Do you struggle with feeling unimportant? Invisible? You love your family, your church, your job. Yet it all feels mundane at times—like it’s not enough. You find yourself frequently disillusioned and pining for more. But how do you find it?
I feel that way sometimes. Even though I know the trap of self-pity and bruised pride, there it is again–the disappointment, the frustration, the loathing at my own failure to succeed and my ambition to do something extraordinary.
Why is my self-worth continually bound up in my productivity and popularity? I blame my culture, of course. The fast-paced suburban lifestyle can steer the best of us toward a pattern of materialism and competitiveness.
No convent or spiritual retreat can rid the soul of the quest to accomplish, to achieve greatness, to pursue and conquer —-what, exactly? Does success make me a better believer or just make me feel better about myself? (Temporarily.)
As a life-long follower of Jesus and his teachings, I know all the correct responses required to fight the battle against low self-esteem and disillusionment:
- I am created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27)
- God knew me in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13)
- God created me for a purpose (1 Cor. 10:31)
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14)
- My body is a temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 6:19)
- God has a plan for my life (Jer. 29:11)
Okay, okay. I know I’m important because God says I am. He died for me. Then why do I keep striving? Why do I still want to believe the lies of do more, be more, get more.
This age-old conflict has played out since the Garden of Eden: Adam was cursed to do physical labor, which he would never finish; Eve was cursed to strive with her husband, yet she would maintain the desire to control him. While blessed with children, she was cursed with the struggle to balance love with discipline and heartache with delight; she would always desire to do more for her family and always feel like she hadn’t done enough. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Her children would experience the same angst. When God explicitly instructed them in the art of worship—how to have a spiritual relationship with God, Cain and Abel responded differently. Longing for God’s acceptance, Cain brought the best he had produced (not what God demanded, but a lovely accomplishment, nonetheless). Abel brought exactly what God required–a dead lamb, a life sacrificed, with none of his own accomplishments attached at all. God rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s. (Was God showing them that spirituality has nothing to do with what you can accomplish?)
This rocks my world. So it doesn’t matter what I actually do in life? It only matters if my worship is to God? That will make me feel important?
Take notice of some phrases spoken by Jesus when his listeners struggled with their own importance (and I’ll bet they struggled with their activities and ambitions, too!):
- he who loses his life will find it (Mtt. 10:39)
- if you want to become great, become a servant of all (Mk. 9:31)
- the first shall be last, and the last shall be first (Mtt. 20:16)
- whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Mtt. 23:12)
Here’s the surprising truth: worthiness—fulfillment—importance are all linked to worship of God as the worthy, fulfilling, important one; whenever I serve or worship my own agendas, I experience feelings of unworthiness, un-fulfillment, and unimportance–whenever I lift up what I have done (still a result of God’s grace), all the blessing and all the worthiness leaks out of it; I am left holding an empty trophy, which I will then discard in my quest for another shinier, more valuable prize. You know the rest—no trophy is ever good enough. I am always left feeling empty, even when surrounded by the glitter of my life’s accomplishments.
True fulfillment is only achieved through the process of becoming empty. When I have nothing left with which to glorify myself, I can actually glorify God. And whenever I sit in God’s presence, I will no longer care about feeling important. In fact, I will bask in my own unworthiness and the grace with which He covers me.
Whenever I struggle with feelings of unworthiness and failure, that’s my pride talking, not my humility. Pride is the reason I feel cheated, competitive, unnoticed, or imperfect.
Here are a few practical suggestions for reminding yourself what God says about the issue of importance:
- Write the verses about your worth (from above) on 3×5 cards and place them around the house; memorize them.
- When you are deciding where to put your energy and time, ask yourself: “Am I doing this for God’s glory or my own glory?”
- Ask yourself daily, “Am I satisfied with God and what He’s given me?” Then thank Him for all you have, especially the things that frustrate you.
You are worthy and valuable and important to God. But your life is not about you. It’s about Him. When you keep that perspective, it changes everything you do and everything you value.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”–Phil. 2:5-11
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