Today's 'thought' comes to you from Erwin Lutzer. It is found in his book, "Failure, The Back Door To Success."
He is pastor of the Moody Church, Chicago, Illinois. His book deals with many issues regarding "failure," yet this particular excerpt has to do with how to go about living with yourself, or regaining self-acceptance (through the knowledge of God's acceptance), after failure.
And since its something most people deal with at one time or another, to one degree or another, I thought it may minister to some of you at this time. After all, who has not had to deal with regrets and how to get beyond them? Enjoy.
"Mary looked as if she'd never had a problem in her life. She was friendly, attractive, and cheerful. But beneath that facade, were feelings too deep for words -- feelings of resentment, bitterness and intolerable depression. In fact, she had even contemplated suicide. And that she was a dedicated Christian only made her problem more puzzling...Mary's background provided the clue to her problem. Her father died when she was a child, and, as a result, she was entrusted into the care of a harsh step-father who vented his bitterness on this unwanted child. When Mary (then three or four years old) would come to her stepfather for affection, she was brushed aside. One remark he made will always ring in her ears: "I'd like to throw you out! You should be pushed into a ditch."
Understandably Mary grew up feeling guilty for simply being alive. She felt responsible for her stepfather's misery and developed feelings of inferiority. She knew that she would always be a failure. Furthermore, she believed she deserved to be one. In later years, when friends showed concern for her, she resented it. How could anyone ever love me? she thought...
Her self-image could not be changed merely by telling her that her opinion of herself was mistaken. Those who reject themselves cannot be convinced to accept themselves by pointing out their personal worth or accentuating their positive qualities. The point is they feel inferior, they feel worthless, they feel rejected. No amount of persuasion can convince them otherwise....
But God has not left us without hope... Even if we are rejected by our parents, friends, or marriage partner, we CAN accept ourselves -- failure and all. But we can only do this by facing our limitations and considering our lot in life from God's perspective... People reject themselves for many reasons: physical appearance, lack of ability and intelligence, or because of failures of the past (relational and otherwise). Others, like Mary, have warped views of themselves because of their family background. Thank God this can be changed!"
Lutzer then gives us steps to follow that enable us to move in the direction of self-acceptance.
"We must accept our limitations... God fashioned us in our mother's womb (Ps. 139:13-16). Therefore, our appearance was determined by Him. In fact, God even takes responsibility for physical handicaps. To Moses He said, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" (Ex. 4:11). God made us the way we are for a special reason. We must accept the fact that he knew what He was doing when we were assembled. We will never accept our physical features [nor "lack" of skills and abilities] unless we thank God that He made us as He did...
Our outward imperfections are a reminder of God's priorities. He is concerned with character, not the deception of outward beauty (I Peter 3:4)... If we are dissatisfied with our appearance, God is trying to teach us to find our security in Him. He knows that if we were attractive we might find our satisfaction in the fleeting pleasure of popularity rather than the solid rock of inward godliness.
We must think realistically. Some resent God because of their lack of intelligence or ability. They spend their lives wishing they were like someone else. Their conversation is filled with self-pity and self-derogatory comments. Perhaps they believe that such an attitude displays humility... It does not. It is sin. And there will be no victory over such an ungrateful attitude until it is confessed and forsaken... If we are gifted we cannot take credit for it; if we lack abilities, that is no reason for complaining (I Cor. 4:7)... Some overestimate the importance of their abilities, and others underestimate their gifts.
The solution? Take Paul's advice: "I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to have a sound (sober) estimation, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith' (Rom. 12:3). We must evaluate our abilities realistically, accept our limitations, and thank God for whatever He has given us...
Self-acceptance is basically a spiritual issue. What it boils down to is this: are we able to thank the Creator for the way He made us? If not, are we casting doubt on His wisdom? If we thank Him we display our belief that He knows what is best for us. And that will help us accept ourselves -- limitations, failures and all. But even more than this, we must come to appreciate our value from God's perspective. Understanding His acceptance of us (in Christ) gives us the key to understanding ourselves... Christ died so that we would have a basis of acceptance before God that has NOTHING to do with our fluctuating experiences. Our acceptance depends on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross... Christians do differ: some are carnal, others are godly, and the majority are in between. But there is no difference so far as acceptance is concerned...
Believers are not merely forgiven; they are not merely sinners minus their sins, they are accepted before God as Christ is accepted (Eph. 1:6)! Our acceptance before God is based squarely on Christ's acceptance before the Father -- and He is totally acceptable in every way.
There can be no such thing as degrees of acceptance with God. He accepts perfection only, and for this reason, Christ alone is acceptable to the Father. But the good news of the Gospel is that when we receive Christ as Savior, we are accepted "in Him." Our acceptance before God is as certain as Christ's acceptance... if He has completely forgiven and accepted us, why can we not believe His verdict in the matter and accept ourselves as God accepts us?... If your faith is in Christ, God HAS accepted you just as you are, and to reject yourself is to reject God's grace."
May God's truth, through the Gospel, free you from the conclusions you may have drawn about yourself by living in a fallen world, with faulty measures of value and success, and thus false solutions to a very important issue. And may the knowledge of God's full acceptance in Christ free your heart, mind and soul from being a slave to the world's unfortunate standards of what gives a person worth or makes them "acceptable."
In His Service, Pastor Jeff