10 Ways to Rethink God’s View of You
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Coach Jackson ripped the basketball out of Jalen’s hands and yelled, “You guys suck!” Then he took a step forward and punted the ball into a dark, empty corner of the fieldhouse.
We were freshmen, and up until then Coach Jackson had wooed us. He handed out swag with our names on it. He gave us our lockers with our names above them. He gave us scholarships and shoes. He invited us to his house for a barbeque.
But after a few practices, it seemed like he had recruited us just so he could belittle us. After he won us over, he didn’t create trust, connection, vulnerability, or safety.
I used to think that God viewed His people like Coach Jackson treated his players.
Several years ago when my wife and I were leaving church I said, “That was a terrible sermon. All he talked about was love, adoption, and sonship.”
I wanted the pastor to say, “God thinks you’re worthless and disposable.” I wanted that theology, because it would’ve affirmed my view of myself.
I used to craft my own theology to back up what I thought about myself – that I was defeated and a piece of crap. That it was over and I blew it. That I needed out of my current life and body to have any measure of freedom.
I thought self-criticism was the only way to grow, to please God, to break unwanted behavior patterns, and hold high standards. But it created anxiety and depression. It limited my effectiveness in His kingdom. It was counterproductive to growth. It shrunk my world and worked backwards.
Those outcomes aren’t surprising, because I was using self-contempt to gain power and control. When I punished and shamed myself, I acted like the authority. I claimed to decide what was true, and in doing so, denied so much of reality.
We’ve all experienced forms of shame. Some of us even pride ourselves on shame.
Sometimes Bible verses are mis-quoted and ornate extra-biblical language is used to make one appear more pious, often with implicit messaging.
For example, when we hear “die to self,” the message below the surface seems to be that we should keep our mouths shut, even in situations that need to be addressed and repaired.
When we hear “seek not our own interests” (Philippians 2:4), it seems to connote that we shouldn’t care for ourselves or have wants, needs, and a voice. And if we do, we’re selfish.
Hate your life, lose your life, I no longer live, become less, submit to one another, and lose all things and consider them garbage. There are numerous Bible verses that, when taken out of context and oversimplified, can lead us to demean, slander, and criticize ourselves in ways contrary to the true message of Scripture.
Perhaps, we do that because we confuse our human nature with our sin nature. Jesus was fully human (and fully God.) So, being human is not the problem.
The other side of the coin of self-contempt would have us offer indiscriminate praise to ourselves for the sake of boosting our self-esteem and ego. It would have us applaud ourselves, even our sin, at all cost. But that’s also harmful, because with wholesale self-admiration comes a denial of reality.
But, by understanding how God thinks of us and feels about us, we can experience freedom. We can take our thoughts captive. We can identify shame.
We can see what shame says and how it feels. We can see how it behaves and learn what experiences invoke it. We can heal from it. Through Christ, we can break cycles and begin again.
by understanding how God thinks of us and feels about us, we can experience freedom.
Here are 10 things to consider on the journey:
1) If it’s easier to sense God’s disappointment with you than His delight in you, sit in His delight. If it feels indulgent or spiritually irresponsible to rest there, consider your trust level. Remember that He is trustworthy (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
2) Being God’s children and heirs (Romans 8:16-17) means we’re an actual family. Adoption isn’t just an abstract truth. It means God has taken us, and all of our baggage, into His home and family life.
3) Monitor your self-care. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 19:19) assumes you give yourself the care and comfort you’d give to a friend..
4) “Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought” (Romans 12:3), but think of yourself at least as highly as you ought, dearly beloved.
5) Test this out. See if your motives to do good are to escape self-judgment. See if your motives to self-defeat are to inflict self-judgment. Notice that both are different than being motivated by freedom in Christ. Remember, you live in the pasture, not the courtroom.
6) Consider your willingness to encounter painful emotions fully and honestly, because your joy depends on your ability to be sad. Resisting, escaping, and numbing unwanted thoughts and feelings about yourself only intensifies them. So, go into your wounds, even if they feel overwhelming.
7) Test this out. Is being harsh with yourself a cover up for insecurity and unbelief? Do you pretend that being self-critical makes you more spiritual? Or do you rest in the fact that God’s power is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)?
8) We can acknowledge our faults, sins, and how we’ve hurt others without launching into self-judgment. In fact, self-judgment keeps us from admitting the hurt we’ve caused others because we’re focused on ourselves.
9) When you hear “your heart is desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), remember Ezekiel 11 and 36, that God replaces our heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
10) It’s God’s goal for us to experience the bodily shift that comes from internalizing and integrating His love. In the Bible, God established holidays to celebrate His faithfulness.
Athlete, if you are like me, you’ve “believed” God’s love in one part of your brain. You sing of God’s love. You tell others about it. You know the Bible verses to prove it. But when it comes to your anxious mind and uptight body, God’s love often seems aloof and hypothetical.
Deep down it might seem like God recruited you to belittle you. It might seem like He is waiting for you to mess up, so He can yell at you, grab the ball out of your hands and punt it into the corner.
But God is not like Coach Jackson. God doesn’t belittle His followers. He doesn’t shame us, because He knows it keeps us stuck and repeating the same patterns (Psalm 25:3, 1 Corinthians 4:14). He’s compassionate and empathic. The one true God creates trust, connection, vulnerability, and safety. The one true God means your heart can be glad and your body can rest secure.