At a recent meeting with other youth pastors, the conversation turned to the issue of self-injury. We were all pretty saddened by how wide-spread this is among teenagers. It seems like depression, anxiety and anger rule the day with so many young adults these days. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the #1 thing I want to impart to young people I meet. The #2 thing is this: You are NOT your feelings! Both of these ideas taken together should be a warm blanket to the soul of anyone, but even among "church kids" we see large amounts of depression, anger and even cutting. I can't help but wonder how many of our young people actually understand and believe these 2 truths.
Our culture teaches us that our worth and value as people is based on how we feel, or what people think about us, or how we feel about what other people think about us. It's all wrapped up in the idea of self-esteem and belonging, and it is tearing people apart. I have seen several well-intended people share things on social media basically saying something along the lines of "Don't pay attention to people who make fun of you on the outside because you are beautiful on the inside." Is that supposed to mean that if they just knew "the real you" they would like you? All that does is instead of people judging you based on the outside, now they judge you based on the inside. And I hate to break it to you, but people are jerks. There are going to be people who mock and hate the "inside" as well as the outside. Because it's not about you. It's about them. They are jerks.
Your worth or value is NOT based on what other people think about you, inside or out. And that even means it is not based on what you think about yourself.
Please read through everything I say, because the first point is gonna be a bit hard to swallow.
You are not awesome.
According to the Bible, the Word of Almighty God who created you and knows you better than you know yourself, you are a sinful, selfish, pride-filled sinner who's wicked heart seeks to be the ruler of your own little world instead of obeying the holy, righteous and loving God who gave you life. Because of this you are not deserving of warm, happy thoughts and pep talks about individual worth and value. You deserve punishment for your crimes against the Creator who not only gave you life but continually blesses you each day despite your rebellion against Him.
But guess what ... so does everyone else! Let that one sink in.
You're not alone in this. We're all in the same boat. All those people who want to down on you and tell you you're no good ... they're no better. They are wretched little sinners just like the rest of us, so why care what they think?
So where's the warm blanket? This is feeling kinda cold.
Your worth or value is not based on how you feel or what others think. It is based on God. What He says, and what He thinks about you. And despite your sin, He still loved you enough to pay the ultimate price. Jesus underwent mocking, beating, and death. That punishment you deserved for your sin, He took that for you. Not because you are awesome, but because He loves you. Not because you deserved it, but because that's just who He is. A Savior. We look for someone to tell us that we are good and we are valuable and that we are worthy. But out heart knows better.
I once heard a pastor say (and I use it with my students at church), "It's ok to not be ok, but Jesus isn't going to leave you there."
No, you're not perfect and you're not "worthy", but guess what... He didn't say you had to be, and the mess He found you in, ... He's willing to clean it up for you. It may not happen overnight, and it may not always be fun ... but that wretched, selfish, little sinner He rescued on the Cross, He's going to transform that person into a son or a daughter of God, the King.
He pulls us out of the mud and much and filth of our broken, sinful hearts. He cleans us up and turns us into something new. Something better. We may not have been worthy, but He thought we were worth it.
So you're not perfect ... not even close ... so what? Your value isn't found in other people or even how you feel. It's found in the fact that God finds you valuable. You are valuable to Him, and nothing anyone else thinks or feels about you (including yourself) can take that away.
I grew up skinny, geeky and awkward. I was a target for every variety of bully around. I know there can be times it doesn't feel very hopeful. I know the pain is real and the feelings can seem overwhelming. But remember #2: Your feelings do not define you! Feelings come and go. Your hope is not found in feelings. It is found in knowings. Hope holds on when all reason says to let go, because we KNOW God is faithful and that He loves us, even when no one else seems to. Even when we don't love ourselves. Your hope is not based on the opinions of others. It's not even based on your own opinion. It's based on God.