For most of my life, I had never thought of myself as very pretty, or even very valuable in anyone’s eyes, which I realize now is actually a very dangerous place to start in a relationship. When we don’t know our worth in God’s eyes, we look for it in someone else’s eyes and their opinion of us becomes our whole world – whether that someone is who we hope to marry someday, our parents, our particular friend group, or even our social media following.
Back when I was in college, there was a boy who liked me that I never thought would be interested in me. He had contacted me to tell me that the Lord had put me on his heart to get to know better. I was ecstatic and thought, how could this go wrong if it was God who brought us together? Since we were going to different universities, we would email back and forth and share our hearts with one another and what the Lord was teaching us. From our encouraging and intimate correspondence, I assumed that this guy was probably going to be “the one.”
During this time, I tried to do everything right. I woke up early to pray, tried to eat healthier, got involved in church ministry, went on mission trips. But as I was pursuing the “right” things I felt that something wasn’t right. Why was I doing all these “godly” things? Was it for God and because I loved Him? Or was it because I thought it impressed this guy? Or even because I thought it would get me what I wanted, as if waking up early every morning to pray and fasting might make this relationship work out.
In the midst of scrambling to do all the “right” things, I noticed this guy stopped contacting me and stopped being interested in me. I was wondering what I did wrong. And soon after, I heard he started dating another friend of ours from church. I didn’t understand why. I was so heartbroken. I remember saying to God, “I’ve given You everything, God! And this is what I get?”
David says in the psalms, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). I struggled with what it meant to “delight” myself in the Lord. I was doing what I thought my Father wanted but my delight wasn’t in my Father. It was in my own plans for my future – a future that involved this person and all the wonderful things I foresaw. And I assumed that if I pleased God He would give me my idea of the perfect relationship. But God never promises that in His Word. In fact, He assures us that the road ahead will be difficult as we follow Him:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12,13)
God urges us of the importance of having relationship with Him first and foremost because even when all other earthly relationships disappoint, fall away, and hurt us, our joy will still stand firm because of our relationship with Him. He even commands us to delight in Him because He knows that whatever our future holds, as long as He is in it, our joy will be secure, and we will truly get the desires of our heart.
I realized that my life hadn’t really been about a relationship with God but about finding my worth in the eyes of others. It took coming to a place of seeing nothing lovable about myself to understand my true worth in God’s eyes. When I had nothing to impress others by, and surely nothing to impress God with, He reminded me that He loved me even amidst all my brokenness. It was there that I knew He loved me and would never give up on me.
Even now, having moved on from that time in my life, being happily married and a mom of two, I still have to remind myself that first and foremost, my identity and worth comes from the Lord. Just because I’m older, it doesn’t mean heartbreak doesn’t happen and I don’t lose sight of what’s important. On the contrary, there is still that temptation to find my worth elsewhere. But when the Lord brings me back to Him, my first love, I am reminded that He is the One who created, designed and chose me. And out of His lovingkindness, I can love and relate to others in the way He has called me.