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Why You Feel the Way You Do and What God Wants You to Do About It
By JEFF SCHREVE
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Jeffrey B. Schreve a/k/a Jeff Schreve
All rights reserved.
When You Feel Inferior
But I am no longer a human being; I am a worm, despised and scorned by everyone! All who see me make fun of me; they stick out their tongues and shake their heads.
Psalm 22:6–7 GNT
I have always been uncomfortable and insecure with public speaking. That's quite an admission for a preacher and someone who speaks for a living, but it's true.
Still, I can't help wondering if my nervousness has been a blessing in disguise through the years. The Lord knows how very dependent I am on His strength and help every time I stand up to speak. I'm not sure I could begin to describe how many times He has put confidence into my voice as I've opened my Bible and looked out across a sea of expectant faces week after week.
Back in college, however, I hadn't yet experienced God's grace and enabling in this area of my life, and my fear was intense. My idea had been to tiptoe into public speaking a little at a time during my four years in college at the University of Texas—as you might wade into the shallow end of a cold swimming pool inch by inch. However, the college department director at our church in Austin had other ideas. Everett Sheffey meant to throw me in the deep end to see if I could swim!
Everett chose me to be the student leader one year, which meant doing opening announcements every Sunday morning in front of a couple hundred students. Horrors! To make matters worse, he wouldn't take my emphatic "NO!" for an answer.
My big debut was in January 1982, at the beginning of the spring semester. Wouldn't you know it, the place was packed. My friend and former student leader and announcement guy, Shawn, was visiting that Sunday. He had done a marvelous job as leader, and I admired him greatly.
Beth, a really sweet girl who knew I was nervous about speaking, was also in the audience that day. That morning she had given me a scripture to encourage my heart and calm my fears: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Josh. 1:9). I was clinging to that verse as I reviewed the announcements I was to share that morning.
How nervous was I? Believe it or not, I could actually see the end of my tie bouncing up and down on my shirt, in rhythm with my racing heart.
Shawn walked by as I was reviewing the announcements, and I told him about the verse Beth had shared with me to help me with my nerves. He smiled and said, "You'll be fine."
When the time came to start, I walked to the front to address the crowd. My voice wasn't shaking as I began—which was a small victory right out of the chute. My first little joke even worked, and I got people to laugh. It was going to be okay! I felt confidence seeping into my bones.
Suddenly, out of the blue, Shawn stood up and interrupted me. "Schreve," he said, "you're doing it all wrong. You haven't even greeted the visitors yet. And why are you so nervous? 'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.'" (I couldn't believe he was using my verse against me!)
The place erupted with laughter. Nearly all the students thought Shawn's standing up to gig me was hysterical and in good fun. Everyone was laughing ... except me. The crushing blow came when Shawn good-naturedly said, "Schreve, go sit down. I'll take over from here."
As I walked to the back of the room amid the laughter, it was all I could do not to burst into tears. My worst fears had been realized. I was embarrassed beyond belief, and my insecurity about public speaking was racing to the moon. I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide.
The smoke alarm of inferiority was blaring so loudly I couldn't hear anything else. My self-worth was on fire, and the flames were intense.
The Thing About Alarms ...
That humiliating morning has now been in my rearview mirror for more than a quarter century. (And by the way, Shawn apologized profusely after realizing he had hurt my feelings. He remains a dear friend to this day.) Isn't it interesting how a single, somewhat innocuous memory like that can burn with such intensity in the mind and heart for decades?
I think if we were honest, most of us would have to admit to at least minor struggles with self-doubt. Some of that is to be expected. After all, the apostle James reminded us "we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2). But what happens when self-doubt becomes more than a passing spring shower and begins to look more like a Category 5 hurricane? What happens when those uncomfortable feelings of inferiority threaten to paralyze us and cast a shadow over everything we do and say?
That's an alarm, my friends. In fact, it's a "smoke-alarm" warning from the Lord Himself. What is the alarm telling us when feelings of embarrassment and inferiority start blaring? I believe God's message is this: Your self-worth is on fire.
EMOTIONS: Embarrassment and insecurity
WARNING: Your God-given desire for self-worth is on fire.
None of us enjoys the occasional experience of feeling like a failure, but God can use that very emotion to alert us to some deep-down, unhealthy thinking—and help us change course.
If an alarm on the ceiling alerts you to smoke in the house, the first thing you do is look for the source of that smoke. Is it upstairs, downstairs, in the kitchen, out in the garage, or from the neighbor's barbecue? Where's it coming from? In the same way, our over-the-top feelings of inferiority can alert us to serious needs in our lives, and help us trace them back to the source or root of the problem.
In fact, it can lead us right into a fresh perspective and a victorious life.
But first, we must ask ourselves, "Why am I feeling this way, and how can I turn these emotions around and let the Lord do something great through this?"
Where to Find "Worth"
John 13 allows us amazing insight into the psyche, the very core, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is Someone who never felt inferior, never had self-doubt, and never questioned His own worth. There's a reason why these things are true, and John recorded it for us in his eyewitness account just hours before the Lord's arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.
Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (vv. 1–5)
In those five verses, John provided us rich insights into the mind and attitude of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are important for us to see, because Scripture commands us to "have this [same] attitude ... which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). Beyond that, God shows us how to respond when the smoke alarm goes off, indicating that our self-worth is on fire.
So, how can you turn inferiority into victory? How do you do it? Is it simply a matter of giving yourself a good pep talk? Do you look in the mirror, as Stuart Smalley used to do on Saturday Night Live, and say, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me!"? Is that the answer for an inferiority complex?
No! Self-talk will only go so far. In fact, it's a little like blowing up a balloon with a hole in it: it consumes a lot of effort but provides very short-term results.
How about bragging on yourself a little in front of others? You know how it's done: Every time you see somebody, you just find a way to turn the conversation to the subject of you—the things you've accomplished, the places you've been, the people you know, the obstacles you've overcome. Have you ever been around people who do that—who always seem to turn every discussion back toward themselves? After a while, you begin to avoid talking to people like that, don't you? You may even find yourself going a different direction when you see them coming.
No, the answer isn't self-talk or name-dropping or boasting of your accomplishments. Neither is it getting the big job, buying the cool car, winning the big contest, or breaking some school athletic record. That's not how you get self-worth.
In fact, God tells us how to gain self-worth. There are some powerful truths that emerge from John's brief account of what happened that evening in an upstairs room as Jesus stooped down to wash the disciples' feet. If you will grasp these truths and let them really sink in and take root in your life, it will turn your debilitating inferiority into dynamic victory.
You Have Infinite Worth
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God ...
Jesus knew who He was, and where He came from. "Who am I?" wasn't a question that came to His mind or troubled Him. In His encounter with Satan in Matthew 4, the evil one tried to prod Jesus into questioning His identity. Twice he said to Jesus, "If You are the Son of God ..." and then challenged Him to prove it.
"If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (v. 3)
"If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down [from the pinnacle of the Temple]." (v. 6)
In other words, Satan wickedly yet subtly questioned, "Are You actually who You say You are? Really? Then prove it to me!"
But Jesus didn't fall into that trap. He said, in essence, "I don't have to turn rocks into bagels or jump out of an airplane without a parachute to prove who I am. I know who I am, and I know where I've come from."
Jesus knew He had infinite worth because He had come forth from God.
All those who have received Christ as Savior and Lord and have been born into the family of God have infinite worth as well. And when you really begin to grapple with that truth, when the incredible reality of it begins to settle into the cracks and crevices of your soul, it will change the way you see yourself.
You say, "Why should I believe I have infinite worth? Isn't that just more of that shallow, glib, 'positive thinking' kind of talk?"
No, it's not. And let me give you four reasons why.
1. God created you in His very image.
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
In Psalm 139:14, David wrote, "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well." The Hebrew term translated "wonderful" here means "distinguished," or "set apart." Picture walking into a beautiful home, and there in the entryway you see an exquisitely beautiful vase, resting on a small table. Illumined and highlighted by special lighting, it's the first thing your eyes fall upon when you enter that home, and it's obvious the homeowners want you to see and appreciate this work of art, this object of beauty, created with such great skill.
That's how God values you. He sets you apart and wants everyone to see the skill with which you've been formed and created. God designed you, formed you, and knew you while you were still taking shape in your mother's womb (see Jeremiah 1:4–5). You originated from God Himself; you're a God "original," and have been created in His very image.
In 1994, a book auctioned in New York City sold for $30.8 million. It was just a seventy-two-page notebook, containing an artist's notes and sketches. Computer magnate Bill Gates bought it, gladly laying down almost $31 million for it. Why did he pay so much for a simple sketchbook? Had he lost his mind? Were the sketches really that fabulous, the paper and cover really that expensive?
It was not because of the sketches themselves that Gates paid such a high price. Rather, it was because they were the handiwork of a man by the name of Leonardo da Vinci. Ever heard of him? Each sketch was a da Vinci original. The book, then, was valuable because of the person who created its contents.
And why are you so valuable? Why do you have such infinite worth? It's because you were personally shaped and formed by the greatest Master, God Himself. Ephesians 2:10 says this: "For we are His workmanship." You weren't made in China, and you aren't some cheap import; you are His workmanship. Imagine it standing out in bold, italic, or capital letters.
We are His workmanship.
We are a product of His design.
Our lives were conceived and designed in His heart.
God worked on us, fashioned us, and made us in His very image, and that makes us valuable.
2. God thinks and speaks highly of you.
Many of us have a negative thought track that plays over and over in our heads, morning to night. Unlike Stuart Smalley, who says, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me," we look in the mirror and say just the opposite: "I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. I'm not pretty enough. And I don't think very many people like me."
We let that kind of polluted stream run through our minds far too often. What's the alternative? Blow up the leaking balloon with our own self-help rhetoric? No! We simply need to remember, repeat, and believe what God has already said about us in His Word. Gazing steadily at the truth will cause the lies and malicious slander of the adversary to melt away into the shadows. (Remember, Jesus said the devil is a liar and a thief. If the enemy can get you to believe his lies, he can steal you blind.)
What does God say about you? In Isaiah 43:4, God shares his heart and feelings with His Old Testament people, people who had rebelled against Him time and again. Yet God still thought the world of them, and He thinks the world of you too. What He says to them, He says to us today:
"Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you ..."
Let that sink in a minute. That's what the almighty Creator of the universe is saying to you. Never doubt it! He's saying, "You're precious to Me. You're honored." The word translated honor is the Hebrew word kabad, literally meaning "to have weight."
Maybe you've had the hurtful experience where someone has devalued you by belittling you or ignoring what you say, what you think, or how you feel. Perhaps someone in your family or at work has treated your words and thoughts with light regard, passing them off as if they were nothing. Maybe you've given heartfelt advice to a son or daughter, and he or she has just blown it off, paid no attention, or even laughed in your face.
Perhaps so, but God is saying here, "You may not think you matter very much, but you matter to Me. You carry weight with Me, because I love you." We have value because God has given us value—and what He says goes.
In Psalm 116:1, the psalmist says, "I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and My supplications." That's a beautiful picture of the almighty God bending down low to listen to the heart cry of His child, just as a father would bend down to listen to the small voice of a little son or daughter tugging on his pant leg. That's the kind of weight God gives to our words. Why? Because we are precious to Him.
John 13:1 says, "Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." Jesus loved His disciples to the uttermost, and that's how He loves you as well. He loves you to the end of the world and the end of the age and the end of time. What's more, He thinks highly of you.
Proverbs 23:7 says, "As he thinks within himself, so he is." What does that mean? It means you are what you think. Did you catch that? You are what you think. So what do you think when you think about yourself?
Perhaps you are like so many others who think poorly of themselves. Perhaps negative self-talk fills your mind and heart on a regular basis. Maybe you are the anti–Stuart Smalley when it comes to the subject of you. Listen, my friend: the language of your negative self-talk is not what God says or thinks about you! To the contrary, God thinks you're wonderful. He thinks you're special. He thinks you matter. You are a heavy hitter in His estimation. Let those wonderful thoughts sink in. God Almighty, the King of kings and Lord of lords, thinks you are terrific. Wow!
Excerpted from RUNAWAY EMOTIONS by JEFF SCHREVE. Copyright © 2013 by Jeffrey B. Schreve a/k/a Jeff Schreve. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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