Recently, the teenage daughter of some dear friends of ours made a very heartfelt post on Facebook. She wrote about recent struggles with self-esteem and self worth and the stress and heartache it causes her. She asked for prayer and recommendations for scripture that could help her.
This shows a tremendous amount of courage and maturity for this sweet young lady to make such a public statement about her struggles. What she may not know is that all of us, adults as well as teenagers, often face these very same challenges. The fact is, we live in a broken world. Everyone, whether she is a follower of Jesus or not, lives in this fallen world where we are inundated with negative messages and thoughts. And Christians face the additional struggle of having to deal with the spiritual negativity thrown at us by Satan. Whether it’s struggles with school, feeling stressed at work, feeling anxious about finances, or feeling inadequate in our relationships, we all face similar challenges. But what is so incredible is, as Christians, we worship the God of all creation! Christ is the mighty, awesome, eternal, great “I AM” who created and holds together the entire universe; and he cares for each of us more than we can possibly know.
One of the challenges that we all face in dealing with self-esteem issues is that self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves. Self-esteem is based on self-directed thoughts. It is a way of thinking that is focused inward. And this way of thinking gives us the false, dangerous idea that if we can only do better or are somehow good enough, then we will feel better about ourselves.
The problem is, none of us are “good enough.” While we may feel good when we achieve success, popularity, or accomplishment, these are temporary. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). All of us are fallen, sinful, messed up people. No matter who we are or what we do, we all mess up. We struggle with self-worth and self-esteem because we use ourselves or others as our measure of our worth. This is the wrong measure, and the wrong thing to focus on!
So what should we use as our measure? Paul gives us the answer to the problem in the very next verse where he writes that we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
As Christians we shouldn’t base our worth on how we feel about ourselves. Instead, we should base our worth on how God feels about us! Kristen Clark at the blog site, “GirlDefined” puts it this way: “we know that our worth and value doesn’t come from what other people think about us or from how well we perform in life. Our worth and value has nothing to do with us ‘earning’ it.” This is the wonderful message of Christianity: It doesn’t matter who we are, or how bad we think we’ve messed up, or how bad we feel about ourselves or our situation; through the grace of Christ Jesus, we are forgiven! There is nothing we can do to “earn” his grace. It’s a free gift! If we look at ourselves the way God sees us, we’ll have a completely different perspective. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co 5:21). In Christ, God sees us as he sees his own son: perfectly righteous!
The solution to low self-esteem and low self-worth is to stop focusing on ourselves. Our focus should instead be on Christ. In the Gospel of Luke, Christ tells us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
This is the wonderful, liberating message of the gospel. When we take the focus off ourselves and instead focus on Christ, this frees us to become the people that he wants us to be. Author Leslie Ludy writes, “When we let self fade into the background and become consumed with Jesus Christ, our personal insecurities will melt away. We no longer look to ourselves – our own merit, talent, beauty, or uniqueness – to find confidence. Instead, we learn to find our confidence in who He is, rather than in who we are.”
The hymnist Edward Mote gave us a profound way of looking at this when he penned these words over 150 years ago.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
~My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (Edward Mote, 1797-1874).
So, to my young friend who is struggling with self-esteem, I would say, shift your focus more on Christ. He is the one who can provide true and lasting security. In Christ you will find true worth, but not based on yourself, but on his perfect righteousness!