I would guess that everyone would change past situations or events if they could only go back twenty years and press a “Replay” button. We have all had times where we spoke first and thought later! We may even hash it over and over again in our minds thinking, “If only I had said or done this.” As Christians, these past mistakes are opportunities for growth. Even though some of these events are heart-wrenching, you have probably grown stronger from them-and for sure will try never to repeat them. That’s the beauty of the Scriptures. We are told in Titus 2:3, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good.” If there is something that I can share with my younger sisters in Christ, so that they won’t suffer the same consequences, then I need to do so.
A “cloud” that hangs over my head is one of low self-esteem. I have allowed this dark cloud to make choices for me, keep me from speaking out when I should have, and also cause feelings of depression. An event in my childhood seems to have formed this “cloud” early on, but because of my immature mind at the time, I had a hard time pushing it out of my thoughts and moving forward. I will not go into detail of this event, because I feel it is not my place to confess the wrongs of others, and also because the issue here is not the event, but what I did because of it. Remember, each one of us will stand in judgment for our lives on the last day (Acts 17:31).
When I became a Christian, I knew these feelings of low self-esteem were wrong, and I fought them daily. I continued to grow in my faith as a child of God, got married, and was blessed with children. I felt a greater responsibility then, to be a proper example to my family. My husband, being such a godly man and encourager, kept reminding me that if there is any power that can equip us to forge out “demons” from our childhood, it is the Word of God. Whatever we may have gone through, there is peace and healing at our disposal. No one should live with a cloud of low self-esteem over them when they are clothed with Christ. The transformation has started, “Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
Thinking back to our childhood, there will always be moments and actions by others that either stirred feelings of discontent, or loving memories. None of us has had, or will have perfect parents. It is left to us then, as adults, to sort these feelings from the past out, and choose the actions that our lives will imitate. Will we continue in bad habits that we’ve learned from the past, or strive to imitate our Lord and His ways? It will be our lifelong quest: “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
We can take comfort in the Scriptures knowing that many of God’s people had challenges to overcome also. Moses was taken from his parents and raised by an ungodly family (Exodus 2:10), Esther’s parents died and she was taken in and raised by her cousin Mordecai (Esther 2:7), Daniel was captured, taken to a new land, and forced to learn a new language and culture of a foreign king (Daniel 1:3-4). And how could we talk about traumatic childhoods without mentioning Joseph? Sold by his very own brothers to be a slave; then serving prison time for being wrongfully accused? (Genesis 37:28 and 39:17-20) But what is the common thread among all these people who had “less than ideal” childhoods? They all went on to do great things for God! They did not let the traumatic events from early on effect the way their lives could be used in service to God and His Kingdom. God, in His wisdom, knew we would have difficulties, so He gave us examples to learn from and imitate. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” However hard it may be for us, let us train our minds to turn events around for the good.
For instance, let’s consider the ways of a young man named Saul in Acts 9. His zeal to please the high priest of that time led him to “breathe threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). He probably thought he was helping the community by doing away with what he deemed as “rebels.” As he was journeying to Damascus in pursuit of Christians, the Lord stops him in his tracks and shines a new light (literally!) on what he is actually doing! (Acts 9:3, 4) We could say that Saul was at the “bottom of the pit” in his life right then, couldn’t we? But look at what the Lord had in store for him. Ananias was told to go to him because he was a “chosen instrument” of the Lord’s. (Acts 9:15) Saul’s reputation was known, and Ananias was fearful of approaching him (vs. 13, 14), and honestly, I would have been also! Saul learns the truth from the disciples there, and we are told, “Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues.” (vs. 19, 20) Did Saul wallow in self-pity because of what he had been–a hunter of Christians? Absolutely not! He went forward to become the great apostle Paul. He turned his legacy around from one who persecuted the way, to one who served time in jail for teaching about Christ (Acts 26).
Now let me make an appeal to my sisters in Christ: whatever your childhood may have impressed on you, whatever trauma you have experienced, whatever reputation you have had in the past, it can all be washed clean and started over again with the love and strength from our great God and Savior! “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Learn from our past trials or events, and go on to be all the more wiser because of them. We can’t choose how we were raised, but we can profit from it with the Lord’s help. A quote I liked from the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was where it was said, “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.” Look at your past and turn the hurt into ways that can be used to give glory to God. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Take courage from Moses, Esther, Daniel, Joseph and Saul, who overcame great obstacles and went on to serve the Master without a backward glance. “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).
As for self-esteem issues, I work each day to be sure that the one I am pleasing is the only One that ultimately matters. People will let me down, and I will let people down, but the point is to get back up, brush myself off, and move forward. I never want to boast in what I have done, but what the Lord has done for me. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) When I have times of weakness then, I need to sit back and reflect on the power of the Lord to strengthen me and help me press on.
In the past, I have let low self-esteem keep me from speaking the truth, teaching others, and being a godly example. I cannot let this control me any longer. Mark 14:36 and John 8:50 tell us that even our Lord Himself came to earth, leaving His Heavenly home to be born in a stable, yet He denied His will and lived His life to the glory of the Father. Shouldn’t this be our goal also? We are not here for “self-service” but for the service of God, just as Jesus was.
Keep at the forefront of your mind, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) There is nothing that you and the Lord can’t handle together. Sisters, let me encourage you to not let any more time be wasted on “dark clouds” that can consume your mind and essentially waste your time. Be confident in the fact that God gives us new life and hope. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3)
(As a side note, of course the Scriptures are our number one guide book, but I also found encouragement in a book written with a Christian perspective called: “So Long, Insecurity,” by Beth Moore.)
By Robin Martin
Robin serves with the South Twin Cities congregation in Rosemount, Minnesota, where her husband serves as an evangelist. She feels extremely blessed to have seven children, and eight grandchildren with two more on the way!