The middle school girl whose head hangs low because the comments she hears from her peers confirm her greatest fears and insecurities, creating gaping wounds on her heart. And eventually those emotional wounds become physical ones on her arms and legs.
It’s the bully, the mean girl, whose only way to feel good is to put others down. The desire to climb the social ladder requires stepping on other students. Collecting social capital means picking on the less popular. But being on top is surprisingly lonely. Popularity is both pricey and precarious.
The college student whose perfectionist expectations of herself are not only unrealistic but unattainable. And so she doesn’t eat, doesn’t stop striving, and doesn’t say no to anyone but herself. And so the more uncontrollable her life becomes, the more she focuses on the one thing she can control – what does, or does not go in her mouth.
It’s the captain of the football team who understands that his acceptance and affirmation from peers and parents alike rests on his ability to achieve. And so he turns to pot to numb the pain he feels from longing to be loved as a person instead of for his performance.
Young people are struggling. I see it everyday in my office. They are hurting because adults are hurting in many of the same ways. The mother who needs her family to look a little bit better than the one next door in order to feel like she is ok. The pressure for perfection is passed on to the children and when a mistake is made the panic is real and the shame salient. Or the mother who’s checked out and given up completely. Her self-worth waning, her stress mounting, and her resources stretched way too thin. The father whose drive for the next promotion and a more prestigious title prohibits him from being present. And even when he makes it home for dinner, his mind is else where and his emotion aren’t engaged. Or the “deadbeat dad” who deserts his family like his father did, fulfilling the seemingly prophetic voices that have convinced him he’s a failure and incapable of being a provider, a husband, and a father.
All of these people suffer from the same core issue, a lack of understanding of their true worth and value. We all struggle with grasping both the source and the scope of our value.
John 3:16 (The Voice) says, “For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.” This all too familiar verse is all too often taken for granted. The key to life is believing in the enormity of God’s love, a love so large it did not withhold anything, not even God’s own Son. To believe isn’t just to have a nice thought, to believe requires action. What if I acted as though I were worth so much and loved so deeply that God gave His own son? We are loved!
We are loved, but we are also forgiven. Romans reminds us that all have sinned and fall short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23) and Christ died on the cross in our place despite of our sinful state (Romans 5:8). In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says (The Voice), “For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.” What would happen if we acted as if we are truly forgiven?
Finally, what if we truly believed that we are beautifully made? Paul continues in Ephesians saying, “For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago (Ephesians 2:10, The Voice).” The NIV says we are “God’s workmanship”. Psalm 139:14 says (NIV), “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We are loved. We are forgiven. We are beautifully made.
What would happen if we truly understood how deeply we are loved, how truly we are forgiven, and how amazingly beautiful we are made? What if we truly believed what God tells us? I can only begin to imagine what a wonderful world it would be! Insecurities would melt away. Pride would become humility. Competition would become cooperation. Fear would give way to confidence in Christ. Hopelessness would be no more. Grudges would give way to grace as the forgiven extend forgiveness. And the Apostle Paul must have known just how important truly believing these things are. His prayer for the Christians in Ephesus reads, “Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings (Ephesians 3:16-19, The Voice).”
And that is my prayer for all of us. That we may live as if we truly believe that we are loved, we are forgiven, and we are beautifully made. So what if…?