When was the last time we caught ourselves straying from our daily walk with our Savior Jesus? Refreshing times come when we change our hearts and our lives to live for God alone and with God alone in our everyday lives! In fact, our Jesus has told us that he will reveal himself to us as we live obediently for him (see John 14:15-21). His home will be in us until he returns for us, and we get to enjoy the pen ultimate refreshment — our going home to be with him forever.
Acts 3:19-23 English Standard Version
19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia1 Amen.
Following the pages of social media as I try to do, I have noticed there has been quite the noticeable uptick in our interest regarding self-love and care. Being someone who has struggled with those things in the past, it has been refreshing to see and hear a renewed acceptance of valuing the health of our mental state.
Anything which promotes the wholeness of one’s mind and emotions further enables us to learn how to relate well with each other and encourage the people around us as people. There has long been a hard focus on physical health with a much smaller degree of focus on the mental and emotional health of a person.
It is somewhat relieving quite honestly, to feel okay about struggling in those areas where things “do not feel quite right” and to not feel as if there is also something inherently wrong with me and to feel alone with those feelings.
I don’t want what I am going to say next to contradict the above, but I do believe the world’s emphasis on self-esteem has become a little bit skewed in terms of the proper view. I know self-esteem is a great thing and we should continue to focus on improving all aspects of health regarding human beings, but I do also believe we have strayed a bit from the proper understanding of human beings.
One of my main points 0f contention with the modern understanding, application of so-called self-esteem boosting is we just forget that we are exactly “only human.”
By forgetting we are “only human”, one of the consequences is we are passing along false expectations of perfection being the goal of being a human.
While having an accurate view of our mental health and over-all well-being and steps which lead us to very serious decline and worse is imperative in caring for people, we also have to take serious safeguards against our passing along false expectations unto our future generations of them one day achieving perfection.
As success-oriented beings, we are always going to want to be “the very best we can be,” to accept losing and be winners and we are going to believe that to be anything less than this goal means we are not good enough yet. By continuing to encourage oneself towards self-improvement through self-esteem, we are in fact handing them the crutch upon which they will depend the rest of their life.
It is easy in our world to lose touch with the value of the inward man. Because we are an accomplishment “at all costs”- oriented society, it is hard to “rank” the inward man on those “by all means necessary” scales our culture deems the most important. Therefore, in order to feel “significant,” we focus too heavily on developing the outward things that give us “credibility” in the eyes of others.
Apostle Paul said the “outward man is always perishing.” No amount of our own “working on it” is going to change that. How sad then, it is to see people wanting to look “youthful” at every stage of their life. But, Paul, had a vastly different philosophy. He accepted the inescapable fact that the outward person is always going to be perishing, and the inward man is going to live forever.
But how exactly do we demonstrate that we value the inward man? How do we invest in that part of us which we know is most important? We have to reflect on what has been, assign what has been an appropriately critical value and work out with the inward man just what was essential to our living for Savior Jesus. We need to somehow connect with what is “rusting out and perishing” and lose them with a higher effort as we would lose our excess weight in a gymnasium.
Just as the outward parts of my body needs food, so the inward man needs food. The Bible clearly teaches me that the Word of God is that “super food.” As I approach this season of Lent 2022, when I begin to reflect back on myself, when I consider what my purpose in life is right this moment, there’s a part of me that does desire it to be something, someone who is glamorous and eternal.
I want my name to be remembered, not necessarily in a famous sense, but by the people with whom I have had a relationship. I don’t want to believe I was simply born to go to school, get a job, get married, retire, and then die. I want to steadfastly believe that I have somehow been God-gifted in this life to make an impact on this world and that people would know my name — maybe not in any famous sense but at least with the people whom I deeply care about the most.
For years, we will struggle with this internal battle of knowing the correct way, the politest, the safe and most-safest way, to view our lives and our stories.
I read in the Bible about how God has a plan for us and that we were created to live out our story according to God’s plans and purposes, but I also read about how we are fallen and sinful beings who couldn’t do anything on our own.
It always seems like my faith, your faith in God and His plan for my life, your life was in a constant and perpetual state of continuous opposition to the ideals of self-improvement and self-help the focus on self-esteem was telling me.
It seems like there were so many voices going on in our heads that all sounded right, and all felt right but seemed to be telling us vastly different things.
The same person could, on different days in vastly different scenarios, tell us that we need “devote more quality time” to believing in ourselves, that we are only sinful human beings who could only do anything because of God, and that we were knit together in our mother’s womb to do good in the world and that we had strengths/gifts that we were asked to reinvest in the people around us.
None of these three things ever seem to be or feel wrong to us and yet, they all still kinda serve to confuse our poor minds that already had an ironic tendency to view itself in an incredibly poor light. We want to be better, and we want to have a good self-esteem so as to not be so overly anxious or zealously worried over every little thing which exposes itself to our very limited field of vision.
But we also want to have an accurate view of total depravity and the necessity of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. There are times where it seems right to believe that we could do some things, that we could improve our weaknesses and become a “better person.” There are other times where we feel we could not do anything worthwhile and that we had really had no impact on the world at all.
Being human, to me, does not mean that we are called to either be 100% perfect nor 100% useless. We are to have very positive self-esteem — to understand that we have value inherently as a human being and a member of this world.
But we are also to have God-esteem — to understand that we cannot live life on our own wisdom with our own worldview and that we can only live up to our full potential only through our glorifying God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This then, ought to inevitably lead us to the goal in life to not be doing all WE can to improve our weaknesses for OUR own sake but to know that these weaknesses, though weaknesses, are the areas in which our Creator God is going to interrupt us, then intercede into and go to work on the most within us.
As members of this modern-day 21st century world, we live in a culture which is hard driven by success and a desire for acceptance through success and thus, hard won perfection. We live in a contemporary world where there is an entire genre of online literature dedicated to self-help and the amount of pressure to be accepting and open-minded in regard to accepting people for who they are and how they perceive themselves is at, what may well be, an all-time high.
We as a diverse culture are moving into a world that is driven more and more by perception than it is driven by an absolute standard of success and failure. As with any movement, there are pros and cons as people feel more and more free to be themselves and less like they have to change themselves in order to fit in. With the diversity of social media and social circles increasing, there is more of a chance for people to feel (mis)understood, like they do/don’t fit into a group.
However, there are also negative consequences to the movement as well. While it is a good thing for people to feel understood, it may not always be healthy for them to not feel as if they don’t have weaknesses. As the world continues to tell more and more people more and more that they are okay just the way they are, they are also incongruently passing along the message there is likewise nothing wrong with them. We grant access to their perception of 100% invulnerability.
When I look at Dr. Luke’s writings from the Book of Acts, and Apostle Paul’s writing in the New Testament though, I don’t see this message at all though.
Instead, I see men who were very aware of their struggles, weaknesses, and had come to the understanding that though they aren’t things to be proud of, they are thoroughly humbled of the way God was still able to work through them.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 New American Standard Bible
A Thorn in the Flesh
7 Because of the extraordinary greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to [a]torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [b]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in [c]insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
In the forefront of my mind is the maturing fear that in this world where we are growing to accept “all” people “exactly as they are,” we are losing the truth we are all humans created by the hand of God, given His own breath for living our life and there are going to be areas in our life that we struggle and aren’t good enough. But these weaknesses are not something to be ashamed of, but rather, they are the areas through which God can work the very hardest and the most.
My goal then in life is to accept who I am: as a human, as a fallen being, as that singularly unique someone who has weaknesses and struggles. But I am also going to accept that I do have gifts, strengths, and can offer value to the world; not just through these areas where I am “good” but even more so through the areas where I’m weak as God uses them to glorify Himself, to edify all others.
We can remain open to accepting people as they are and meeting them where they’re at without losing the hope offered through the gospel and the 100% fact, we absolutely need 1000% of Him in order to reach our full potential here.
In essence, let us not be so focused on establishing self-esteem that we lose our God-esteem. We are, only by the grace of God, His beloved, imperfect, children.
When we acknowledge our sin, turn away from our sinful, immoral deeds, and turn ourselves over to our Savior Jesus, true refreshment can come to us. The Holy Spirit can, will bring us life that is fresh, new, clean, and full of purpose!
We can live knowing that Savior Jesus will return for us and bring us home to our Father. In the meantime, Jesus is still present and available to those of us who live for him as he pours his fresh grace and power into our lives.
No matter what we may have done — and whatever it was, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as betraying and crucifying Jesus. When we come to Jesus as Lord, we are offered His mercy and we are forgiven, and our lives are redirected toward our future with Jesus as we live in each moment by his power and grace. We wait eagerly for the LORD God to send our “appointed Messiah” and Savior, Jesus!
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us pray,
Abba Father, as I sit and reflect upon what has been for me, I am consciously turning my life over to you today. I ask for your forgiveness for any sin that I have committed. Please refresh me through a deeper awareness of Jesus’ lordship and presence in my life today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Alleluia! Amen.