in His eyes; it is by God’s love that I am enough. I think this song by Casting Crowns captures it well:
Psalm 13:5 “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 18:16,19 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me … He rescued me because he delighted in me.”