I have just been with Jesus and been brought to tears. I have been fairly open in the past – even admitting it in a published book – that I have underlying struggles with self-worth and value. This came as a shock to me the first time I discovered it about five years ago because I thought I had the opposite problem: an inflated opinion of my own worth.
It’s not as though I am constantly consciously battling with these thoughts of anxiety, but every once in a while the Holy Spirit puts His finger on it. Such was the case this morning. Greatly discouraged in my personal worship time, I, for some reason, decided to search the words “talk faith” in Ellen White’s writings and I was floored when I came to a few of the results. Specifically, I was brought to a whole chapter in Daughters of God that talk about the importance of having a healthy “self-respect” (not to be confused with, though certainly a similar genre as, “self-esteem”). Apparently, the compilers felt that women battle with this issue more than us men – but perhaps it’s just because most of us men are too scared to admit we have the same issues!
At any rate, I came across such incredible insights throughout this compiled chapter, including comments like, “Cultivate respect for yourself because you are Christ’s purchased possession,” and “it is not pleasing to God that you should demerit yourself.” These speak incredibly to my own challenges as I am far too often my own worst critic, seeing only my own faults rather than Christ’s grace in my life.
What touched my heart the most, however, is a full letter at the end of the chapter that they included. With the exception of the first couple paragraphs, that are simply formalities, I want to quote the whole letter because it is so powerful. It seems to me that I had read Ellen’s dream before because it was a little familiar, but I had either forgotten about it, or didn’t understand the context.
I would encourage you to read all of it. It is incredible. The first paragraph is an editorial explanation, and then Ellen’s words to this weary-soul. What also catches my eye is that Ellen pulls back the curtain a little bit on her own experience for us, sharing some of her own struggles. That always warms my heart. It’s also tremendous insight on how we should approach others with words of encouragement and the gospel.
There are many specific parts of the letter that I’d love to expound further upon, but I will let the Spirit speak to your heart individually.
Without further ado, here it is, taken from Daughters of God, pp. 145-148
Written to Martha Bourdeau, a woman afflicted with feelings of self-doubt, despondency, worthlessness, and discouragement. [Martha Bourdeau was the younger sister of George I. Butler, a prominent leader in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She was first married to William Andrews, brother of J.N. Andrews. They had three children, among whom was Edith Andrews, who would soon die of tuberculosis. A.C. Bourdeau went to Europe in 1884, and Martha, now a widow, married him. They labored together in Italy.]
Dear Sister Martha,
. . .
My mind goes to you, Martha, in Torre Pellice [Italy], and I believe that yourself and husband should attend the meeting of the conference. We want to see you, and we want to see you trusting fully in the precious Saviour. He loves you; He gave His life for you because He valued your soul. I had a dream not long since. I was going through a garden, and you were by my side. You kept saying, “Look at this unsightly shrub, this deformed tree, that poor stunted rosebush. This makes me feel bad, for they seem to represent my life and the relation I stand in before God.” I thought a stately form walked just before us, and he said, “Gather the roses and the lilies and the pinks, and leave the thistles and unsightly shrubs, and bruise not the soul that Christ has in His choice keeping.”
I awoke; I slept again and the same dream was repeated. And I awoke and slept and the third time it was repeated. Now I want you to consider this and put away your distrust, your worrying, your fears. Look away from yourself to Jesus; look away from your husband to Jesus. God has spoken to you words of encouragement; grasp them, act upon them, walk by faith, and not by sight. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.
Jesus holds His hand beneath you. Jesus will not suffer the enemy to overcome you. Jesus will give you the victory. He has the virtue; He has the righteousness. You may look to yourself to find it and may well despair in doing this because it is not there. Jesus has it. It is yours by faith because you love God and keep His commandments.
Do not listen to Satan’s lies, but recount God’s promises. Gather the roses and the lilies and the pinks. Talk of the promises of God. Talk faith. Trust in God, for He is your only hope. He is my only hope. I have tremendous battles with Satan’s temptations to discouragements, but I will not yield an inch. I will not give Satan an advantage over my body or my mind.
If you look to yourself, you will see only weakness. There is no Saviour there. You will find Jesus away from yourself. You must look and live; [look] to Him who became sin for us, that we might be cleansed from sin and receive of Christ’s righteousness.
Now, Martha, do not look to yourself but away to Jesus. Talk of His love, talk of His goodness, talk of His power, for He will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able to bear. But in Christ is our righteousness. Jesus makes up our deficiencies because He sees we cannot do it ourselves. While praying for you I see a soft light encompassing a hand stretched out to save you. God’s words are our credentials. We stand upon them. We love the truth. We love Jesus. Feelings are no evidence of God’s displeasure.
Your life is precious in the sight of God. He has a work for you to do. It is not unfolded to you now, but just walk on trustingly without a single word, because this would grieve the dear Jesus and show that you were afraid to trust Him. Lay your hand in His; He is reaching over the battlements of heaven [for it] to be laid confidingly in His. Oh, what love, what tender love has Jesus manifested in our behalf. The Bible promises are the pinks and the roses and the lilies in the garden of the Lord.
Oh, how many walk a dark path, looking to the objectionable, unlovely things on either side of them, when a step higher are the flowers. They think they have no right to say they are children of God and lay hold on the promises set before them in the gospel, because they do not have the evidence of their acceptance with God. They go through painful struggles, afflicting their souls, as did Martin Luther to cast himself upon Christ’s righteousness.
There are many who think they can come to Jesus only in the way the child did who was possessed of the demon that threw him down and tore him as he was being led to the Saviour. You are not of the kind that should have any such conflicts and trials. Richard Baxter was distressed because he did not have such agonizing, humiliating views of himself as he thought he ought to have. But this was explained to his satisfaction at last and peace came to his heart.
There is no requirement for you to take on a burden for yourself, for you are Christ’s property. He has you in His hand. His everlasting arms are about you. Your life has not been a life of sinfulness in the common acceptance of the term. You have a conscientious fear to do wrong, a principle in your heart to choose the right, and now you want to turn your face away from the briers and thorns to the flowers.
Let the eye be fixed on the Son of Righteousness. Do not make your dear, loving, heavenly Father a tyrant; but see His tenderness, His pity, His large, broad love, and His great compassion. His love exceeds that of a mother for her child. The mother may forget, yet will not I forget thee, saith the Lord. Oh, my dear, Jesus wants you to trust Him. May His blessing rest upon you in a rich measure is my earnest prayer.
You were born with an inheritance of discouragement, and you need constantly to be encouraging a hopeful state of feelings. You received from both father and mother a peculiar conscientiousness and also inherited from your mother a disposition to demerit self rather than to exalt self. A word moves you while a heavy judgment only is sufficient to move another of a different temperament. Were you situated where you knew you were helping others, however hard the load, however taxing the labor, you would do everything with cheerfulness and distress yourself that you did nothing.
Samuel, who served God from his childhood, needed a very different discipline than one who had a set, stubborn, selfish will. Your childhood was not marked with grossness, although there were the errors of humanity in it. The whole matter has been laid open before me. I know you far better than you know yourself. God will help you to triumph over Satan if you will simply trust Jesus to fight these stern battles that you are wholly unable to fight in your finite strength.
You love Jesus and He loves you. Now just patiently trust in Him, saying over and over, Lord, I am Thine. Cast yourself heartily on Christ. It is not joy that is the evidence that you are a Christian. Your evidence is in a Thus saith the Lord. By faith, I lay you, my dear sister, on the bosom of Jesus Christ.
Read the following lines [from “Jesus Lover of My Soul”] and appropriate the sentiment as your own:
“Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, O leave me not alone!
Still support and comfort me;
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found—
Grace to pardon all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within;
Thou of life the Fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.”
I made two copies of the enclosed, one to send to you; but it was too poor, I thought, to be read, so laid it by and did not send it New Year’s as I intended. I think you can read it holding it up to the light.—Letter 35, 1887.”