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As many of you know, the brand of biblical counseling that OAM does is quite different from secular psychological counseling (which we don't really believe is valid for Christians or actually anyone, see our article Biblical Counseling ). The counseling we do is distinctively biblical because we believe the problems people have in their lives are caused because they are unaware of the true character of God, or because they are unwilling to believe what they know from the Bible to be true about Him.

When we encounter a problem, in our own lives or in the lives of those we work with, we go directly to the Bible and see what it has to say about that problem. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 gives us the reason why this is the purpose for the Bible: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." When we line up our beliefs about God with the written word of God, this is the first step towards healing and towards learning the "secret" Paul knew in Philippians 4:12-13, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."

On the topic of self-esteem, the first place to go is the Bible. We must note in our study of the Bible that there are absolutely no instances of God encouraging someone to have a better "self-esteem". However, there are many, many places where God tells people not to think more highly of themselves (Romans 12:3; Luke 16:15; Deut. 17:14-20; 1 Kings 19:3-18; Proverbs 16:19; 25:6,7; Luke 14:7-11), and in Phil. 2:3-4 we are told to "consider others as better than yourselves".

Unfortunately for modern psychology, the Bible does not in any way support the idea that mankind needs to think MORE of him/herself. The theme of the Bible tells us that the problem mankind struggles with is not thinking too lowly of ourselves, but thinking too highly, i.e., pride. I know that those who are reading this who are struggling with "low self-esteem" will not find this easy to hear, but I can tell you that it is what the Bible indicates.

There are two basic things you must know about how we were created. First, we were created in the image of God, out of God's wonderful creativity. This means that we have a certain dignity, given to us not because of who we are, but because God was our Creator. A painting by Picasso can be made of the same things as a painting by Chalkbrd, but hey, which one do you think is worth more? (And if you've ever seen my stick figures, you'll understand this. Ask my students! LOL) Our dignity is rooted in God's character, His creativity and His love. In and of ourselves, however, we have no value...we are merely the dust of the ground. But because He loves us, we become valuable.

Secondly, since we are all part of the human race, we bear inside us a sin nature. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) None of us are worthy of anything short of the wages of sin, death. (Romans 6:23) We don't "deserve" anything.

As always in keeping with the Bible, these two things must be kept in balance for us to live the lives God has created for us. We must always be mindful of our dignity and our depravity, the two extremes of our character. To go too far in either direction takes us out of the path God has set before us and into a path of pride and selfishness.

What is termed today as "low self-esteem" is in fact a form of the sin of pride. Please hear me all the way out before you turn me off. Let me explain why I believe this is the biblical view.

As I said before, there are two aspects of each human that we must always keep in balance, dignity and depravity. When we lean to the dignity side, we become arrogant, and it becomes obvious that we are dealing with a sin of pride. But leaning towards the depravity side also is a matter of pride.

Those who have "low self-esteem" hate themselves for many reasons, all of which are focused on themselves. And in order to "prove" how very much they hate themselves, the respond in various manners, depending on the person: mentally, verbally, or physically "abusing" themselves (this often comes in the form of cutting or starving themselves).

When we verbally "abuse" ourselves within the hearing of others, this becomes similar to those who used to wear sackcloth and ashes and walk miles on their knees to make penance for their sins. The reason it is done publicly is so others can tell them things such as, "Oh, you're not really so bad. You are really a good person inside." Unfortunately, words like these can never satisfy a person with "low self-esteem" because s/he knows inside that these words are not true. And indeed, God Himself tells us, "No one is good--except God alone." (Mark 10:18) and Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

But God knows our hearts and He has already provided the cure. Jesus Christ, God Himself, came to earth in the form of a man and paid the price for our sins on the cross. At that time, each soul had a price sticker put on it that declared it the most valuable thing in the universe because it was bought by the pain and suffering and blood of God.

When we deny that we have value, we are in essence being too proud to accept the value God has placed on us. Instead of merely being grateful that God took someone such as us who had so many flaws and weaknesses and yet He loves us so much He died for us, we basically tell Him that His love doesn't mean anything or that He is lying when He tells us He loves us.

Those who have talked to me have heard the 3 questions I ask. 1. Do you really believe God is all-powerful and could change your situation if He chooses to? 2. Do you really believe God is all-knowing and knows everything you are going through? and 3. Do you really believe that God loves you perfectly and will always turn things that happen to you into your ultimate best?

Those who have "low self-esteem" will often say yes to the first two, but hesitate on the third one. "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so" was very easy to sing as a child and even as an adult, but to put our confidence in this can only be done by someone who is humble enough to accept God's love.

And this is the key. When our worth is dependent on what those around us think of us or on what we think of ourselves, it is a bogus worth. The only worth we have is not a worth that comes because we ARE worthy, but because God is love. And when we deny His love, we are setting ourselves up as little gods, determining that our worth should come from a different source than God says it should. It is the sin of pride.

So, the answer to "low self-esteem" is to understand that we do not DESERVE anything because we, in and of ourselves, are worthless. Yet, because the God of the Universe has chosen to love us and redeem us with His very life, we have gained a value that is beyond compare. Knowing we are worthless humbles us before God and allows us to appreciate His grace and love, which are given to us even though we don't deserve them. Knowing we are loved by God and redeemed by His blood, we see the value of each and every soul on this earth.

Practically speaking, if you are caught up in the "low self-esteem" trap, it will leave you open for bad relationships of all kinds. You will be constantly looking for friends and romantic relationships where the person will focus in on you and keep telling you how "wonderful" you are (that certainly sounds like pride, doesn't it?), instead of surrounding yourself with true friends whose goal is to move you closer to God, even if that requires them to tell you a truth you might not want to hear. Yet the compliments the false friends say will never truly satisfy your soul because it knows the truth.

To climb out of this trap, you must retrain (1 Tim. 4:7) yourself to see the truth. God says He loves us: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." (Jeremiah 31:3; other examples are Ex. 34:6; 1 Chronicles 16:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Ps. 6:4; 13:5; John 3:16; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:11)

After reading such passages, you have to ask yourself: Is God a liar? No! This means that when you FEEL like you are worthless, then your feelings are contradicting what God said and either your feelings are liars or God is. Which do you think is more reliable?

When you are feeling worthless, the first thing to do is confess before God your sin of not believing God's words. Confession means that we agree with God that our behavior is sin. Too many times we want to excuse ourselves or use another term that isn’t as “bad” as sin, but we must be honest before God and ourselves and call sin what it is. Then, since He has already given us forgiveness on the cross, we then need to accept this forgiveness and thank Him for His generosity and love to us. Then ask Him to help you to choose to believe His statement of love for you and the sacrifice He made for you instead of believing your feelings, which are false.

Are you alone in this struggle? No, not at all. Many today are looking for the same answers you are. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin in his life (see Romans 7:14-25) and he concluded, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Let’s join Paul and take the focus off of ourselves and put it where it belongs, on the One who bought us at such a great price, Jesus our Lord and Savior.

 

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