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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Self-Worth vs. Relational Joy

I had a conversation with a friend the other day that got me thinking about the topic of self-worth.  It is common in psychological circles to view self-worth as the most fundamental of human needs.  I would disagree with that assessment.  Self-worth is a by-product, not a foundation.  The core need of the human heart is not self-worth, but relational joy. 
Over the past several years Jim Wilder has had a tremendous amount of influence on my thinking.  His book The Life Model  has given me a new vocabulary for discussing the human condition.  One of the core concepts of his model is the idea of relational joy.  He describes it as knowing that someone is happy to be with you.  One of the hallmarks of maturity is the ability to return to joy from upset emotion and the ability to share joy with others even during trials. 
Within the Trinity we see an eternal experience of relational joy.  Prior to our creation Father, Son, and Spirit were happy to be together.  The concept of the Trinity is superior to the Islamic view of monotheism precisely because it presents a God who is love.  God has always experienced and shared love within Himself.  When God created humans, He created them to be relational beings.  When mankind fell, the punishment was exile.  God sent them from the garden and away from the intimacy they shared with Him.  The Gospel does not promise us self-worth, but reconciliation.  Eternal life is knowing Jesus Christ.  The heart of the Gospel is relationship.  We were put here on this earth to walk with God in meaningful relationship. 
Out of joyful relationship comes self-worth.  The essence of self-worth is knowing that God and others are happy to be with you regardless of your behavior.  I am convinced that one of the great tragedies in the church today is that so many people are fear-bonded to God.  They do not believe that He is happy to be with them.  Or, they believe that He is only happy to be with them when they have earned His favor.   It is impossible to have a good sense of self-worth if you do not think God is happy to see you. 
Our adversary the devil understands this well.  It is no wonder that one of his primary strategies is to get us to believe lies about God that warp our image of Him and rob us of the joy that should be ours when we relate to Him.  The distortion brought on by Satan’s lies kills our connection with God and robs us of the joy that would be ours.  Thus, the “father of lies” “steals, kills, and destroys” the joy in our walk with God and the sense of self-worth that flows from a joyful relationship. 
If you struggle with your sense of self-worth, I encourage you to start by looking at your beliefs about God.  I am not talking about your beliefs as you would write them in a paper or the answers you would give on a theology test, but the beliefs you believe in your heart.  Ask God to reveal the lies that Satan has succeeded in planting in your heart.  Look at them carefully.  Recognize the war that has been waged on your heart.  Then renounce those lies and ask the Lord to show you the truth.  It can set you free and set you on the path to the type of relational joy that produces self-worth. 

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