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The Value of Self-Doubt

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” --Exodus 3:11

I just did a quick Google search on the words “self-esteem” and “self-confidence.” I doubt the results will surprise you. The first page of links featured ideas to improve and raise self-esteem as well as to build self-confidence. Next, I inserted the word “Christian” in front of those phrases. The search gave me book titles like You are Enough, More than Enough and Believing in Myself: Self Esteem Daily Meditations.

Contrast this with the words of Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9.23) Paul added in Galatians 2.20 that “I have been crucified with Christ and I (myself) no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” “Self” is not a candidate for elevation or a boost; it needs to die. Invariably, selfishness sinfully asserts its demand for attention and loyalty—it is a rival to the throne of our hearts, a throne only the Lord is worthy to occupy. I’m not saying that people have no worth. They have immeasurable worth and dignity, but those qualities derive from being made in the image of God, not some inherent value that flows out of a “self” independent of our Maker.

As for confidence and esteem, neither is wisely directed to myself and my resources. Instead, the Psalmist declared, “For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.” (Psalm 71.5) The writer of Hebrews pointed to God’s throne of grace as the worthy recipient of our confidence. (Hebrews 4.16) As for esteem, the prophet Isaiah put it bluntly, “Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” (Isaiah 2.22) And yet we do—and we want it for ourselves as well.

Often times, the Lord has to bring us to the end of ourselves to get us to understand the truth about ourselves. One of my favorite passages in the Bible illustrates this principle. This passage is packed with spiritual meat to chew on; I wrote 2 reflections on different facets of this story in my most recent devotional book, A Light That Guides. As we have in the last few blog posts, let’s visit another biblical mountaintop: Mount Horeb (pictured above.) This mountain was the location of Moses’ profound encounter with God through the burning bush that was not consumed by the flames. But let’s not focus on the miracle itself—let’s examine Moses’ response to what transpired on that mountain.

Moses was born to be God’s instrument in leading the Israelites out of their Egyptian bondage; Pharoah’s daughter even gave him a Hebrew name which meant “he draws out.” (She thought the name meant “I drew him out” since she had rescued him from the Nile River—but God used this grammatical error to remind Moses of his life purpose.) Relying on his own energy, passion and resources, one day Moses killed an Egyptian overseer who was beating a Jewish laborer. Because Moses had relied on his own strength and cunning to fulfill his legitimate calling, everything had gone wrong. Moses fled Egypt and lived “on the lam,” tending sheep on the back side of the desert. I’m sure Moses thought that the Lord was done with him and that his opportunity to fulfill his destiny was gone. Every day that went by out there in “nowhere,” Moses’ confidence in himself took a beating just like that Hebrew slave.

How do we know that? Read how Moses answered God’s call to return to Egypt and lead His (and his) people out of their oppressive circumstances. First, Moses asked God whom he should tell the people Who He was. (Exodus 3.13) After all that had happened, Moses may not have even been sure himself who God was anymore. When our life is put on hold or we feel devastated, we begin to question everything, including ourselves and even the Lord’s identity. Next, Moses wondered whether anyone would really listen to him or believe him. (Exodus 4.1) Finally, Moses argued that he couldn’t speak well enough to convince anyone. (Exodus 4.10) Growing up in Pharoah’s court, Moses would have received the best of educational training, including the art of rhetoric. Unquestionably the man had been eloquent at one time, but all that had led Moses to this bush had knocked the self-reliance right out of him. No wonder he said to the Lord, “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3.11)

Now the Lord had Moses right where he needed him to be to serve the purpose of his life. Clearly his self-confidence and self-esteem were gone; all Moses had to do was obey. To do so required Moses to shift his confidence and trust to the Lord and away from himself. It was almost too much for him to embrace. God had been very patient through all of Moses’ questions and objections. But when Moses suggested God send someone else on the mission, the Scripture says that the Lord finally got angry. There is value to self-doubt—it forces us to take that leap of faith. The only thing that will disappoint the Lord is not our questions or our doubt, it is the unwillingness to jump. The good news is that we never have to go alone. God gave Moses the company of his brother, Aaron, as this adventure began. (Exodus 4.14-16) And the Lord will give us the people we need to have our backs and to remind us that the Lord, not ourselves, is more than enough.

In the King James version of the Scripture, we read that Moses was the meekest man who ever lived on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12.3) To be meek doesn’t mean to be weak. Moses didn’t suffer from insecurity or a lack of self-worth. Rather, to be meek means to lack self-assertion or arrogance; Moses was patient, long-suffering, strong but submissively obedient to the Lord. In short, he had learned where to place his confidence. And it wasn’t in himself.

Heavenly Father, it is so instinctual for us to rely on ourselves first before seeking You for help or trusting You above all else. Forgive us for our misplaced faith and confidence. As we submit to You and allow You to guide our lives, help us to learn the lessons You teach us along the way. You are more than enough for me. Everything I need You’ve got. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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