Written By Clementine Chng, Singapore
When I was 15 years old, I would often ask my Dad what he thought I was good at. Our conversations always ended the same way—I just hadn’t found what were my strengths yet. This answer always left me feeling dissatisfied and disappointed.
At that time, I simply had no idea what I was good at. I was in one of the worst classes in my cohort, and my grades were just slightly above the passing mark.
I was in the school badminton team, but my skill level put me between those who shouldered the hopes of winning for the school, and those who were just there to learn and gain experience. I felt lousy because my coaches didn’t give me tips during match breaks, as they expected me to lose. I often longed for a miraculous win so that I could prove to everyone—as well as myself—that I was good at something.
It didn’t help my self-esteem that my sister had talents that were easily noticed. Her illustration skills were amazing, while mine manifested as messy doodles. She also inherited my dad’s ability to assemble and fix appliances well, while I somehow kept breaking electronic devices. She was kind and gentle, while I seemed to inherit the family’s explosive temper.
I started comparing myself with others obsessively, and trying to find things which I could be better at. When I found that the virtual world could give me the affirmation I sought, I turned to gaming. The more time I spent in a game, the higher the level I achieved and the more self-esteem I had. My reputation also increased within the virtual world. For a period, gaming provided the validation I desperately desired.
Basing my worth and identity on my virtual achievements worked for a little while, but I soon realized that no one valued my in-game achievements. My parents and teachers saw gaming as useless, unproductive, and a complete waste of time. Once again, I was left disappointed and scavenging for my self-worth and the approval of others in different ways.
On hindsight, I now realize that God had used these disappointments to point me back to Him and show me who He is.
He used my disappointments to point me back to Him
As I strived for the approval of others over the years, the same cycle of disappointment and failure repeated itself. Whether it was in sports, academia, or extra-curricular activities, I could never get the affirmation I yearned for, no matter how hard I tried. The countless disappointment and rejection revealed to me that as long as I longed for approval by man, I could never ever be truly satisfied. I either became prideful and craved for more, or became dejected by the lack of it. In resignation, I was forced to shift my eyes away from man and look to God.
He used my struggles to show me who He is
In my struggle, I saw a God who doesn’t see me as the world does. I saw a God who sees my blemished past and ongoing struggles, but still loves me more than I can imagine. I saw a God who doesn’t care if I’m good or lousy at certain things, but instead, cares about whether I have been a good steward of my abilities. I saw a God who looks so deeply and lovingly into my soul, and tells me that my worth need not be placed in anything of this world, only in Him. I had to quiet my own thoughts that screamed otherwise, and let this truth sink in.
Through His word, God reminded me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The Maker of the heavens and the earth knows when I sit and rise (Psalm 139:2), and knows me by my name. I don’t have to do anything to deserve this love. I cannot do anything to deserve this love. He loves me even though I am so imperfect, and it is in this love that I find my worth.
Over time, God also revealed the gifts and talents He had created in me. Now, when others ask me what I am good at, I can answer with joy and confidence that God has created me with unique gifts. I can feel deeply for others. I can write. These gifts may be small and insignificant in the eyes of the world, but I know that God can and will use them mightily, for His glory.
Even so, I still struggle today. I get discouraged when I look back at my failed relationships, whenever I compare my Grade Point Average with that of my friends, or scroll through impressive accomplishments posted on my friends’ Facebook feed. It is easy to start comparing myself with others again, wallow in self-pity, and be paralyzed by the thought that I am never going to be good enough.
The difference is that now, I desire to find my worth in Christ. I no longer want to see my worth as the world sees it, nor as my feelings dictate. Instead, I want to lay down at the cross every urge to prove myself. I want to let go of these thoughts of inferiority that I have allowed to shape my identity. As I discover more and more about myself, I want to use all of me to worship God, knowing these good works in me are wonderful blessings from Him, for Him (Ephesians 2:10).
We are God’s children because He first loved us. Before we did anything to deserve God’s love, God loved us and gave us our identity. This is a simple truth. However, it is difficult to grasp, perhaps because we are so attached to the idea of earning love and worth with our works. But I pray that this truth may sink in and bring us to our knees before our awesome God, and that we may exchange a lack of self-worth for one that is anchored in Christ.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)