Everyone has a story to tell. However, a lot of our stories we want to hide. The past has a way of controlling the present and the struggles of our daily lives become a burden we carry alone in an attempt to cover up our brokenness. We weren’t meant to live this way. Our heart has compartments that, if left untouched and unnoticed, can become a place of hoarded insecurities that keep us from walking in the fullness of grace. Jesus wants to empty out the junk drawers of our hearts and clear them away with truth, with hope, and with the cleansing power of His shed blood.
One of the greatest mistakes we often make in approaching issues of the heart and identity struggles is to first look inward to ourselves with affirmations in an attempt to boost self-esteem. 1 In “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness”, Timothy Keller describes it this way: “Boosting our self-esteem by living up to our own standards or someone else’s sounds like a great solution. But does not deliver. It cannot deliver.” 2 Boosting self-esteem simply is not the answer in healing identity wounds. We need a deeper, more lasting, more fulfilling answer. What we need is not a bandaid to place over our wounds, we need healing ointment. Keller goes on to say, “The more we get to understand the gospel, the more we want to change.” 3
The answer to self esteem problems that plague women and add to our broken identities is found in something bigger than ourselves.
Peeling Back the Bandaid
We often begin in the wrong place when trying to figure out who we are and mend the damage that sin has done. We bandaid our wounded souls with temporary fixes, words, and phrases in an attempt to soothe the aches of our souls. We want to know that we are more than what the reflections we see in the mirror. I’ve heard the statement “You are loved, you are chosen, you are beautiful” countless times, but when said apart from Christ, these phrases simply numb the soul and cannot bring lasting relief from our struggle with identity. The focus of these statements is you, and it is “me”. This is the problem with our bandaid fixes—I am not the answer, Jesus is.
However, if we are completely, recklessly honest, this is not what we initially want to hear. Because we are wired by sin to think of ourselves first, looking outside of our own issues is not our first response. I would rather hear that I am enough, I am beautiful, and I am brave before I want to hear anything about Christ, but there is a difference between what I want to hear and what I need to hear. I need the gospel, and the gospel is good news, but it is also hard news.
In my own struggles with identity and self-image, everything changed when I shifted my gaze from the mirror on the wall to the mirror of the Word. The mirror on the wall only reveals part of the big picture—the outer self verses the inner being. The mirror of the Word reflects both the heart and the body through the image of Christ. What we believe about Jesus is expressed through how we view ourselves. Right living begins with right thinking, and right thinking begins with having our minds saturated in the Word of God.
The Healing Ointment of the Gospel
Peeling back the bandaid of temporary identity fixes can be painful and nerve- wracking. No one desires to be exposed. However, we learn in Ephesians 5:8, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” The light of the gospel exposes what has been tucked away in the junk drawers of our hearts and exchanges our trash for the treasure of the gospel. This is the healing ointment that is applied to our wounds by the Lord Jesus Himself, bringing comfort, conviction, and confidence to our souls.
Jesus is the healing ointment our identities need. The gospel is not a temporary fix, it is an eternal promise and hope. Being exposed is not something that you should run from, it is something that you should embrace, for in exposure comes healing. As Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4:5-7:
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God an not to us.”
As we open the Word together, humbled and hungry for more of Jesus, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit would not only free us but make us into women of deep conviction! We carry the healing ointment for this broken world. Don’t let the enemy hide your jar.
Join me in praying: Jesus, help me see myself the way You see me. Amen.
Your Sister in Christ,