You’ve likely heard the platitude: “You have to love yourself before someone else can love you.”
It doesn’t happen every day, but when life seems to become too complicated or my depression takes hold, it’s like an emotional and mental levee breaks. I begin to see my shortcomings as failures, my comforts as complacencies and my difficulties as incompetence.
Self-hate creeps in before I can barely detect it. I trick myself into thinking I need to try harder as if my salvation depends on me. I try to do anything that will make God happier with me. I begin to wonder if I will ever be worthy of God’s affection again — or if I ever had it in the first place.
It pops into my head: “Can God love me if I hate myself?”
If you’re anything like me, take heart. God designed the Gospel for us unworthies.
Jesus says in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” In the very beginnings of His public ministry, Jesus begins replacing the world’s platitudes with His: Our sickness is the very thing that makes us savable.
Paul echoes a similar sentiment in his first letter to the church at Corinth: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31).
The proud and haughty seek to be their own saviors; Gospel-needy people are sick and they are often shameful. They know they can do nothing and need to be rescued by someone whose status supersedes their own. They know they need to be fixed because they feel sin’s pang deep in their bones.
If you find yourself feeling sick and shameful, consider that God could be using it to remind you that you are not capable of saving yourself. Instead of being antithetical to God’s salvation, your sickness and shame actually pave the way for it.
Even so, while we believe God is able to save us, some of us wonder if He actually loves us — perhaps because we have sinned one too many times or we feel we are too stubborn to be loved. This, too, misunderstands of the love of God.
When you can’t love yourself and wonder where God’s love is, remember the God by Whom you are loved:
— You may doubt it sometimes, but you are predestined, called, justified and glorified by the Father (Romans 8:30). The Father actually loves us and calls us His children so that we will be like Him, since we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:1-2).
— You may doubt it sometimes, but Jesus can actually free you from your sins (Romans 6:22). He is not ashamed to call you His brother or sister because you have actually been made holy by His sacrifice (Hebrews 2:11).
You are not worthy of the Gospel. You never have been. God’s love is not due to your loveableness. Because of this, He will not leave you, even when you’re unlovable.
You are reckoning with a God who came down to take on flesh so that He could replace your unworthiness with His worthiness — a God who loves you even when you don’t love yourself. Your doubts cannot overpower the unchangeable character of God. Your blood-bought status can never be revoked by even the deepest fears or the darkest doubts. Your sonship in the family of God is the result of Christ’s merits alone, and He is the one who loves even the most unlovable.
— Cody Glen Barnhart of Maryville, Tenn., writes at www.theblazingcenter.com and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is pursuing his M.Div.