By Mary Southerland, Crosswalk.com
A man made an appointment with his local psychologist. When the doctor asked what had prompted the visit, the man said, "I think I'm suffering from an inferiority complex." The doctor ordered several tests. When the test results came in, he called the man to give him a diagnosis. "I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that you do not have an inferiority complex. The bad news is that you are inferior."
Many of us are just like that man. Someone has convinced us that we are inferior. God has a different message for us.
God wants us to see ourselves through his eyes, a truth that is illustrated in the life of a woman we find in the book of Luke.
"On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.' Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God" (Luke 13:10-13, NIV).
The life of this woman gives us four steps we can take to see who we are – in the eyes of God.
Step one: Realize that Jesus knows me and still loves me.
"When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." (Luke 13:12, NIV)
Jesus knew this woman. He looked past her pain and saw who she really was. I'm sure her pain and physical appearance had assigned this woman an identity. The people around her saw her in a certain way – an outcast, a nobody. She must have felt unwanted for a very long time. Eighteen years can seem like an eternity when it is spent in pain and disfigurement. But when Jesus saw her, he spoke her name. She was suddenly somebody. Amid her problem, unlovely and doubled over, Jesus loved her – just as she was.
You may be very familiar with the feelings of this woman. Feelings of being unwanted and unloved. The great news is that God does know you, and he does love you.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV)
You were created by God – for God – set apart. And no one can take your place in the Father's heart. Our identity was established in the heart and mind of God before the world began. We are important. We are valuable – planned and wanted by God himself.
My husband was the pastor of a church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for over twenty years. All of our family lived in Texas, so we were always looking for people in the church to help fill that void in our children's lives. One of those precious people was Becky Sullivan. The kids and I often invited Miss Becky to lunch. She only wanted to go to one place – McDonald's - where she ordered a fish sandwich, fries, and an orange soda. Our son often repaired things in her home, and Danna helped her make cookies. Our times together were so special – for Miss Becky and us. One day Dan called to say Miss Becky was in the hospital with heart problems. On the way to the hospital, I went through McDonald's and got a fish sandwich, fries, and orange soda. I know. Not a great meal for a heart patient, but it was Miss Becky's favorite meal.
When I got to the hospital, I walked up to the visitor's desk and asked for the room number of Becky Sullivan. "She is in room 409, but you can't go up there." Hmmm … so I went to the fourth floor, walked out of the elevator, and began searching for her room. When I found Miss Becky's room, it was empty. The nurse at the desk told me she was having some tests run in nuclear medicine on the second floor. "But you can't go down there," she warned. I smiled and took the elevator to the second floor. When I stepped off of the elevator, nuclear medicine was directly in front of me. The door was guarded by a man – a huge man. As I approached the door, he put his arms out to say I could not come in. I ducked under his arm and came face-to-face with George Herrera, my neighbor.
"George, what are you doing here?" I asked. George smiled and said, "I just transferred here to be the head of nuclear medicine." Loved. It.
I explained why I was there and asked if there was any way I could see Becky. When I showed him the bag of food from McDonald's, he said, "Really? You know she's a heart patient." I smiled sheepishly, silently pleading for mercy. He grinned and pointed to the spot where Miss Becky was waiting. I sauntered past the giant guard. All of a sudden, I was somebody because I knew the man in charge.
Without Jesus, our identity is incomplete. There is a "God-shaped" in our soul. Even if we were never wanted or planned by human heart and mind, we were planned and wanted in the heart and mind of God. God chooses us, and that is enough. The first step to seeing ourselves through the eyes of God is to understand and accept the fact that Jesus knows us and loves us.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Tutye
Step two: Leave some things behind.
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.' Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God (Luke 13:12-13, NIV).
Jesus could have healed this woman where she stood, but he called her to come to him. Why? I believe Jesus wanted her to leave some things behind. When Jesus called her, this woman could have stayed where she was in her pain and sickness, or she could choose healing and a new identity. I believe she was healed the moment she took that first step.
We try to live life, carrying the weight of emotional baggage and spiritual bankruptcy, refusing to let go of the things that would keep us from being all God created us to be. What are some of the weights we need to leave behind?
1. Our Past
"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV).
Everyone has a past. We cannot change our past, but we can change our response to it. We can allow our past to defeat us, or we can harness it and use it for power in our lives today. Our past can be quicksand or the cornerstone of a new life.
The natives of Africa have an ingenious plan for catching monkeys. Monkeys love cocoa beans, so natives replace the insides of coconuts with cocoa beans and tie the shells to the bottom of Banyan trees. Then they wait. The next day, the natives come by and scoop up the monkeys who have reached inside the coconut shells to grab the cocoa beans. Because they refuse to let go of the beans, the monkeys are trapped.
It is time to deal with our past and then let it go.
2. Our Sin
We need to keep short books on sin. Allowing sin to build up in our lives creates a sense of condemnation and allows guilt to plague us.
"He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west." (Psalms 103:12, NIV)
Sin requires only one payment, and that payment has already been made by Jesus when he died on the cross.
A little boy was in trouble for disobeying his mom. "Mom, we're learning in Sunday School that when we tell Jesus we are sorry for something wrong we have done, he casts our sins in the deepest oceans. Right?" Through gritted teeth, his mom responded, "Yes, that's right." With a sigh, the little boy said, "I told Jesus I'm sorry I disobeyed you, but I have a feeling you are going to go fishing in that ocean when we get home." We need to quit fishing in the emotional waters of our past. We need to deal with our sin and leave it behind.
3. Good Things
We need to leave some good things behind because good things can be distractions from the best things. We can be so busy doing good things that we miss the highest things.
"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)
We need to live life, straining toward the prize. To be who God created us to be, we need to forget what was and press toward what can be.
Step three: Don't waste your pain.
God uses broken people. He is drawn to brokenness. God shines best through broken people. Jesus looked out over the crowd. I'm sure there were many women in the crowd, and Jesus knew them all. He could have chosen the most beautiful or most gifted woman, but he chose the most broken woman. God has always used flawed vessels to accomplish his greatest work. He even wrapped his perfect son up in a jar of clay and then used him to change the world. Don't waste your pain. God doesn't!
Pain comes to us with his permission. There is a purpose in every pain. C.S. Lewis says, "God whispers to us in our pleasure but shouts to us in our pain." Pain carries with it a choice. A choice in attitude and direction. A choice between victory and defeat. A choice of bitterness or sweetness. What have you done with your pain?
Our daughter played coed soccer when she was twelve years old. During one game, a boy on the opposing team elbowed Danna in the chest. She came out of the game in tears, vowing to go back in the game and punch that boy. I thought it was a good idea. Fortunately, her dad was the coach and asked, "Danna, do you really want to get him?" Danna firmly responded, "Yes, Dad!" Dan smiled and said, "Then go back in there and score the winning goal!" And that is exactly what Danna did.
Anything that makes us desperate for God can be counted as a blessing. Examine every pain for a seed of victory. Don't waste your pain.
Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/yokeetod
Step four: Be patient.
When I face a trial, my prayer usually goes something like, "Dear God, please grant me patience, and I need it right now!" In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul reminds us that to become what God wants us to be takes time.
"I am sure that God who began a good work in you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished." (Philippians 1:6, NIV)
Listen for His voice. This woman was doubled over for 18 years. She could not see Jesus, but she heard his voice. Be patient! He will make you all that you are supposed to be. One final thought: There are no accidents with God. Jesus sees something in you that nobody else can see because he put it there when he formed you in the womb. We were planned and wanted by God. We have purpose. Our lives matter to him.
Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.