Not enough. Unimportant. Unnecessary. Unlovable.
I used to think that the thoughts in my head all came from a deep place of truth inside me that God put there when he created me. Where else would these thoughts come from? However, the truth is, that the things we tell ourselves come from a lot of places: our experiences, our interpretation of those experiences and our associated feelings. We also interpret what others say to us, the way we view ourselves, how we compare ourselves to others, names others have called us, and so on. If we let them, these words and interpreted experiences, can eat us up and consume us. They can lead to anxiety and depression. This is what is was like for me, my default sinful situation.
On one hand, I knew that God relentlessly loved me, yet I also believed that I was unlovable, unimportant, and not enough. It wasn’t that I thought I should work hard to attain God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, more so that I was utterly undeserving of anything God offered. While this is in part true, we are all undeserving of God’s grace, I had fallen captive to the thoughts I assumed others had about me and I wholeheartedly believed them. While I knew that God loved me, I had not completely surrendered everything to him because I was of the belief that God couldn’t possibly entirely love me in the way that he loves everyone else. I was stuck between wanting the freedom that God offered but unsure how to fully grasp it. I regularly compared myself to others’ social media highlights and worked hard to put up a front that I was fine, in control and confident. My mantra was, ‘if you don’t feel like it, act like it’ and I was able to fool a lot of people – even myself! But what I have learned is that it is not about what other people think of me, as that is not where my true identity lies.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor 5:17)
Identity is ‘the fact of being who or what a person or thing is’. Identity may be acquired indirectly from parents, peers, and other role models. We come to define ourselves in terms of how we think others see us. However, God offers us something radically different from what the world offers. This is why it is so important to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb 12:2) by lifting our gaze heavenward and recentering our hearts on Him. A visual way I like to think of this is to put on “eternity goggles” to block out the insecurities and untruths the world tells me that I am, and instead focus upon the enriching and transforming truths that God claims me to be. The concept of “eternity goggles” encourages me to consider long lasting truths that actually matter, rather than worldly quick fixes. I find it helpful to keep a list of biblical “I am” statements that I can readily access, add to, and reread when I feel the worldly untruths creep in. These statements help my heart and mind to seek God through his Word. I find this both refreshing and uplifting in ways that the world cannot offer. These statements provide me a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
- I am a child of God (1 John 3:2)
- I am loved (John 15:9)
- I am redeemed (1 Peter 1:18-19)
- I am forgiven (Acts 13:39)
- I am beloved (Romans 1:7)
- I am not forsaken (Hebrews 13:5)
- I am saved (Hebrews 7:25)
- I am no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:6)
- I am alive in Christ (Romans 6:11)
- I am accepted (Romans 15:7)
- I am strong (Deut 31:6)
- I am chosen (Eph 1:3-4)
- I am brave (1 Tim 1:7)
- I am free (Romans 8:1-2)
- I am complete (Col 2:10)
- I am victorious (1 Cor 15:57)
- I am a new creation (1 Cor 5:17)
- I am a citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20)
- I am secure (John 10:28)
- I am God’s workmanship (Eph 2:10)
Knowing my true identity is in Christ is how I completely connect with God. For me, it always comes back to identity. Once I surrendered to Jesus, that is where my true worth comes from. I belong to someone who deeply loves me not based on anything that I am or have/have not done. Rather, based on everything that He is. My identity in Christ gives me freedom to worship, freedom to sing, freedom to pray, freedom to meditate, freedom to fellowship, freedom to share the Gospel and freedom to read his Word without being held captive by negative thoughts that lead to negative feelings, and the downward spiral of anxious and depressive thoughts. It doesn’t mean that everything is always great (the world is a troubling place!), but it does mean I see myself as one radically loved by Jesus Christ. It is a shift in my thinking of who I am and how I see myself based on biblical truths.
“Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am”
(Who You Say I Am – Hillsong)
The way that I ensure that my heart and mind are putting on their “eternity goggles” is by regularly self-reflecting through journaling and being mindful of the way I use my words and actions. I try to fill my head with uplifting and identity focused Christian lyrics so that I am continually telling myself truth, rather than allowing others’ words, and negativity to sneak in. Our words and actions show what is in our heart, what we believe about ourselves, and what we are allowing to influence us. When I start to notice that I am speaking negatively about myself or about others, I am reminded to go back to God to seek his truth. Ultimately, this is the only truth that matters.
‘Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’ (Proverbs 4:23)
Returning to God is not a band-aid solution, nor does it minimise our hurt. Going to God is transformative as the Holy Spirit works in and through us to make us more like Christ. God’s Word powerfully works in the heart and renews the mind (Rom 12:2). It is only by repenting of our sin and seeking God’s forgiveness that we can be reconciled back to Him. It is all because of what Jesus has done on the cross when he died and was raised from the death that gives us access to the transformative power of God actively working in our lives (2 Cor 3:18). Living like this is so unlike the world; it is freeing and renewing of our whole person. It is who we truly are. It is who we are purposed to be. It is how God created us.
Enough. Important. Necessary. Loved beyond measure.
by Emila Ma