Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection

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My husband teaches high school health, and in looking at a textbook of his, I came across the statement that people who suffer from low self-esteem should focus on the things they are good at and things that they like about themselves in order to boost their self-worth. Obviously, such a practice is positive in that it helps students focus on what they like about themselves, when so many high school students are caught up in negative self-talk and self-hatred.

However, such an exercise is limited in that it encourages students to think about their worth in terms of what they look like and what they do. While both our appearance and abilities contribute to our overall make-up, we feel better about ourselves not when we merely focus on ourselves — our external qualities — or even by looking internally as an end to itself. We feel better about ourselves when we understand that our worth doesn’t come from ourselves but from God. And we can have a better self-image when we understand who God has made us to be and how much He loves us.

To Feel Better About Ourselves, We Have to Know Who We Are

A year ago, as I was writing a project on self-worth and looking up some passages in Genesis, I came across an idea in this same vein in the commentary I read: To know ourselves we must know God. This idea may seem illogical at first glance. But the truth is that we come to know and love ourselves more when we seek God. This happens because as we come to know Him — we, in turn, become more aware of who we are and how much value we have. This happens for the reason that as we grow to know Him, we better understand how loved we are. And believing we are loved or un-loved is at the heart of our worth issues.

Pastor Mike Riches says in Living Free that we are made to love and be loved by a God of love. As he says, people thrive in an environment of love and respect. Such experiences set in each person value, worth, significance, and security.

Conversely, according to Riches, those who do not live in such an environment will lack a sense of value and will live with feelings of insignificance and insecurity. Understandably, a person who has experienced “malicious rejection, injustices, or abuses” will be “severely damaged at the very core of his or her being.”

You may be reading this and be able to recall in your own life specific experiences that hurt you so badly that you questioned your worth as a result. And perhaps you have struggled with those feelings of unworthiness ever since. Or perhaps you are facing a painful rejection right now. Maybe an important relationship in your life has ended or there is a situation at work where you have being mistreated.

As Riches argues, these rejections or abuses can create in us wounds of “love-deprivation.” These are places that can become open doors for Satan to gain access into our lives, if we are not careful. From the time we are young, according to Riches, Satan attempts to get us to believe lies of rejection, abandonment, and fear. If he can do that, he can get a foothold, or territory, in our lives. If we believe we are unloved and unimportant, this absence of love creates the perfect environment for the enemy’s schemes.

You may wonder how it is that the enemy can gain territory in your life if you belong to Christ. While Satan cannot possess a believer who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit, he can certainly oppress a believer, if given access. Ephesians 4:26 says, “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Satan can gain a foothold in our lives through our wrong responses to the injustices and wounds that occur to us. If he can get us bogged down in wrong thinking and sinful responses to the injustices done to us, he can make us ineffective Christians tormented by wrong thoughts and sinful behavior patterns — and possibly even get us to turn our back on God.

What are some wrong thoughts and responses? They can vary, according to Riches, but they can include bitterness, resentment, and negative thoughts about ourselves and others. Perhaps if we experience rejection in a relationship, we begin to allow an unhealthy script to play in our head such as, “No one could ever love me. I am different than everyone else. I will just have to be alone for the rest of my life.” Or the script could read, “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen. He must hate me.” These are all lies that directly contradict what it says in the Bible about our worth and how much God loves us.

In addition, these feelings can lead to a desire for revenge or retaliation against the person who has hurt us. As Ephesians declares, we are not to sin in our anger. Anger in and of itself is not sinful, but anger that is left unchecked that we nurse and allow to grow can turn into not only wrong thinking, but wrong behavior toward a person. In our anger, we might gossip about a person that has hurt us or attempt to make the person look bad in front of others or lash out at the person. All of these are unbiblical responses that can give Satan a foothold in our lives — and may even, as I discuss further in my next section, be a place where we develop a stronghold in our thoughts or behavior.

Why It’s Important That We Understand How Much Worth We Have

Clearly, as Riches notes, it’s “a biblical and valid concern for us to address the need for human beings to realize their significance, worth, and value” so that we can understand how to react correctly to rejection and abuse and not allow the enemy to gain territory in our lives. However, even if we have reacted wrongly to injustices, we can recover what the enemy has stolen from us and embrace how much God loves us.

The truth is that many of us don’t understand how our wrong responses to the rejection in our lives have put us in bondage. As Riches says, we go through life thinking that we are victims without taking responsibility for how we have reacted wrongly to the rejections. In addition, not only do we, in many cases, respond the wrong way to the rejection and abuses we face, we may also look to replace our feelings of unworthiness with a substitution that can’t give what only God can. As Riches observes, most people don’t even know they have issues with love-deprivation and employ coping mechanisms to compensate. They might become workaholics. Or they might turn to relationships or a substance to attempt to feel better about themselves. Whatever the case, these continued wrong responses and fleshly coping mechanisms become strongholds in the life of a believer.

What are strongholds? Strongholds are patterns in our thinking or actions that become refuges for us apart from God. According to Beth Moore in Breaking Free, strongholds in ancient times were high places near a city that governors could flee to when a city was under attack. The stronghold was high and heavily fortified so that it would be difficult for an enemy to penetrate. In a similar way, strongholds in our spiritual life are fortresses we erect, particularly in times of insecurity, to help us feel protected and safe. However, these strongholds that provide us so much comfort initially cannot save us and will become obstacles in our spiritual life.

As the Bible warns, the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). When we rely on something else to feel better or base our worth on — whether that be a job, relationship, or talent, we will be disappointed when that thing crumbles. And we will crumble, too. Unfortunately, at times we will fail despite our best efforts. We might get fired. Other people will leave or disappoint us.

The Bible tells us that a wise man builds his house on a rock and the foolish man on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). A wise person builds his identity and sense of worth on that which can never be taken away: God and His love. Understanding that God loves us not because of anything we have done but because of who He is and understanding He chose us to be here and live out a special purpose gives us worth. As Riches emphasizes, when we understand God’s great love, we are made complete in our spiritual walk (Ephesians 3:18-20).

We can’t attain this love or God-given worth from a stellar education, high-paying job, prominent position, large social media following, attractive physical appearance, or romantic relationship. In addition, however ugly it sounds, fixing our attention on something other than God to be our refuge or salvation is idolatry. We begin looking to the job, relationship, material item, or hobby to fill us in a way only God can.

Former NFL player Tim Tebow had to learn this the hard way. For most of his life, he wanted to be a starting quarterback. He lived that dream all through college, but once he got in the NFL, his dreams shattered when he was told by his team that his services weren’t needed anymore. When his NFL team let him go, he struggled because so much of what he had considered part of his identity was gone.

He had to embrace the idea that his worth wasn’t found in a quarterback position or in his athletic ability — his worth was found in Jesus Christ alone. Note what he says in a devotional he wrote about the experience:

When life throws us curve balls or shatters into tiny bits before our eyes, it’s easy to doubt ourselves, God’s plan, even God Himself. But when we’re hurt, disappointed or frustrated by the negative side of thwarted plans, crushed dreams and painful losses, we can still hold on to God’s truth.

We can set the Lord continually before us. We can choose over and over to trust God and believe He’s still got a plan for our lives, even when we don’t have a clue what that is. We may feel shaken by emotions and circumstances, but we’ll always have Someone to hold on to. Someone who will never let us go.

Basing Our Identity on Christ Helps Us Get Through Life’s Injustices

As Christians we need to know that identity and worth come from God. We can find healing for our feelings of low-self-worth and wounds of rejection when we choose to believe what it says in Scripture about who we are in Christ and how much God loves us.

We are told in Genesis that we are made in the image of God and that He made us as the climax of His creation (Genesis 1:27, 28). No mistake on our part can take away the worth that has been bestowed on us by our Creator (Romans 8:38, 39). As followers of Jesus, we are adopted sons and daughters in the family of God (Galatians 3:26-29), co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), considered saints (1 Corinthians 1:2), forgiven and considered holy (Hebrews 10:10), and chosen to do God’s good works (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12, 13).

Therefore, when bad things happen, we have truths we can speak over ourselves to remind us of our position as Christ followers. However, if we have allowed certain rejections or injustices to give Satan a foothold in our life and establish a stronghold, we have the power through Jesus Christ to break those areas of control we have given Him and find freedom. We can repent of the ways we’ve raised up strongholds in our lives to “fix” our feelings of unworthiness and demolish those fortified places by replacing the lies we are believing with truth. We can also forgive others for the ways they have hurt us and ask them to forgive us for our wrong responses to their rejections and abuses.

Throughout the month, I’ll be talking more about healing from past rejections and the steps to break from a cycle of rejection. To learn more about how to heal from feelings of low self-worth and past rejections, check out my next few articles, and I will explain more in detail about how to see yourself as God sees you and heal from your rejections and injustices.

*Updated May 4, 2018.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Avoiding Comparison That Leads to Depression

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Hey friend, have you ever looked at someone else and wanted her house, her looks, her promotion, her life? Comparison — looking at others and assessing what they have that we don’t — can lead to negative thoughts that spiral into depression. In this second podcast episode in our depression series, we discuss the common problem women have of looking at others and experiencing discontent. We explore three practical ways we can avoid falling into the trap of negatively comparing ourselves to others and instead celebrate the person God made us to be.

If you haven’t yet listened to episode 5 (our first episode in the depression series) and read the corresponding post, we encourage you to do so. In addition, you can tune in next week for our final episode on depression. We will wrap up our series by taking a candid look at the place depression sometimes leads — suicide — and why suicide is never the answer.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in more of our latest posts? Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

If you’d like to take a look at the resources mentioned in the podcast, check out Sandra Stanley’s Comparison Trap: A 28-Day Devotional for Women and Bob George’s Victory Over Depression.

In addition, though not mentioned in the podcast, the following are a few more articles related to overcoming negative thinking and depression that may be an encouragement and help to you: A Christian Perspective: Overcoming DepressionHow Can I Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns and Depression?, and Why Medicine Won’t Cure Your Depression.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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The Art of Finding Self-Worth: Embracing Your Identity in Christ

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Because of an abusive past, so much of my identity was based in my sexuality. I thought if I was “hot” enough, I would meet my own needs by getting all the attention and affection I desired. I bit the apple of seduction hard by the time I was 15. All I had to do was get skinny enough, buy clothes cute enough, get my makeup right enough . . . and I had power, influence on others, something to offer the world. Power! I had never experienced it before, and it felt good. Here was my salvation, my panacea for the pain and powerlessness of my situation, my way out of a world that didn’t seem to open a lot of positive doors. I could do this thing and do it right!

As a young person, I used to wonder why old people’s faces were so downcast, why so many senior citizens seemed miserable. I’ll tell you why because now I know. Sin takes you farther and deeper than you ever thought possible or ever wanted to go. They may not know enough about God and the Bible to realize that’s what happened to them, but that’s what painted the frown on their face — whether the sin of unforgiveness or bitterness or anger or pride or addiction or whatever other sin they committed in reacting to life’s hard circumstances.

Building Identity on the Foundation of Christ

For me, the sin of seduction began to snake its way into my insecure teen years as my “salvation” until it eventually wove its way into every fabric of my life for decades to come. Even as a Christian, my relationships were marred by it because of the spirit of pride that hid behind it all; I thought I could, by my own means, “get” people to like me. The foundation of all my interactions was me striving, me getting people to like me, which God in His providence allowed to backfire — ultimately causing people to reject me! In many ways, I was a performer on a stage, and eventually, my life did not ring with the truth that causes others to trust; it rang with undertones of “old-man” sexuality and the serpent that had controlled my life for so long. My relationships and ability to be real with those I cared about collapsed around me, and because I chose not to identify completely with Christ, my foundation in Him was crumbling.

Every now and again, God can speak a word into one’s spirit that seems to set their course for a lifetime. As a new Christian at 18 and an artist, I remember one such encounter with God as if it were a visitation from God Himself. He said, “Are you willing to paint paintings in life and give them away?” It doesn’t sound like a visitation to you, but to me, it got right to the heart of who I was. I thought of what that would mean. Use my gift to give it away. Get no glory. Have no tangible proof of my worthiness. Have nothing to hang in my house to point to and say, “I am wanted; there is good in me; I am worthy.”

God’s presence was there in a solemn way waiting for my answer. I panicked. There was God asking a simple question, and I felt myself delaying, drifting away with each second passing until my answer, pitifully, was a bewildered, “No, sorry, God” — revealing the depth of inculcation this snake of seduction had wrapped into my soul. I said, “God, I want to, but I just don’t know how I could get people to like me — if I don’t have my art to show them.”

It’s the “little” decisions we make like this that part the seas wide open in our lives to live for God — or not. It’s not about going to church on Sunday and getting dressed up and saying all the right things when inside we are telling God no about emptying ourselves of that which would give us identity and purpose outside of Himself. The way we go about feeling worthy tells everything about us.

It goes right to the joint and marrow of who we are. Do we get a sense of dignity, purpose, and worth from the amazing presence of Christ within us? Do we break the bread and drink the wine imbibing all the sweetness of what Christ did for us, smelling the rose of Sharon in our lives? Do we sense the holy royalty of Christ emerging as we take pity on the least person in our lives — the janitor, the garbage-man, the homeless?

Or do we grab the American dream in some way, piling SUV’s, latte buzzes, the latest technology, the cliques, the “ministry” or designer clothes that we wear to “dress up for God” into our lives to point to our “art” and say to the world, “I am worthy; look at what I have created”?

Emptying Yourself to Be Filled With Christ

Exodus 20:4 (NLT) says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” But so often, we make ourselves an idol. Feeling the pangs of insecurity, we want to be admired, esteemed, and respected to excess. While Jesus validates our need for honor, the path to it is always to go lower. As we go lower and humble ourselves, we empty ourselves that God may fill us and be all-in-all.

And since God is a blessing God, He can’t “resist” an empty vessel.

In 2 Kings 4, a widow approaches Elijah. Her prophet-husband had died with creditors about to seize her sons. All she had was a little jar of oil, so Elijah instructed her to borrow all the vessels she possibly could and not “just a few” (v. 3). Then she was instructed to come inside and close the door. She began to pour oil and poured and poured until every vessel was filled; then she sold the oil to pay her debts. She had to get the empty vessels, and she had to shut the door. We don’t always want to borrow things, to be in need, to get the empty vessels or to be one, for that matter — and we don’t always shut the door. But we have to empty ourselves if we want God to fill us.

Unfortunately, sometimes instead of waiting for God to honor us, we carve out some worship for ourselves. We want people to see what we’re doing. John the Baptist set the example when he said, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). However, so many of us are guilty of selfish ambition — the sin that drove Satan from heaven itself. Are we trying to go up — to ascend in a selfishly ambitious way? Or are we trying to come down? To descend and humble ourselves like Jesus did, empty ourselves, and ironically find the greatest fulfillment of worth in being empty for God?

Mercifully, God has a way of stripping us. I had a dream in which I perched on a stool in front of a huge makeup case. I said out loud, “The princess (i.e., myself) has almost this much makeup.” Suddenly, the stool fell over, the makeup case tumbled, hitting a man in our church who had a heart problem, and also toppling onto a friend whom I knew God had told to go without makeup. As I prayed for the interpretation, I asked God, “What is the stool?” He said, “Pride.” I knew this was not a “good” dream! God was after something. Mind you, my makeup was not too excessive, but my goal in those days was to be hot, not holy.

Then the Lord showed me the man with the heart problem had a spiritual “heart” problem, and my use of makeup was hurting him in the form of temptation as well as it was hurting the girl whom the Lord had told to quit wearing makeup. I was violating her conscience by the way I wore mine! Excessive makeup had to go, and God made very clear — a little foundation, a little concealer, a little blush, OK — but no mascara. No lipstick — my hallmark! — whatsoever. Not even Vaseline. The pangs of obedience shot through me. I counted the cost. Christ was worth it.

So, while losing my “face” was a difficult task at first, it eventually transformed the way I saw myself. I actually began to like my looks more! I seemed much more the “girl next door” than someone trying to be “hot.” I found out it feels a lot better to feel safe and wholesome than to feel hot! God may not be making the heavy request of you to remove your “face,” but each one of us must be willing to yield whatever God puts His finger on that we have used as an identity crutch.

Being Useful for God’s Purposes

The writer of Proverbs states, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30, ESV). God is a god who gives favor. It is not up to us to try to draw people to ourselves through our gifts, talents, looks, positions, titles, riches, personality, or anything else we can manipulate.

Only God knows the things we must yield to Him to get our foundation right, and our walks with Him are highly individualized. Whatever the Lord may impress upon you, determine today not to be “hot” for others but an empty vessel God can use for His purposes. We must abandon ourselves to the “audience of One” — to quit performing for the world and make our sole focus Christ, so that at the end of our lives, we stand on the great stage of the life we lived, and there is One person clapping in the audience — clapping and standing — and it is Christ. The years fly as swift as swallows, and blond hair turns gray. Are we anchored to the Lord to get praise from Him and the favor He provides, or are we still striving and struggling to do it all ourselves?

My house is full of paintings now. I have given some away, I have kept many, and the Lord knows if I had it to do all over again, I would say a huge yes to God’s query and give every painting away! Instead, God asked for the painting on my face, and this time, I said He could have it, and it has meant everything to me.

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton lives in Canton, Georgia, with her husband and feline despot, Gideon. Stacey's name means "resurrection," and it also is a story of her life -- many "deaths" in different areas that seem to keep returning as empowering events. She is a former contributing editor to "Living Water Journal" and enjoys hiking, biking, painting in oils, acrylics -- and recently, watercolors -- and loves nothing more than to wake up watching tree shadows flicker on the top of her tent. A teacher, Stacey holds a master's in Teaching English as a Second Language and is learning to praise God even in a current season of being in "God's waiting room." Her dream is to hold prophetic and deliverance conferences to see God's people get set free around the globe. Until then, she keeps practicing on herself, her family, and whoever will listen to her ministry in the "highways and byways." Stacey is a bold believer who specializes in witnessing for the kingdom of God.

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The Reason I Am Taking More Selfies

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I’ve had a personal revelation.

A few years ago I stopped taking selfies. I developed a general annoyance with the trend because it seemed like everywhere I looked there were prepubescent tweens (or adults) taking pictures of themselves making the dreaded “duckface.” (If you aren’t familiar with “duckface,” Google it at your own risk.) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a selfie … I mean, my best friend, Tori, takes selfies all the time and she makes it pretty dang adorable. In fact, I think the first selfie I ever took was with her.

Anyway …

I have realized recently that I’ve been shying away from having pictures taken of me in general. This seems to coincide with a drastic drop in my self-esteem over the last year or two. I started to hate pictures of myself and dread seeing them. In my mind, I was fat, ugly, too pale, whatever. This insecurity seems to run in my blood. As a child, many of the women I grew up around told me I was beautiful, but they weren’t shy about letting everyone know how much they loathed themselves. So when I saw these women look in the mirror and verbally abuse themselves, I took note. It’s a pattern I am desperately trying to break with my own daughter.

You see, there’s a very persistent and malicious critic who lives in my head and seems intent on making me hate myself and everything about my life. You’re disgusting. You’re so ugly. You’re fat. Why can’t you look like her? You are embarrassing. You are a failure. You can’t do anything right. You look terrible without makeup. I’ve always given way to this little devil in my mind, up until a few weeks ago.

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I was hired into my position to replace a girl who received a promotion. Recently I met this woman and was literally floored by how beautiful she is. She’s a tall, statuesque blonde with these piercing blue eyes. Seriously, she looks like a Barbie doll. My first reaction after I shook her hand was to flee the scene because I was so intimidated by her beauty and my lack thereof. I remember going into the bathroom and looking in the mirror and beginning the usual critique on myself. But something unprecedented happened. A new voice spoke up.

Wait, wait, wait. Hold on, Sharon. You cannot do this again.

Huh?

Seriously. Enough is enough. You don’t need to look like that. Do you hear me? YOU. DON’T. NEED. TO. LOOK. LIKE. THAT. Do you know why you have that fair skin? Do you know why you have that dark hair? And those green eyes? And that slightly crooked smile? And those bony knees? I’ll tell you why.

You have that fair skin because of your Irish daddy, who you adore so much. That dark hair is his too. Your green eyes are to remind you of where your ancestors lived. And that smile? It’s a combination of your dad’s, a silly smirk so few get to see, and your mom’s, a happy grin when she’s laughing from her gut. And you might think your knees are too big and weird looking, but they’re the same knees your dad used to lift you and carry you piggy back. You want to give all that up to be someone else? You look like this because of who you are. The critique is over. It’s done.

Somehow, things have started to change since that day. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a statuesque blonde with blue eyes, but I am a unique individual, and my physical features are special and tell a story about who I am. Since that talk with myself in the bathroom, I’ve stopped beating myself up as much. I’m standing up to the critic in my head. And I realized that the real reason I stopped taking selfies was because I had developed such poor self-confidence that I couldn’t stand a picture of myself. I once begged my husband, Matthew, to delete a picture of us because I was so embarrassed about how I looked. I’ll never forget what he said after he gave in and erased it: There. You happy? Memory gone.

My new idea in self-therapy (is that a word?) is to take selfies, dad gum it. If I feel like I look cute, I’m going to give myself permission to take a picture. It’s all part of learning to accept that I really am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). And you are too.

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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