(This was originally as part of a discipleship course for single adults)
Does it seem that your life is overwhelmed with problems? Does life at times seem too much to handle? If you answered yes to these questions, you are not alone. On many occasions I’ve felt overwhelmed by my circumstances. Even the Apostle Paul echoed the same feeling when he said, “…we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, so much that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8b).
The hardships faced throughout life challenge the concept and value you and I place on ourselves. And for those who are single adults your singleness at times may seem just as challenging and difficult. This can be illustrated by your answer to the following statement: True or False: I am content and growing in my life as a person, in my present job, and in all the other areas of my life. I’m certain of being on the course where God wants me.
How we answer this statement indicates our acceptance of our lives, and especially our acceptance towards being single. This unit of study will help us understand that God did not make the single life something to be endured, but rather he made it to be a time of growth and transformation.
God has a plan for each of our lives. Despite whatever our circumstances are, we can turn our lives over to God and allow him to fulfill his purposes in them. Thus we can make the most of our situations, for God’s word says: “Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear, Which didn’t enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him. But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit”, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10a. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28.
At the core of most of our dissatisfaction with our status in life is our self-worth. It is only when we learn to value and accept ourselves and our situation in life that we can find joy and strength to accomplish God’s will.
We must understand that all we are and what we ever hope to be is determined by our feelings about ourselves.
The Bible teaches that, “as a man thinks in his heart so is he,” Proverbs 23:7. This means that we act according to the way we think. If our thinking is faulty, our actions will be faulty, too. If we are unhappy in our single life, it’s because of our erroneous thinking that only marriage can heal our loneliness and our lack of fulfillment.
For instance, some single people think in there heart, if they could just find a mate, then all their problems would be solved. The truth is that marriage does not necessarily solve these problems, and in fact it is much better to remain single and miserable than to be married and miserable. The reason there are so many unhappy marriages today and such a high divorce rate is due in part to the idea that marriage will solve one’s problems. The people who are best qualified to marry are those who have adjusted well to their single life. That’s why this often heard statement is true: The most important thing about marriage is not finding the right person but being the right person. In order to be the right person for someone else, self-acceptance is essential.
To help you understand and achieve a healthy self-worth I’m going to divide this concept into five elements. I believe these five elements give an adequate Biblical basis for reaching and maintaining your self-worth. These are:
- Understanding God’s purpose and love for us
- Placing our trust in God
- Having self-knowledge
- Being flexible as life changes
- Accepting ourselves
God’s Purpose and Love
Sometimes we forget how we got on this earth, but the first chapter of Genesis reminds us that mankind was created by a special act of God. Man’s creation was not an afterthought; it was the high point of God’s created work. God’s highest purposes are for man; his highest purpose included you and me.
Psalms 4:3 tells us that God has set aside the godly for himself. Have you ever considered that God has set you aside for his purpose–for your very own special mission? Yet that is not God’s only purpose for us. Paul the Apostle states that God is at work in us that we might seek after God’s will in our lives (Phil. 2:13). All that God is doing and that we should accomplish in our lives is for his glory, according to John 17:22. This glory will be shared with us
Now apply this personally to yourself. God has created YOU, and he has a special purpose for YOUR LIFE. God has created YOU, He has set YOU apart for himself and he is at work in YOU. The obedience of YOUR life will give glory to God, and God will share his glory with YOU! It was YOU that Christ died for and it is for YOU that Jesus is coming back. Yes, you and I can be assured of God’s purpose in our life.
Yet, let us not forget God’s love for us. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love. And of course we see this love demonstrated on the cross while we were yet sinners. We often forget God’s love for us and the care he shows us. We can love ourselves and others when we acknowledge and allow this truth to permeate our lives by meditating upon it. Meditate on these scriptures:
1 John 4:9-10,16-19
Following close on the heels of realizing God’s purpose and love for us is our need to place our trust in him. If we are trusting in ourselves and our abilities, we will soon find ourselves inadequate and we will feel insecure and will doubt our worth. But our worth is not based on our abilities as our society would have us think, and our human resources are not the basis for our security. No, our worth and security are based on the fact that God created us and our trust in him makes up for our limitations, failures, and disappointments. God is greater than our limitations so we can depend and wait expectantly on him.
How can we develop and improve our trust in God? The same way any two individuals develop trust: through a series of shared experiences. You began to trust God when you allowed him to forgive your sins and give you eternal life. This is the only thing that can take us to heaven–his ability and not our own. From here our trust can grow as we daily walk with God, practicing obedience to his commands and bringing him our requests, trusting him to watch over us.
It is said that the hardest person to know is one’s self. This is because we cannot see ourselves as objectively as another person can. Yet in order for us to develop a true understanding and value of ourselves, we must learn who we are. Two men of the Bible show us the extremes we can reach when we do not know ourselves and our abilities.
On the night of the last supper, Peter boasted that he would never abandon Jesus. Yet, by the next morning Peter had denied he even knew Christ. Peter did not know his own weakness. Moses, on the other hand, stood before God at the burning bush trying to explain his lack of any speaking ability. Yet the Lord replied, “Who made man’s mouth… I will be with your mouth” (Exodus 4:11-12). Moses did not know his potential even when God promised to help him!
Without self-knowledge we act like Moses and Peter—denying both our weaknesses and our strengths. Because of this we may often fall short of our goals and not know why.
However, we must not engage in morbid introspection. This is self-defeating. This practice can be avoided by accepting our limitations without self-pity and by accurately appraising our good points, realizing that since God made us and Christ lives in us it’s certain that our strengths can outweigh our limitations.
The ways we can gain self-knowledge include the following:
- Pay attention to the behavior of others. Do you see others acting just like you and are these actions acceptable or repugnant?
- Be sensitive to the praise and criticism of others. Evaluate it for its truthfulness and give attention to what is accurate.
- Ask a trusted friend to share his insight into who he feels you are.
- Make a list of your assets and liabilities, realizing that everyone has liabilities.
- Face challenges by rejecting the fear of failure, realizing there is no gain in not trying.
- Finally, always be truthful in your appraisal of yourself and others; do not promise what you know you cannot deliver.
Flexibility: The Ability to Face Change
A house plant will grow and thrive until its roots fill up its pot. Then its growth is stunted until it is transplanted. Our growth and self-worth can be stunted too when we do not allow room for change in our lives. When change takes us by surprise, we begin to doubt our worth and God’s ability. But change is something we cannot escape. In fact, change is one of the few certainties in our world: our bodies grow up, then they grow old; our material possessions wear out; science constantly brings us new discoveries; even our understanding of Christian theology changes over time as we come to better understand God’s truth in new ways.
God does not change but his methods do. When Jesus came into this world, few people were ready for him. In all of Israel only a handful of men and women saw something different in Jesus and believed his words. Even the religious leaders of the day did not recognize him, but those who were open and accepted God’s plan of redemption found themselves on the cutting edge of God’s bold mission.
In the same way, we need to be open in our lives to explore the circumstances and ideas we encounter for the purpose of understanding what God is teaching us. Through exploration and investigation we can evaluate, according to God’s word, the benefits and purposes change can serve in our lives. Without this openness, change is fearful for those fighting to preserve a stagnant existence.
This openness is, first of all, a submissiveness to God’s dealing in our lives so we realize that he is the Lord of all creation and the Lord of our lives and that he is able to use and teach us when we say to him, “Not my will, but your will be done in my life.” Secondly, it is a willingness to consider the value of new ideas and methods. If we are afraid to consider doing something according to a new method, we are like a pot-bound plant which has limited its growth and effectiveness. When we are sincerely obedient to God’s word, we can confidently explore whatever new developments we encounter.
To develop this kind of openness, we must:
- be secure in our beliefs, knowing they rest on a foundation that cannot be eroded away,
- be cautious about accepting a negative report about someone or something until we have checked it out for ourselves
- always look for the useful and practical aspects in all our circumstances, no matter how bad they seem
- look at life from God’s perspective which sees history moving according to his plan and purpose
- and develop an attitude of thanksgiving which recognizes that life is a gift and full of blessings if we would only take time to acknowledge them
The last element that makes up our self-worth is our acceptance of ourselves and our station in life. Acceptance ties all the elements of self-worth together.
We can change some things in our lives. In most cases, change occurs slowly (e.g., losing weight, finding a mate, getting an education, or building a career all take time). Some things we cannot easily change such as our physical appearance, a handicap, a tragic accident, a disappointing failure, or a divorce. These we must accept–not as something God forced upon our lives but as events that happen because we live in a sinful world; but also as events out of which God will bring good.
Self-acceptance is available to us through God’s grace. For we are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The failings of the past can be put behind us because God is at work in us (Philippians 3:13-14; 2:13)!
Sometimes knowing this is not enough. We believe our weakness or our needs are too great to bear, and we fall apart. Yet we can still depend on him. God’s word tells us in 2 Chronicles 16:9a that “For the eyes of the LORD run back and forth throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” The Hebrew word used for show himself strong means to bind together. What we can realize from this is that when we feel our lives are falling apart, God is still there. He is holding our lives together though we do not recognize it.
We can depend on this promise when we commit our lives to the Lordship of Christ, accepting and acknowledging his control of all our circumstances. We too can claim his peace in all our difficult times (Philippians 4:7).
In summary, we have covered the areas that help or hinder our self-worth. By understanding them we can stay in touch with God and through him have courage to face all our hardships.
Self-Worth Personal Evaluation
God’s purpose and love:
What do you understand is God’s purpose for your life? (If you do not know, start seeking God for an answer.)
Describe how much you feel God loves you.
Can you think of a recent example of God’s love in your life?
In difficult times I depend on (a) my own resources, (b) others, (c) God.
What are some ways I can learn to trust God more?
What is one area of my life that I will trust God to take care of?
Make a list of your personal assets, liabilities, and ways in which God could use you.
When God sends adversity into my life, do I recognize that there is something in it for my benefit or the benefit of others?
Am I willing to let God take as long as he wants to lead me to the right person to marry?
Have I been rebelling against God for the difficulties I’m facing now?
Am I ready to surrender myself to his Lordship?