Updated: May 2, 2020
My self-worth was at an all time low yesterday. I felt numb. I felt useless. I felt nothing. Feelings can be very convincing. They can be an accurate reflection of the heart but they are not always an accurate reflection of the truth. For the last few weeks during social distancing, I felt useful and hopeful. Then seemingly out of nowhere, I was hit by heavy and sad feelings. Feelings that I pushed aside because they're uncomfortable and painful. I reflected on my feelings and realized something, I was on a crash course toward the truth: I lived for approval. Approval that lead to feelings of resentment. Resentment that lead to feelings of betrayal. Betrayal that lead me to feelings of despair.
These don't seem like feelings that I "should" be feeling if I know God loves me. Clearly God's love matters more than approval from people, but the greatest critic I was facing was me. I have a broken record that skips and gets stuck on the song of regret. "How could you let this happen to you?" "Why didn't you speak up?" "Why doesn't anyone listen?" All of these feeling and questions really aren't directed at others or God, they're directed at me. The longer I listen to the broken record of regret, the more pervasive my despair and the deeper I get pressed down.
At the core of my desperate feelings was a lie that motivated my need for approval. The longer I try to gain approval, the deeper my pit of despair grows because it's farther away from the truth. The truth is that my value and importance isn't wrapped up in my performance. It's not wrapped up in my usefulness. It's not wrapped up in a perfectly written blog or a homemade, delicious loaf of bread. My value is intrinsic because I was made in the image of God.
I started a Bible study the other day and I was stumped on the first simple question. "What is the image of God, and what does it mean to be created in His image?" I have a degree in Bible, I should know the answer. I couldn't wrap my head around it though. Immediately, I thought about all the things that God did and I can't do. I felt defeated and frustrated. I was immediately thrown back to my broken record and down in the dumps. I tried to move on to the next devotion, but I knew I needed to work this out. I felt like it held something I was missing that was keeping me pressed down. Then I considered the question again and noticed the word, created.
I have had the blessing of seeing four beautiful lives be created in my body. None of my children are the same. None of them look exactly like me. They are created in my image and in my likeness and because of this I know they are mine. I am created in the image and likeness of God and I am His. I don't love them because of what they do. I love them because they were created like me not because they act like me. I love them because they create beauty in their lives. It brings me joy when I see parts of me in them. This would be the case even if they hadn't come from my womb, because they still were created like me to be in the image of their Creator.
When my feelings were dragging me down because I felt useless, I found the hope to rise again and rest in the hands of My Creator. God's letter of love to us in the Bible isn't one of abandonment or approval. It's rooted in the promises that He cares for us. He knows the number of hairs on our head. Moses was afraid to fulfill the work God set before him. He was afraid that he wouldn't have the right words or the right motives. He wanted to make sure the children of God knew the truth. God spoke these words to Moses, and they gave me hope to rise again, too.
Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:12-17 (NIV)