“I have lived my entire life without making a significant impact on the world or on even one person. I don’t always feel this way, but thoughts of my own worthlessness keep coming back. I really want to make a difference, but more often I’d rather just give up.”
Do you ever feel like that? This is a common symptom in the general population, but it is epidemic among those who carry the “depressed” label. If you often feel this way you may think you have come to an end of solutions—that there is no hope for change. Even if there is hope you really do not feel like looking for solutions even if there is one out there. Before you throw in the towel there are some questions I would like you to answer:
Question one: Is your worth measured by you or by your creator? As part of the only race of humans ever made (Adam’s race), you were designed in the image of God. That is why murdering or even calling people idiots is an attack on God’s image (Genesis 9:6; Matthew 5:21-22). You would probably bristle at the suggestion that ethnic minorities, nursing home residents or handicapped children are worthless. Do your own “worthless” feelings make you the exception? If you feel guilty for failing to meet your own expectations you are either creating standards of performance that God never created or you need to repent of sin. A proper understanding of grace assures you that God sets the standard for human performance and lifts up those who humbly acknowledge their inability to keep that standard.
Question two: Are you allowing your life to be defined by how you feel at any given moment? You may be controlled by your emotions. If so, you have a vicious and capricious master. You never know which despot is going to rule as you wake up each day. You don’t have to take orders from your emotions. A better alternative is to take the warning God gave Cain about giving in to negative emotions (Genesis 4:6-7). You must master the monster crouching at your door. Your feelings should never be the thermostat that controls your life, but a thermometer that reflects what is going on inside you. Learn to read the thermometer.
Question three: Are you fishing for human approval? You know that whenever you say, “My life is a waste and I’m such a loser,” you can find someone who will come up with some nice things to say about you. The trouble with craving that kind of attention is that even if people are sincere it makes you a slave to the opinions of others. Let me put this straight: you really are a wretch (Romans 7:24-8:1). But don’t stop there. That’s only the bad news. If you go no further than talking about how bad you are and how bad you feel, your wallowing makes you miss the voice of the Rescuer. You are trading the glories of redemption for the few scraps of human attention you can get when people feel sorry for you. The good news is that only wretched sinners have hope for change because Jesus died only for wretched sinners. Are you one of those?
Question four: Is it possible that feeling worthless is a gateway to finding real change? When you feel worthless or that your life is meaningless you are actually communicating something very positive. You are saying that there is such a thing as worth and meaning. Maybe the real issue here is not that you are worthless but that you have yet to discover what actually is worthy and meaningful in this world. You may be like a man who curses the darkness because he knows the sun must be somewhere close by. Don’t give up so easily. Glory where another wretched man gloried:
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14
Let me say it another way. Your despair does not mean that hope does not exist for you. It underscores the truth that you have been chasing after the wrong prize. The Lord of Life pronounced blessedness on those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). Only such mourners will find comfort.
Ten articles in this series: