by Matthew W. Bassford

The other night, I dreamed about my high-school crush. This was strange; I haven't had any contact with her for a quarter century. Perhaps my life is passing before my eyes in slow motion.

It did remind me, though, of the way things went with her. She was interested in me and would have gone out with me if I had asked, not only in high school but for years afterward. I never did ask because of my insecurity.

Insecurity sounds like a small problem. People who are insecure need to get over themselves, grow a spine, etcetera. I have not found it to be so. It is no exaggeration to say that in combination with my chronic depression, insecurity has cast a pall over my life.

I know that this will astonish many of my readers. After all, I have held an honored place among my people as a preacher of the gospel. God in His kindness has given me many gifts. My writing is read and my hymns are sung across the world.

However, none of that has ever made a dent in my negative self-image. I used to blame the relentless bullying I endured as a child for my problems, but I see the same struggle in my daughter, who has not been bullied. I now think it is simply an inborn thorn in the flesh.

I don't say all this to provoke sympathy, as though I needed more. Rather, I know I'm not alone, and I wanted to share with my fellow sufferers some of the things that have helped me.

The first of these is understanding God's love for me. Sometimes, we perceive God's love as impersonal. He loves everyone, so His love for each of us has nothing to do with any of us.
This is far from the truth. God doesn't love wholesale; He loves retail. The same One who is concerned with the fall of sparrows is deeply concerned with every single one of us. He knows everything there is to know about each of us, and He does not love us despite this knowledge. He loves us because of it. As an individual, I am uniquely lovely and precious in His sight, and so are you.

Second, I am reassured by the grace of Christ. All my life, I have yearned for perfection and been tormented by my failings. In Christ, I am perfected in all the ways that matter. I may cringe as I think about past failures, but God doesn't. In one of the greatest mysteries of all, He in His omniscience has chosen to forget them. I place no confidence in myself, and I never will be able to. However, I can put all of my confidence and all of my hope in the redeeming power of grace.

Third, I have found intense joy and profound peace in loving and serving others. Believe me; I know how hard this is! By nature, I am inwardly focused, a true navel-gazer. Others assemble vast libraries to help them learn about God, but I generally have relied on the Bible, meditation, and prayer. Some of my friends have asked me where all of my ideas come from, but I have never had to work to come up with them. They come bubbling up within me. In fact, especially of late, I have many more ideas than I have time and opportunity to put into writing.

This is a gift, but it's also a trap. Meditating on the things of God is good, but an inwardly turning habit of mind is dangerous. The more I think about myself, the more lies the devil is able to feed me. It leads to the downward spiral of depression.

By contrast, focusing on others sets me free. Even praying about myself and my problems can lead me to despair, but I always benefit from praying about others. When I seek to serve others, not from the hope of anything for myself but out of disinterested love, I can paradoxically find great self-satisfaction.

If you are depressed or insecure, love people. Love especially the unlovely, the difficult, the overlooked, and the vulnerable. Love the people who are most in need of love. When your life is full of people like this, they will leave no room for the demons of self-doubt.

I mourn for all of the victims of the devil's oppression. I think there is no earthly way to quell that vicious inner voice. However, if we trust in what God has given and planned, we can struggle onward to joy with Him.

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