Parentology.com recently made up a list of top ten things that young people are facing in the year 2020. In the top three of them include acceptance, followed by stress, then depression. Self-harm features at number four and surprisingly enough, bullying tops sex, which features at number seven. I think this is a startling reality for us. It seems as if the issues we are going through as young people are majorly caused by a lack of feeling accepted in the family or society/ community we live in. When I fail to have the right estimates of my identity, then it means that everything and anything will give me an identity- or cheat me into believing one that is not my own.
As we continue in this new year, may our thoughts find a refresher in these thoughts that are geared towards changing the way think. Paul says that we should not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Changing the way we think is a deliberate thing. No-one can change our minds for us.
What if it doesn’t matter at all what people think or say I am?
The world has sold to us an equation that tells us that Appearance + Achievement = Acceptance. This means that there is a lot of emphases is placed on looking ‘good.’ Gone are the days when black, brown, chocolate skin colour wasn’t in comparison to anyone else. Gone are the days when people appreciated who they are and never longed to be like others. When television started becoming a big deal, then it was not beautiful enough to be dark-skinned or a little plump.
Men were considered not handsome if they were not tall, dark and had a normal hairline. It stopped being about the inner us, and it all became a man-please-man affair. The beauty industry introduced cosmetics for women, especially the black woman, that would bleach her and give her a skin tone that she never had. Men started taking steroids to build their muscles and make the ladies’ heads to turn around. We lost the essence of beauty and identity.
Education, much as it was critical, became a reason for segregation. Think about it; how many ‘A’ students fancy the company of ‘D’ students? Homes started making sure that even noble things as marriages were all in the confines of money, social class and outward appearance. In short, we lost the true meaning of identity and gave birth to a problem called- lack of acceptance!
What makes us? Is it the sum of our possessions and earthly accolades? Is it what others conclude that we are? What makes us? The Bible reminds us that we are created in the image and likeness and of God. Being created in his image and likeness is not as much about the outside as it is the inside. Being in the image of God is enhanced because we have His Spirit inside of us. Since being made in God’s image is more about the inside than the outside, then race, colour, or status does not matter.
You get reminded that you’re an image-bearer of God once you see Him as he is, he shows who we are! Psalm 139 is an excellent reminder of why we have acceptance issues. We have them because we’re seeking after the approval of men as opposed to seeing God for who He is. The Psalmist says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and God doesn’t make junk. There you go! God has approved his product. Whether we like it or not, is our problem. For him, this product does not need to be remanufactured! If this became your new train of thought, then 2020 might just be among the best years of your life.
What if I do not have to worry about what I cannot control?
A second “what if” question deals with worry. Worry is something that many of us struggle with all of the time. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 6:25-34 in his sermon on the mount. Jesus said that we’re not to worry about what to eat, drink or wear. But why would Jesus find this fitting to share? Because worry is the price, we pay for things we will never enjoy.
As humans, we have an inbuilt desire to be in control, especially after the fall of man in Genesis. Initially, we were meant to exist under the full provision of God (as Adam had in the garden), but we sinned. Sin brought more harm than we could ever imagine. One of the ills of sin was inadequacy and need for control. Worry is a worthless thing that does not build your life or help you in any way. Why is worthy of an ineffective effort?
Because we cannot change the situations that bring us anxiety, otherwise we would not feel anxious. We have no natural power in ourselves even to turn a hair on our head a different colour, let alone getting a job for ourselves, or finding a marriage partner.
Because God cares for little things like birds of the air (Matthew 6:26) and flowers and lilies, he clothes them beautifully than anything or anyone on earth (Matthew 6:28). The birds fly without working yet the Lord provides them with food and shelter.
Because it casts doubt on the ability of God to eternally and substantively provide. God owns all things in this world (Psalm 50:11, 1 Kings 20:3). He says that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). There is nothing that we have that never came from God; therefore, to trust him is not illogical or foolish. He knows what he is doing with you.
Because worry never makes anyone’s life better (Matthew 6:27). It brings stress and later depression. It is harmful to our mental health and destructive to our productivity. As we used to sing back in the day, “Why worry when you can pray?”
Take time and take it easy today. Look up to the Lord, my friend. This year may become your all-time best year, if only you shifted paradigms and considered the question thoroughly, “What if?”