Unworthy of love and belonging featured image

(Un)worthy of love and belonging

In the days before Netflix, when we had no choice in our scheduled television viewing and programs were incessantly interrupted by commercials, one well-known cosmetic house hired a famous model with glamorous, shiny hair and perfect makeup to wink at you and tell you to buy the hair colour/makeup/lipstick she was using “because you’re worth it”. Even as a young naïve teenager, these adverts baffled me. How does she know that I’m worth it? She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know that I just took the TV remote from my sister and that I should rather be studying for my Maths exam instead of watching television. She doesn’t know that I have thin, wavy, hair that will never look as luscious and long as hers. If she did know these things, would she still say I’m worth it?

It only takes one coffee date with a friend to realize we are all struggling to define our worth. How do we define our true value? Why is it so hard to feel worthy of love and belonging (thanks Brene’ Brown)? The answer does not lie in the lack of trying.

Calculating your worth

In one of his sermons, Tim Keller explains where we tend to search for identity and value.

Some of us look for our identity in what we can acquire whether it be money, fame, the perfect body, the ideal relationship or even having children. Many times, the things we strive to obtain are good things, but none of them can carry the burden of defining our worth. When we look for fulfilment in our husband, our children, or our jobs we are placing another god on the throne of our hearts instead of King Jesus.

Another way to look for external validation is to lend our ears to what others think about us to define our value. If your grandparents repeatedly “joked” with you as a child that you are fat and ugly and will never find a husband, those words could define every date you go on. If someone you love wounded you deeply and betrayed your trust, you can be tempted to believe you are worthless and don’t deserve to be loved, instead of seeing the sinfulness of their bad decisions.

Yet it can become even more dangerous to look within to find our worth when we look for worth in our feelings. By trying to get in touch with our “deepest feelings” we turn our search for value inward. The problem with this methodology is that our feelings are constantly changing and inconsistent. We read in Jeremiah that “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) If we place our value in feelings, we’ll find that as our feelings change, our worth changes. Our flesh and spirit are constantly at war.

Unworthy of love and belonging Pinterest image

This is why one of the most dangerous informants of our own value is the voice within our own hearts. On a good day, you can convince yourself of your importance resting on the merits such as your kindness to others or your self-discipline in the gym, which leads you to sinful pride. If I work hard enough and only show my shiny side, I will be worthy of love and belonging. On the other hand, when you’re having a bad day, dark thoughts can convince you that you are unlovable and unworthy, which calls God a liar.

Our culture is rife with another quest for value by defining our worth and identity through the very popular premise I am what I say I am. If my identity is self-defined and ever-changing then I create my own self to cultivate the god of self, dethroning the God of the universe, Creator and King of our lives. We become our own king and anyone who doesn’t like what we say we are, is oppressive and unloving. After all, I’m living my truth. The problem with this perspective is that you don’t have the right to tell me what I say or do is wrong if I don’t agree with what you say about yourself because each of us can decide for ourselves. This leads to a cruel society without morality or boundaries. And there is no place left for God.

The bottom line is that we find worth in what or who we worship. As John Piper explains we all need to know who we are, what our deepest desires and motives show about us, and what our relationships reveal about our worth.

An accurate evaluation

It is tempting to think that the perplexing search for love and worth has been fuelled by the social media age, but the quest goes as far back as King David in the Bible. Famous for being the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), David was also deeply flawed and sinful (2 Samuel 11:2-13). Yet it is in this broken state that he could pen the famous words of Psalm 139:1 “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.”

Psalm 139 verse 13 and 14

David reminds us that God knows our thoughts, actions (Psalm 139:2) and decisions (Psalm 139:2) before we do. He knows the words we will speak before we can think of them (Psalm 139:4). There is nowhere to hide from God. Even in our darkest hour, He is right there beside us (Psalm 139:7-12).

The God who made you and me formed our inward parts (Psalm 139:13) before we were born. He knew what we would look like (Psalm 139:15) and our days were ordained before we took our first breath (Psalm 139:16). “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!” (Psalm 139:17). Just like God knew before he chose him as king that David would sleep with Bathsheba and have her husband killed, so our Lord also knows every evil thought and bad decision you and I will ever make better than you know yourself.

Psalm 139 verse 17 How precious are your thoughts to me O God

Yet He loves us despite ourselves.

This is exactly why you cannot trust the opinions of anyone who disagrees with God’s opinion of you, even if it is you. His opinion never changes. To read His Word is to know your worth. The God who made the universe made you in His image (Genesis 1:26). Who knows you better than the One who Created you? Who is more jealous of your value than the Potter who moulded you (Isaiah 64:8)? Can anyone love you more than the One who died for you (1 John 4:10)?

God loved you before you could do one “good” thing to earn His love (Ephesians 1:4-8).

When you were still sinful and broken, denying your need to be saved, He loved you (Romans 3:23-24).

Even when you do what is wrong or do not do what is good, He loves you (Romans 7:25).

He can never stop loving you (Romans 8:38-39).

These truths from Scripture are just a glimpse into God’s word about how valuable you are to Him. His love for you is undeserved grace which, by definition, you cannot earn.  If you put your trust in Jesus Christ, God sees Christ when he looks at you. Your value cannot depreciate to Him. Our Father is steadfast in love and faithfulness, He does not have human flaws so He cannot stop loving you no matter how much you think you screwed up.

The point is that we are all unworthy of God’s love. Jesus came to live the perfect life on our behalf because we never could. Jesus paid the ultimate price on our behalf, so we don’t have to. You cannot earn your worth, but you are infinitely more valuable than your triumphs and feelings can ever convince you.

Is that not the best news you’ve ever heard?

This country-style song by Anne Wilson has a catchy way of reminding every girl to place her value in “blood bought, battle fought, all my shame long gone made new child of the King”. Enjoy the earworm!

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