I thought about this as I read that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had experienced deep depression at one time, along with ‘self-hatred, self-contempt, a real, vicious sense of dislike of oneself.’ He was speaking about his personal experience in the first episode of The Archbishop Interviews, new on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds. He said that knowing that God loved him was a safety net for him.
Would it have made a difference, I wondered, if as well as knowing that God loved him, he could see himself as God saw him? Because our view of ourselves is largely that reflected back to us by others.
Justin Welby’s turning point came when he read a book by his daughter, Catherine Welby-Roberts, called, ‘I Thought There Would Be Cake.’ She had had a breakdown and very severe depression, and in her book there is a chapter about the need to be open to speak to others. So that’s what he did, and it made a huge difference.
People come for counselling for all sorts of reasons, but underlying much unhappiness is very low self-esteem. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps get to the root of this, and untangling it, helps build the person up to be as God intended.
We have a special ‘power’ as Christians, because through the lens of Scripture we are able to see ourselves as God sees us. In 1 Corinthians 20 we see how valuable we are. Deuteronomy 7:6 14:2, 26:18 tells us that we are treasured. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 1 says that He ‘chose us before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.’ Most amazing of all is that we are made in His image Genesis 1: 27.
Yes, sin has marred that image in us: it’s in our DNA since the Fall. We’re with Paul when he writes, ‘And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.’ (Romans 7:18.)
And in His compassion, God sent Jesus to Calvary, so that through Him we find salvation and ‘Shalom,’ completeness (Colossians 2:10).
Sometimes, when she helps an older person with is anxious, my friend Janet goes through psalm 23 with her, savouring the words slowly. ‘The Lord is my shepherd – my shepherd,’ she begins. When we are feeling less-than, reading this and the other verses helps us begin to see ourselves as God sees us.