For most of my life, I believed I was simply a worthless sinner who God tolerated as a result of Jesus’ work on the cross. Sure, I “knew” that God loved me, but I believed that I was still a wretch with minimal value. Throughout years of working in ministry, I’ve known so many missionaries, college students, and Christians who also view themselves in this way, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Maybe your default is to view yourself this way. Maybe at a conscious level you think that you’re completely worthless, or have little to no value. Maybe you view yourself as a failure, without anything to offer this world. Maybe you believe that there’s something inherently wrong with who you are and that you’ll never fit in or will never measure up in life.
Or maybe you don’t consciously hold these views about yourself but they operate at a subconscious level. Throughout life, especially in early years, we look to people’s actions and words to find our value. Over time, we buy into what people say or communicate to us about our worth, which can so easily lead to a low view of ourselves. Maybe for you, it was being bullied or rejected by others. Maybe others approved of you when you performed well, but didn’t approve of you when you failed. Maybe you weren’t allowed to express your opinions, or your voice wasn’t valued growing up. Maybe a parent or sibling was constantly annoyed with you, or was physically or emotionally absent. All of these scenarios, intentional or not, can communicate a lack of value, leading us to develop negative core beliefs about our worth.
What we truly believe about ourselves is revealed daily through our circumstances.
As these negative core beliefs can so often operate at a subconscious level, they can be difficult to identify. But, what we truly believe about ourselves is revealed daily through our circumstances. Do your fears and interactions with others reveal that you often think you’re going to fail or be rejected? Do you find yourself procrastinating on tasks, or getting overwhelmed and dreading failure? Do you find yourself getting angry when someone disagrees with, or rejects or embarrasses you? Do you fear conflict, or find yourself trying to make others happy and doing whatever it takes to “keep the peace”?
All of these reactions reveal negative core beliefs about our worth, otherwise known as low self worth or low self-esteem. If we’re honest, I think most of us don’t have great self esteem. If we truly believed we were of great value, we would be steadfast in who we were created to be and wouldn’t deal so heavily with these scenarios that reveal our fears, anger, and ways of attempting to manage our value.
So, is the solution to just try to develop better self-esteem? Pop psychology will tell you to just believe in yourself, to essentially just try harder to think positively about who you are, that you need to have better self-esteem. But there’s a significant problem with this method. We need something outside of ourselves, as humans, to define our worth. We can’t just create a subjective standard of value. There has to be an objective standard of value from an outside source, greater than ourselves.
We don’t need better self-esteem, we need better God-esteem.
So we don’t need better self-esteem, we need better God-esteem. To truly believe in our core beliefs who we are as image bearers (imago dei) of God. To truly believe in who He specifically made each and every one of us with our specific personalities, gifts, and talents (Psalm 139:13-14). Christian or not, we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), meaning we, unlike animals or other aspects of creation are given distinct dignity and value. The entire earth was entrusted to us to rule and reign over (Genesis 1:28). The very breath of God breathed life into human beings, unlike animals or other created things (Genesis 2:7). God created humans and said “it is very good” (Genesis 1:31) not “it is very worthless”.
Sure, mankind fell into sin and turned away from God, which I don’t want to minimize (that’s an entire other blog post), but the first thing God did was come after them to seek reconciliation (Genesis 3:9). Turning away from God, choosing sin over Him, never changed our worth or God’s love for us. Once sin entered the world and we were born sinful by nature (Psalm 51:5), we never ceased to be created in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Our inherent value never changed.
God doesn’t merely tolerate or love us as a result of Christ’s work on the cross.
Jesus didn’t go to the cross to be tortured, die, and defeat death for the sake of trash. In love, He went to the cross to redeem and restore a relationship with that which was lost. One of the most well known verses in scripture says it plainly, “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only son…” (John 3:16). God doesn’t merely tolerate or love us as a result of Christ’s work on the cross. Rather, His love was the fuel for Christ’s work. So whether or not we follow Christ, God has radical love for us and we are of great value.
This doesn’t mean we are ok in our brokenness and sin. We need forgiveness and reconciliation with God drastically, which is why entering into a relationship with Christ is so necessary. How much more so are we loved by God when we are adopted into His family and become His children. How much more does a father love and care for those that are his own. As a result of Jesus’ work on the cross, we are adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5), approved of and accepted (Romans 15:7), made right in God’s eyes and blameless (Romans 3:28), and an indispensable part of His kingdom work (1 Corinthians 12:22). God the Father’s love for His children is as great as His love for Jesus. We see this clearly when Jesus prayed to God the Father saying “you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23b).
So, our value, as defined by God, is absolutely essential for us to grasp. What we truly believe, not just intellectual but in our heart of hearts, will dictate how we live, love, and interact with God and others. There’s a direct correlation between our view of God and our view of ourselves.
A.W. Tozer once stated “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Following that train of thought further…what we truly believe about God, and therefore ourselves and others, is the most important thing about us. Jesus summed up the old testament law by saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27). So the degree to which we love others is directly correlated to our ability to love ourselves. And our ability to love ourselves is directly correlated to our ability to love God and understand who He truly is. When we don’t have a right view of God, we won’t have a right view of ourselves and our value, which will lead us to seek worth in other ways.
If we could get identity from our performance, then Jesus died in vain.
Attempting to perform to get our worth from anyone, be it ourselves, God, or other people will always end in futility. Performance is the essence of man made religion, which teaches you to do good in an attempt to be loved by God. But Christianity teaches that since we are already loved by God, we do good as a result. We don’t do good in order to earn God’s love, we do good as a result of already receiving God’s love.
Think about this…if we could get identity from our performance, then Jesus died in vain. Jesus’ whole mission on earth was to live the perfect life that we could never live, fully obeying God the Father, and die taking the punishment and separation from God that we deserve as a result of our rebellion and sin. Jesus already performed for the approval of God for us. It’s done. Through Jesus, we can be fully loved and fully approved of by God.
So Christian, rest in your value as an image bearer and your new identity as a son, a daughter, who has been adopted into His family. Dwell on who God says you are and how much He values you. Meditate on times in life where you have felt His love and experienced His acceptance.
You’re not defined by what you’ve done to someone, you’re not defined by what you’ve done to yourself, you’re not defined by what’s been done to you, you’re defined by Jesus and the identity that He has given you as His beloved son or daughter.
And if you wouldn’t call yourself a follower of Jesus, know how much love God has for you and how much value you have as His image bearer. God desires to have a personal relationship with you. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Seek Him. He is worth it. You were created to know Him.
RECOMMENDED NEXT STEP
Download the Working Through Pain document. This will help you identify and work through painful life experiences in life that have led to broken core beliefs about yourself, God, and others. It will give you practical steps to implement Biblical scripture meditation to fight lies and to renew your mind.