3) Substitute Self-Esteem for Slavery…Yields Freedom
When we achieve stillness, we can see the truth more clearly and it is that much easier to control ourselves and make better decisions. Part of that truth is seeing ourselves and the world through God’s eyes. Our self-esteem will rise from recognizing and accepting our God-given worth. Regardless of what we’ve told ourselves, what the world has told us about ourselves, or our past/current/future disobedience and failures, we are loved so much that God gave His only Son to save us from ourselves. He humbled Himself, a King, to come to this world in our same form and suffered the consequences of our sins so that He could show us the way home. He loves us so much that He knit us together in our mother’s womb, numbers each hair on our head, never leaves us or forsakes us, and prepares a special place of honor for us in heaven. And the more we fail or make mistakes, the more His love and grace cover us. What an amazing God!
Yet, as amazing, wise, and loving as He is…as passionately and relentlessly as He pursues our hearts and requited love…and for as long as we might know, love, and walk with Him…we still tend to keep returning to our pain like dogs to their vomit. Even after knowing His peace, if even for a moment, we reject his invitation for continual peace and self-worth. He stands at the door, every moment of every day, and knocks to invite us to follow Him and know the peace of drinking from a never-ending well of satisfaction, serenity, and complete freedom from all that so easily entangles us. Going back to our friend Bob, this has been a familiar emotional state for me personally and maybe you can relate:
I feel awful and I’m so overwhelmed with so many things in life, but I’ll tell myself I feel good, great, wonderful, and maybe I’ll actually feel that way. We lie to ourselves to cover up our anxieties, deficiencies, etc. instead of facing the truth about our circumstances and our emotions, and giving up control to God. Slavery comes with the nasty side effect of chronic stress and the prognosis of physical and mental destruction. We look for our addictions of choice to escape and give us freedom, but instead they enslave us, control us like puppets on strings, and keep us wanting more…we are never satisfied…we are always thirsty. We think very highly of ourselves (whether we realize it or not) to think we know better and to be so focused on and consumed with our own troubles, feelings, or otherwise pitiful, miserable state of existence…while ironically our self-esteem plummets to all-time lows as deceitful thoughts of ending our pain and our worthlessness in a world of no meaning are planted in our heads by the enemy. We can unwittingly nourish such lies to grow and lead to a mistake we can’t take back, or we can immediately recognize them for the lies they are and replace them with the truth.
As I write this, I’ve heard news of three local suicides in the last week: a male teen active in a Christian church and school, a middle-aged female, and a male college student. I keep thinking of how the world is now permanently altered because of these people’s decisions to take their own life…all because of lies they believed and perspectives that trapped them in a hell of their own making. I’ve been there. I’ve thought those things, but thankfully managed to correct that thinking. Did anyone else see any warning signs? Could anyone have helped them? I believe they could have helped themselves greatly by getting into/staying in God’s Word and guarding their minds, hearts, and bodies. God could have helped them to salvage and transform their lives, thinking, and being into something beautiful for all the world to see. In the classic Paradise Lost, John Milton writes, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” We keep drinking from the muddy waters that are difficult to reach instead of the clear and pure spring waters that easily flow a couple feet away if only we would humble ourselves and bend low to drink our fill.
In a godly sense of self-esteem, both denial and arrogance have no place to stand. Instead, the self-esteem God wants for us is full of genuine transparency…with Him, ourselves, and others. Like a car that is meant to run on diesel fuel, that car cannot run as it was meant to run if you fill it with any other kind of fuel. We all come with that soul need I mentioned earlier or a “God shaped hole,” and we can only run as we were meant to if we fill it with God. We need to constantly seek Him and evaluate what it means to die to ourselves and to live for Him. What benefit am I getting from the bad habits/addictions/behaviors/thoughts that I’m continuing to allow in my life? What good habits and thoughts can I put in their place? Realizing that God and His grace is enough, we must partake in a constant emptying of ourselves and filling of God (our well of living water) to be full and remain full. If you are full of light, there is no room for darkness to enter even if you are surrounded by it. Enjoy God’s presence. Pray continually, expect abundant blessings, and accept difficulties as they come. He is the weaver of miracles, hope, and treasures in backdrops of darkness.
Remember that “happy” is often superficial, temperamental, temporary…while “joy” is deep, steadfast, eternal. As we move from Joy to Contentment, and from Contentment to Freedom, we find ourselves mature and complete. The “needs” disappear. Like a lotto ball, we go from frantically and aimlessly ricocheting around the box to settling into our place. We move from searching for fulfillment in earthly things that we deem most important and that end up ruling us to finding our place in God and living for what is truly important. We enjoy Him, His heavenly blessings, and the earthly blessings we were meant to rule over.
In fact, my What About Bob t-shirt should say, “Don’t hassle me, I’m not local.” Our home is in heaven with God; we’re just visiting. Really, this life is just one big vacation…complete with the unforgettable moments of beauty and the trivial or sometimes not-so-trivial frustrations and inconveniences of trouble. We’re just passing through so we need to travel light and continually give our burdens up to God. So, let’s stop needing to cope by taking a permanent “vacation from my problems.” Like the Serenity Prayer guides us to do, either do something about your problem if you can or give it up to God. Dr. Leo Marvin, and most people, advocate taking baby steps, or taking problems, tasks, or goals on in small, manageable steps. Baby steps are important, but so are giant steps, or taking the leaps of faith that show ourselves and the world that our complete trust and freedom is in God alone.
Look for the final part in this series “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme…I Need, I Need, Part 7: Choosing the Beautiful and Narrow Path” to be posted soon! Enter your email address on the left to follow this blog and be notified of new postings.