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The Affirmation Temptation

I heard once that we all have an essential question that burns within our souls. For men, the question is am I good enough? For women, it is am I worthy to be loved? I don’t know if that strikes a chord in you, but it sure did in me when I heard it. We all need so desperately to know that our lives have meaning and that we have unique and irreplaceable value. So we search for someone or something to define us, to provide measurement, something we can point to and claim, “See? That shows that I am somebody.”

Of course, none of us realizes at the time that we’re doing this; all the same, most of us are engaged in this practice on a regular basis. Social media often provides both a quick-fix for our desire to be affirmed and a mirror that exposes this need, depending on how you look at it. You post a picture or a thought or share something and get almost immediate feedback and gratification, a quick jolt of caffeine to wake up your weary soul. Or, you get a lesser response than what you hoped for (you were hoping, weren’t you?) and feel a little twinge of worthlessness.

The same pattern plays itself out through our interactions with the people around us. Don’t get me wrong–not only were we made to need affirmation and encouragement, but we were also made to give it. The problem with the affirmation we receive from others is that, after a while, it just drains out. In fact, really everyone and everything on earth that has the potential to make us feel valuable is inherently impermanent, unstable, and susceptible to brokenness and sin. Nothing can truly fill the insatiable need or the numerous, aching holes all of us carry inside our hearts. So we search, or we are tempted to search, everywhere and anywhere to get the affirmation we crave.

But..this is what the LORD says about your value:

Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you.  Isaiah 43:1-4 MSG

He really loves you that much. It’s true. But it’s a truth whose voice gets drowned out by voices of condemnation, disappointment, rejection, and accusation that seem to shout at us from every direction. We can know in our heads that God loves and values us, but it’s a different story altogether to be able to live like we believe it.  I struggle with it myself all the time, but lately, I’m learning a new way to end that struggle and clear my head of those competing messages. It’s not that I don’t hear them–I just don’t heed them anymore. I refuse to, and I remind myself just who it is that I belong to, and whose approval will really satisfy my deepest longings for affirmation.

When we actively choose to shut down those competing voices, a funny thing happens. Stillness. Peace. An atmosphere is created in which the Lord can speak and you can actually hear Him. The same way you have to choose to shut down those shouting voices, you also have to choose to tune your spirit to what the Father is saying. Your heart has to be receptive to His voice and the message of love, affirmation, and approval He longs to give you.

For me, being able to receive and feel His love has been a challenge, and surprisingly, my first reaction when I do begin to sense it is to try to stop it or push it away. It’s not that I want to do that, but it is a conditioned response of self-protection that has become a powerful habit for me. As soon as I am aware of it, I have to choose to resist my resistance—that is, to just let go and surrender to what He’s doing. Sometimes I have to almost talk myself through the receiving-love process, telling myself to receive, believe, feel, and respond.

And it’s working. It really is. Day by day, I am being transformed from the inside out. A new confidence and security is birthing within me, because for the first time in my life, I know who I am and why I am valuable. For the first time, those things do not fluctuate according to opinions, ‘likes,’ or accolades; they now stand firm and steady, because the One who defines me does not waver or change.

Are those questions burning in your soul right now: Am I good enough?  Am I worthy to be loved? Tune your spirit to His voice, soften your heart to receive His answer. He is waiting to tell you just how precious and irreplaceable you are.

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