Where Do You Place Your Worth?

Written By Daniel Ng, Singapore

I’m a jokester. God has gifted me with the ability to lighten up a tense atmosphere and cheer people up. But like so many others, I have used this God-given talent to glorify myself instead of Him.

To me, the more laughs I get, the greater my value. It strikes at the heart of me when I don’t get that coveted “hahaha”. As sad as it sounds, the truth is that I find my worth in my ability to draw laughter from others.

What about you? Where do you find your worth? In treasured possessions? In achievements and accolades? In relationships?

I believe that our choices lie at the core of our very being, and they are inseparable from our identity. The choices that we make in our lives, big or small, go a long way in defining who we are.

Whether we are choosing what to study in university, or our marriage partner, or even what to wear to school in the morning, our choices are based on what we value, the things that we deem “of worth”.

The problem comes when we blur the lines between what we value and what our value is. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for striving hard for excellence in the careers and studies that God has so graciously gifted us. However, when we allow our careers or grades to define our worth, we’re paving the way to disappointment.

The truth is, everybody makes mistakes, and there will be times when we don’t meet our own expectations. We’ll also find that the people or things we so dearly hold on to fail us.

If my worth is in my relationship with my girlfriend, what happens when we break up? If my worth is in the number of likes I get on Instagram, what if I don’t get those likes? If my worth is in the number of A’s on my report book, what if I fail my exams?

I can tell you what happens then. I feel like trash. I feel worthless.

 

Only God is worthy

In my quest to ground my worth properly, I ask myself this: What matters the most? I formulated a question to help my search: If ________ wasn’t present, the universe would not go on.

Go on. Try to fill in that blank. I’ve tried it myself and I’ve found that the only answer that begins to make sense is “God.” It’s not my girlfriend. It’s not my grades. And it definitely isn’t the number of likes I get on Instagram. It’s God.

Philosophers sometimes say that God is the only necessary being in the universe. This simply means that without this Almighty God who created the universe and sustains it, the universe would not go on.

Since He’s the only One who matters, it would only make sense that we place our worth in God’s expectations of us. However, the Bible tells us in Romans 3:10-12 that every single one of us misses the mark of God’s good expectations. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves better or more desirable before a Holy God.

And with that, we’re back to square one. Since we fail to measure up to the only standard that matters, I guess we’re worthless then.

 

The liberating truth

Now here comes the truly liberating mystery at the heart of Christianity. John 3:16 tells us that God, in His love, sent His Son to the world so that we wouldn’t perish like worthless dust. While we were still sinners, He came to die for us and give us eternal life. He came to give us worth in God’s eyes. I get goose bumps every time I think of this.

If that isn’t enough to overwhelm you, in Philippians 2:6-8, we read of how Jesus humbled Himself. He is the infinite God, but humbled Himself to the form of a puny created being. He didn’t come as a king in riches, but came to be born in a stable as a helpless infant. This great God came to die in one of the most humiliating ways possible—to hang on a cross while people mocked Him.

When someone has gone through all that for you, would you dare say in His face: “In Your eyes I have no worth”?

We have no more reason to feel and say: “I’m not good enough.” Neither do we have any reason to get caught up in our failures. To me, that is truly liberating. So now, I no longer study hard because my grades define my worth; I study hard because studying itself is a gift from God. And I want to show Him that I love and appreciate this gift. When it comes to relationships, I don’t put in effort because they determine my value, I do so because my friends are a gift from my loving God. It is only when we start to see our worth in light of God’s loving sacrifice that we will be able to give thanks, even in the midst of breakups, failures, and rejection.

Anything—other than the blood of Jesus—that we use to define our own worth is a sweet lie we tell to comfort ourselves. Our worth is not based on money or self-praise or even the “good Christian” things we do. Our only worth is our faith that the God of the universe died for worthless me, and I cling on to that fact. What a wonderful mystery this is—how we can be so unworthy and worthy at the same time when we stand before such a great God!

What to Do When We Are Prayerless

On one occasion, my little girl drove me to tears.

She opened her arms the moment she saw me walk into the bedroom. There was no doubt in her mind that her father was going to receive her. She knew that I loved her and was full of joy to see her.

Do you remember a time when all you wanted to do was to pray and spend time with God?  You knew that He would acknowledge you and your greatest desire was to just be before Him? What has changed since?

We know how crucial prayer is in the Christian walk. To be a Christian without praying is akin to be a human without breathing—we’re as good as dead. Prayer is about connecting with God and loving Him. It is about being God-centered, learning to look at life from God’s perspective, and finding out what He wants.

Maybe you’re struggling to pray today. You feel like God does not care enough to listen. I can recall a time in my spiritual journey when I too struggled to pray. My heart was heavy and it almost felt unbearable. My prayers felt as though they were not heard and I was attacked from the evil one from every side. My desire to pray dwindled as I wandered in the spiritual desert of isolation. I began to question: Does God really listen to my prayers? Does he really hear me when I cry out to him?

Through that season, these three reminders spoke to me:

 

1. Forget your insecurities, remember His love

Ask yourself honestly. Why are you not coming to God? Is it because you feel too sinful for Him? That you’re not enough for Him?

Often, I look at myself and wonder why God would want Jonathan Hayashi’s love. Why would He want to bother with a worthless being like me compared to great men-of-faith like Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, or Jonathan Edwards?

When we make prayer all about us, focusing on our inadequacies or insecurities, instead of Him, that’s where the problem arises.

Combat your insecurities with truths from the Bible; don’t let Satan tell you that you are too sinful to come to Him. When we became God’s children, our sins were taken care of. When Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross (John 19:30), it was a done deal. He made it possible for us to have a restored relationship with Him and He wants to have a relationship with us.

 

2. Pray even when you don’t feel like praying

I know how counter-intuitive it sounds. However, I have learned over the past few years that the best way to ignite my dullest moments is to simply obey in faith. I come to God in prayer, trusting and believing in Him more than I believe in my own feelings.

When I was a new believer, I would lock myself in a closet, desperate to feel the presence of God. I prayed for the Lord to come and reveal Himself to me. And in the quietness of the silence, I experienced the presence and the joy of God.

If you feel like you don’t have the words to say to Him, take heart in the fact that the Spirit intercedes for us. We just need to come to Him. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26). John Bunyan, a puritan preacher and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, said it well, “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

 

3. Read and pray from the Scriptures

The Word of God is living and abiding and can give us words to pray when we don’t have the words to say. The Scriptures, isn’t just for teaching and correcting us. We can find comfort in His promises and use the Psalms to cry out to Him. Psalm 86 begins with a plea for God to hear David.

I recall a time a few years ago when I was struggling with sin. As I mourned over all the ways I had failed and fallen short of His glory, I felt like God couldn’t accept me and I wasn’t able to come to Him because of what I’d done. Yet, I longed to be pleasing to Christ and be a blessing unto Him.

Then I stumbled over these words in the Scriptures, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The verse blessed me, reminding me that He accepts and takes delight in our prayer of repentance.

Ultimately, prayer is not about mastering the mechanics of how to come to God, or reciting poetic literature, or bringing a shopping list to Jesus. Prayer is communion with God.

Satan hates prayer because it is the most important thing you can do in your life. Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint on his knees before God. Don’t be dismayed (Isaiah 41:10) and don’t give up on praying (Luke 18:1).

Have a little talk with Jesus today. Have a honest conversation with Him. As Oswald Chambers once said, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.”

Confessions of a Recovering Feminist

Photo By Tiffany Rogers, USA

Written By Tiffany Rogers, USA

Hi, my name is Tiffany and I’m a recovering feminist.

My interest in feminism started in college, where I saw many girls studying there only for the coveted “MRS degree”. For the uninitiated, this refers to a girl who attends college just to find and marry a well-educated husband with a bright future. There are even self-help articles and a list of schools to find such husbands made available for girls online. To me, it seemed as if these girls were attempting to find their worth in whom they might marry, instead of whom they might become.

In my pride and arrogance, I pitied those girls. I didn’t want to be like them; I didn’t want my identity as a woman to be found in my identity as a wife. I wanted to be distinct and recognized for what I could do—regardless of what my last name might be someday.

As a Christian, however, I felt like I was in the minority for having this opinion. The Christians around me seemed to believe that women served best as “helpers,” and I refused to accept that idea. I couldn’t bear the thought of marrying someone who would be the ultimate decision-maker for our lives—and of my life. Why should I be the submissive counterpart just because I was a woman? Why should I be seen as less just because of my gender? I felt compelled to stand up against this notion.

Most of the fighting happened in my own heart and mind, however. I wasn’t a feminist by practice, just by belief. With my ideals, I was determined in my heart to fight for equality and for my rights, but I never attended any rallies, marches or forums to discuss the issues. I simply made a decision to never end up in a situation where I was being stripped of my equality because of my gender, within marriage or otherwise.

One day, as I was mulling over these thoughts and trying to figure out the desired outcome of my feminism, I started to think: What was I really fighting and rooting for? Well, it was simple: I wanted equality. I wanted men and women to be viewed and treated the same. I wanted to stop hearing Christians say that women are to “submit”.

But then a question that I had never considered before flashed across the screen of my mind: “Do you care about your identity as a woman more than you care about your identity in Christ?”

Suddenly, I felt like I was being presented with two platters. On one was my feminism: my fight for equality, my standing up on behalf of my gender, my pride, and how emotionally and mentally invested I was in the cause. On the other was my knowledge of who I am in Christ, and my cross.

In an instant, I was overcome. Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). If God was asking me to humble myself and lay down the fights and desires I craved to carry in my feminism, could I do it for Him? Would I?

In that moment, I decided I cared more about God than I did my feminism. And even if He didn’t see men and women as equals, I would still care more about loving Him, serving Him and honoring Him with my life than I would about crying out for equal treatment. My love for Him trumps my desire to be seen as equal to a man.

The truth is, God does see men and women as equals. Galatians 3:28 says: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” All believers, whether men or women, Jew or Gentile, have the same relationship with God. He does not discriminate against any of us.

That said, I still believe it’s important to validate women and fight for rights not yet extended to us. There are women all over the world who are still being sold into slavery, abused, and disenfranchised. God calls us to stand up and fight for all people who are marginalized and oppressed.

So now I am a recovering feminist, because I have a much healthier understanding of the word “submission” and what that actually looks like in a Christian marriage. I’m a recovering feminist because before I dare cry out to be given rights I feel I deserve and treatment I believe is merited, I desire first to cry out to God Almighty. I’m a recovering feminist because this is where I spend my time as a Christian woman—not on my feet in demand for my rights, but on my knees in humility before God.

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

When God Turned My Sorrow to Joy

Written By Callie Opper, USA

In every person’s life, I believe that there is a defining moment when we suddenly come to realize how small we are compared with God, and how small we are compared with the problems that can overwhelm us. For me, that moment happened on my 14th birthday.

That was when my family received news that my mom had been diagnosed with leukemia. Almost exactly a month later, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma. As a 14-year-old, I didn’t know how to process the news. It rocked my world. And because the seemingly perfect world that I had known was now crumbling around me, I did the only thing I could at the time—I pretended to be strong, even though I was crumbling inwardly. I truly believed that I needed to be strong to make it through something like this, and for God to heal my parents.

As a child growing up in a Christian environment, I had heard time and time again that when life gets hard, we’re supposed to trust God, and when tragedy hits, we should feel unshaken because He’s on our side. But when the storm hit me, I didn’t feel this automatic trust in God’s plan, and I started to believe that He was giving up on me because of my doubts. I had accepted Christ at the age of nine and prayed a prayer whose meaning I knew, but I didn’t understand what it really meant to follow Jesus.

Because of this trial, I found myself feeling alone, even though I was surrounded by so many people who loved me. I let this feeling of abandonment take root and became insecure about myself; I began to doubt if God was present in my world because He didn’t heal my mom. And because I craved attention and belonging, I let the world define who I was. Inwardly, I was running away from the one person who promises to never abandon us; I blocked my heart and mind from letting Him heal the hurt in me.

Over a year after my mom was diagnosed, she passed away. I had to get used to a new normal—a life without her. I kept up an external image that seemed to show a deep trust in God, but inwardly I was confused and lost. I kept asking why, and I became bitter as I watched my dad fall in love again and we moved out of my childhood home.

I believe that God does not forsake us. He pursues us and over time, slowly breaks down the walls of our hearts.

Shortly after my mother’s passing, I signed up for a mission trip to China. But it was for a selfish reason—I wanted to leave the country to escape my world and to get away from the tragedy that surrounded me and my family.

My plans, however, were drastically changed; God had plans to reveal the selfishness of my heart and to truly heal it. One day, on a mountain in China, He used a place of isolation to make me face the weight of the pain I had been feeling and my rebellion against Him, and He revealed to me the condition of my heart. For the first time in my life, I found myself vulnerable before Him. He broke me down using one verse: “In all our troubles, my joy knows no bounds” (2 Cor 7:4). While I had gone to China to escape, God brought me to a place of quiet retreat, to sit in His presence and to experience His life transformation.

I didn’t know what true joy was, but in that one moment, I knew I wanted it. I started pleading with the Lord for joy, to confidently trust in His plans, His ways, and the story He had started writing for me. And it was from that one single moment that God started to break down my walls, to refine me, and to teach me what joy means.

Over the next few years, God chiseled away at my heart to reveal emotions I had not wanted to face, grief that was unresolved, and lies that I had believed about God and myself.

He showed me that joy looks a lot like vulnerability. Joy is not a temporal happiness, but a deep-rooted contentment in God’s plan, which we know is for our good and His purposes. Joy does not mean I will wake up with a smile on my face every day; it does not mean that I will always be rejoicing in my sorrows and in the storms. Rather, it is choosing to see God’s higher purposes when everything is crumbling. Joy is a daily choice. It’s laughing and embracing the tears when they come.

God taught me that being weak is so much greater than being strong. Our weakness proclaims our need to depend on the Lord utterly. He has taught me that it’s okay to not be okay. He welcomes our doubting and invites us to wrestle with Him when we don’t understand what He is doing.

The beautiful thing that I learned about God is that He never gives up on us. He will never stop pursuing our hearts even when we try to run. He will go into the deep and dark places of our hearts to pull us out and to prove that He is good.

I have seen God turn my brokenness into beauty. He has removed the bitterness I held on to tightly for years, by giving me people to walk with me. He used the brokenness of my mom’s death to show me the reality of how short life is, to teach me what it means to value others, and to show me that every second matters. He has showed me the importance of loving and living well, and how much people and relationships matter.

God has been faithful to me in this journey. He has given me so many glimpses of His purposes for my mom’s death. He has given me complete joy and has taught me to embrace weakness, to cling to Him, and to live vulnerably. He has taught me to accept grief. He has shown me that hiding and running from the storms that He allows is useless.

I believe that God weaves unique stories for everyone. He creates masterpieces out of our lives and weaves the deepest pain into something far more beautiful than we could ever imagine. Life is a gift, and the story of our lives, no matter what it looks like, paints a radiant picture of the gospel. Our stories are all about Him and His glory alone.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights. For the director of music, on my stringed instruments.”—Habakkuk 3

Last year I got a tattoo in my mother’s hand writing to remind me of the faithfulness of God, to keep me grounded in Him, and in the meaning of joy.