I am often surprised by the number of people I talk to – including pastors and leaders – who struggle with feelings of unworthiness.
It reminds me of a game that psychotherapist and author Larry Crabb once wrote about.
A group therapist would play a game with people in his groups called “Top Secret.” Here’s how the game worked.
He would ask them to write out the one thing about themselves that they were the least inclined to share, and to then return the paper unsigned. In other words, write down the one thing that nobody knows about you – the one thing you’ve never shared.
Over the years, one answer consistently emerged as the most frequently admitted top secret: “I feel utterly worthless.”
When we are real, open, vulnerable – willing to be truthful with ourselves and the world – what we admit is that we do not consider ourselves of much real value.
Many may not know this, but Martin Luther felt the same way. In 1527, he wrote, “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost.”
This reached a point of spiritual crisis, with Luther writing that “the content of the depressions was always the same, the loss of faith that God is good and that he is good to me.”
So what made the difference?
Luther insisted on listening to another, more important, voice.
The voice of the truth of God’s Word, over and against his own insecurities, doubts and misgivings.
Even over the accusing voice of the evil one.
He tells of how the devil approached him one day and accused him of the enormous sin in his life. Satan laid out a long list of sins of which Luther was guilty, and thrust them under his nose in accusation.
Luther said to the devil, “Think a little harder; you must have forgotten some.” So the devil thought a little harder and added another few hundred to the list. When the devil was finished, Luther said, “Okay, now take a pen and some red ink and write across that list 'The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.'”
You can take up the same pen, writing as Luther himself did in his magnificent hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” the title now etched around the tower of Castle Church,
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
God desires nothing more than to infuse your heart and mind with a sense of meaning and purpose, and to call you to the front lines of what He is doing on this planet in light of His divine plan for your place and role.
Your mission, your place, will be unique from all others. He has a vision for your life that is yours and yours alone.
But following that vision will demand listening to His voice. Yes, it may include the voice of conviction, but never the voice of accusation. And the loudest voice of all will be that of affirmation.
Because if you answer the call of God, and walk with Him in obedience, submission and devotion, if you give your life over to Him – then you will become who you were created to be. And you will do incredible things.
Because God is a big God, who wants to do big things and He wants to do them through us.
That’s God’s “top secret” for you.
James Emery White
Adapted from James Emery White, A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying Through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). Click here to order this resource from Amazon.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.