Is a Lack of Self-Worth at the Root of Your Anxiety? | World Challenge

Is a Lack of Self-Worth at the Root of Your Anxiety?

Those in the church seem to suffer from anxiety every bit as much as those outside it. God’s work of salvation would seem to free us from fear and stress, but instead it often seems to do the exact opposite. This week, Gary explores the deeper reasons many believers struggle with anxiety, despite our faith.

Those in the church seem to suffer from anxiety every bit as much as those outside it. God’s work of salvation would seem to free us from fear and stress, but instead it often seems to do the exact opposite. This week, Gary explores the deeper reasons many believers struggle with anxiety, despite our faith.

Bob: Welcome to another Gary Wilkerson's podcast. Today, we're going to be talking about something that a lot of Christians face and that is fear, anxiety, and stress. In fact it’s been such an issue for such a long time that back in 1965, Billy Graham called that era, the age of anxiety. Can you imagine what he would say about this day and age now because it only seems to have gotten worse and Gary, why are we living with such fear and anxiety and the stress that comes from it?

Gary: Well, as a pastor, let me speak to Christian anxiety and stress. When we believe we're meant to live a perfect life because there are some scriptures that refer to that, "Be perfect even as I am perfect, be holy as holy." There's this sense of demand in our hearts and a requirement on us to be perfect. The desire for holiness and perfection is good but the angst that comes from the failure of attaining perfection, causes this anxiety, it causes stress, it causes fear, I'm not right with God.

Christian anxiety, maybe it's a little different than anxiety for non-believers. That's what I wanted to address today is the idea of anxiety being coming from, when you place-- Here's what I really believe, spiritual hunger, which is good with perfectionism, which is my spiritual hunger can only be met if I'm perfect. Religion plus perfectionism is going to equal anxiety. Until we get to the place where we realize God has for us and it's not against us, that He is drawing us towards the process of sanctification, is drawing us to a place of holiness.

I was reading Hebrews today where he was talking about discipline and in that discipline he says, "You're not brought to the old mountain of Sinai, you're brought to the City of Angels and good men made perfect." As soon as I saw that, that's really good, that will relieve a lot of my anxiety and I think the listener as well is that He sees us as good men, when we get to heaven will be made perfect. The call is towards perfection, the movement is towards perfection but the demand is not. If you're not perfect today you are considered a failure and I'm going to leave you and forsake you.

If we don't understand our value to God, our worth to God, we're going to live in stress, anxiety, performancism that kind of stress. I asked my wife the other day, I said, "Do you believe that you as you are, are worthy of love and belonging?" And she said, "In Christ, I am. I am not worthy in myself but in Christ, he makes me worthy." And I said, "So, somebody that doesn't know Christ, are they unworthy of love or belonging?"

It caught her off guard and it was a trick question because I had been wrestling with it for weeks before because I was asking myself, is my worth only in the single experience of salvation, or is there some worth and merit in our life, because we're born and created in God's image? I told her a non-Christian has worth and merit and value, we obviously want the experience of the cross. The idea behind that is we have the grace that covers our imperfections, but we are worthy not in ourselves we are worthy because we're created in God's image, we can be loved, we can belong.

To me, that's going to help us root out some anxiety and some stress and some this idea that I have to perform perfectionist that's going to cause me to finally be accepted, finally be loved. It's just a miserable way to live and that's why I think a lot of Christians are unhappy, a lot of people sitting in churches, and they're smiling externally, and they're raising their hands and they're worshiping God, and they're listening to sermons and they go to small groups, but inside they're just full of stress and anxiety and turmoil and sadness and brokenness because they're not realizing that Jesus loves them and accepts them and there's grace in their life.

Bob: It runs contrary to what we've been taught through hymns to the church where we're worm, or wretched. Has the church perpetuated the idea that we're worth nothing without Christ?

Gary: Yes. I think we have to hold this thing in harmony. The tension of this is that I do believe in the total depravity of man, and that we are born in sin and that without Christ, we are not saved. Not being saved or being in depravity does not mean that you are worthless, you have no dignity, there's no-- I think we have to understand whether Christian or not there is a basic human dignity, there is a basic human value, that God put within man. All men are worthy of being loved and not rejected, of being belonging and not cast aside.

Now certainly, when we come to Christ, there is a greater measure of joy and life and freedom and the bondage to sin is broken so the depravity is reversed, in a sense of now we have a new nature in Christ. I think Christians get stuck in that worm mentality. I call it the perpetual worm. I think myself, I'm worthless, I'm no good. Therefore, I have to perform perfectly in order to meet this standard, and I never perform perfectly so my life is filled with existential angst, dread, always waking up feeling like I'm never enough until I get to this level.

What that does, then it causes, and I see this a lot in ministry, in pastors conferences, it causes this striving for success for ambitious, when I finally accomplish this in ministry, or in life or business, then I'll belong then I'll be accepted. It's just never enough that the bar is never high enough and that will lead to anxiety. The only way out of that anxiety and stress and fear is not to try to perform better but to reverse the curse and say, "Wait a minute, I have human dignity and value.

When I met Christ, and he forgave my sins, now I have the throne of grace accessible to my life, and I have peace and joy now that I didn't have before." You have a double blessing of not only being valuable because God created you in your mother's womb, he put you together, he knitted together, you have that intrinsic value but now you even have a greater grace in your life.

Bob: When it comes down to that question, whether we believe as you put it, do you believe God is good? Do you believe God is for you? That's the question of faith, right? As Jesus said, in Luke, He was talking to disciples about this very issue when he said Oh ye of little faith. Is this a faith issue when it comes right down to it?

Gary: There's a need for two types of faith there. One is the faith that God believes in me, that he loves me, that he accepts me. The second hand of faith is, I believe I can accept myself, I believe there's dignity and worth and value in my own life. I've always believed that God loves me. I have always wrestled with, can accept myself? Am I good enough? Always feeling insignificant or insufficient therefore you tend to not speak up for yourself, like just in our relationship.

Just a few minutes ago, we were talking about this podcast, and you were saying, let's move in this direction I wasn't really agreeing with you. My tendency would be to say, like, I don't have a voice, I don't really have anything to say so let me back down. What I'm trying to say, wait a minute, I have value I have worth, I have something of significance to offer others.

That only comes through understanding who we are as human beings and having that dignity, worth and value and understanding then in Christ, we have a whole new nature, and therefore we're not operating from an emptiness that's trying to obtain that value. That's what causes the stress, that's what causes the anxiety, that's what causes the fear, I'm afraid I'm not enough, I'm afraid I'm not enough that causes all. That's the door with all other fear. Once I reverse the curse and say, "Wait a minute, I am complete in Christ, I'm still being sanctified, but his life is in me."

Then I'm not wrestling to try to get it, I'm not grasping for straws, I have something in me. Then there's this new power I can give now. I'm not operating out of anxiety of lack or of scarcity. I don't have enough so I'm grasping at straws to get enough. Now, I feel like I am sufficient. There's grace upon my life now. Now, I have something to give because I've rivers of living water in me, they flow out of me. That's different a feeling I'm empty inside, I have nothing to give so I better start performing well so I get enough inside to me to be able to have something to give.

Then one other thing I would say is if you're living in that place of anxiety and stress and fear that is born out of these feelings of insufficiency and inadequacy, unacceptedness, unworthiness, every decision you're going to be making them is going to be wrong because you going to be making decisions. What is my career? What should I do for a career? Well, I'm not enough so I'm going to make sure I get that top job and if somebody gets the promotion and I don't I'm going to be angry and all that stuff comes out of that. Everything comes out of this. This core sense of who we are in Christ or who we believe we're not.

I think every decision we make and in this first-hand experience, every decision I've made when I'm doing it out of I'm not enough and I'll never be enough and I'm insufficient and I'm unacceptable when I start making decisions based on that I'm not doing it for others or for love or for the kingdom of God, I'm doing it for me to try to get myself to prove I am enough or I can be enough, I can do enough, I am finally acceptable because of all these valuable things that I've offered, rather than starting from the point of God has made me valuable. Now out of that, I can give value to others and it doesn't cause me to be fearful.

It doesn't cause me to as we're talking about today to live in that anxiety that just you wake up with it, you go to sleep with it, you wake up at 3:00 AM in the morning, you're worried about this or worried about that. All those are just the fruit of this internal thing, the anxiety that we feel over issues comes from this core thing of, there's something wrong with me inside.

Bob: What do you suggest for our listeners and viewers? What should they do to build their faith and also at the same time understanding exactly who they are so they don't go down this path?

Gary: You always hear, believe the Word of God, believe what God says about you. Again, I may get some negative feedback on this but I don't believe that's enough. Because I spent my whole life believing what God says about me, but not believing what I need to believe about me. I think there's two things, one, believing what God says about you, but then also believing things about yourself that he says about you.

I can easily believe he says about me, he loves me, he accepts me, he forgives me but do I believe about myself? I'm loved. I'm accepted. I'm forgiven. I think those are-- It might be just a shade of a difference, but it's enough to be extremely significant as to whether or not we are walking in a Holy Ghost confidence rather than walking in that fear of never feeling like we're enough.

Bob: Ones the head knowledge the other is internalized, right? We actually accept it.

Gary: Yes. I don't know about you, but I think I do. I think a lot of people have more biblical, theological, spiritual head knowledge than they do the heart knowledge. I think we change in the heart more than we change in the mind. Both are important, but the mind speaks into it, but it's once you and that's why there's a process here to go back to your previous question.

I'm sorry. To go back to what we were talking about previously was, how do you navigate this? Believe in what God says about you, believing what you should believe about yourself. Then realizing it's a journey and in this journey, you have to allow into your heart, not to repress you have to allow it to heart almost the negative stuff to say, "Okay, well, wait a minute, I'm feeling anxious now. Where does that come from?" Most of us as Christians we want to rebuke the anxiety or say, "Devil get behind me." Or repent of that anxiety.

I believe you actually have to invite anxiety and examine it. Paul says, "Examine your heart." Why do I have anxiety? Where did that come from? What triggered that today? Somebody said something about me somebody did something. I got an email yesterday and it was, "Please do this." I was, the email wasn't meant that way but the way I took it was, this person doesn't trust me, and I have to kind of report, here's the data that I have to report to you.

It made me feel not enough again. Okay, instead of just saying, "I rebuke that thought, or, I'm sorry, Lord." Actually say, "Okay, why do I feel that way?" Okay, that goes back to my insecurity, then I can really repent in the deeper roots of my heart saying, "Oh, Lord, I'm sorry, I'm not trusting you that you are sufficient and that you have made me sufficient in Christ even as Paul said.

That had much more power than cutting the fruit off of the experience, "Okay, I'm sorry, I got a little bit upset at that I'm sorry I felt insecure Lord." Deeper level like, "Okay, I'm sorry that I don't understand who I am in Christ. I don't understand who you made me to be." That gives a greater power. I don't think you'll ever deal with anxiety by just dealing with the external issues has to be, as you said, dealing with it through the heart.

Key Questions from the Podcast

  • Why is there so much fear, anxiety and stress today even among Christians?
  • Has the church wrongly perpetuated the idea that we are worthless without Christ?
  • Is anxiety an issue of faith?
  • How can we overcome anxiety that stems from feeling worthless?

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

As a pastor, let me speak to Christian anxiety and stress. When we believe we're meant to live a perfect life, because there are some scriptures that refer to that, "Be perfect even as I am perfect, be holy as he is holy." There's this sense of demand in our hearts and a requirement on us to be perfect. The desire for holiness and perfection is good but the angst that comes from the failure of attaining perfection causes this anxiety. It causes stress. It causes fear. – Gary Wilkerson

Every decision I've made when I'm doing it out of “I'm not enough” and “I'll never be enough” and “I'm insufficient” and “I'm unacceptable”… when I start making decisions based on that, I'm not doing it for others or for love or for the kingdom of God. I'm doing it for me to prove I am enough, or I can be enough, I can do enough, I am finally acceptable because of all these valuable things that I've offered, rather than starting from the point of God has made me valuable. Now out of that, I can give value to others. – Gary Wilkerson

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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