I am a Christian who struggles with feelings of depression. Last night, as I shared some of my feelings with my husband (again), I became overwhelmed by the thought that I wasn’t enough. Being seven months pregnant and exhausted most of the time, I felt like I was failing my kids, husband, and friends. I felt defeated that I couldn’t do what I had been doing before I was pregnant, and what I was doing now wasn’t worth much. I felt stuck in a season of waiting. As I cried to my husband, the emotions were so real that it was hard to separate what I knew from what I was feeling. As I made my coffee this morning (after a good night’s sleep), I revisited my feelings from the night before. Again, that feeling of “you are not enough” began to creep in.
I’ve heard a lot of advice from popular authors, preachers, and social media influencers about positive affirmations. A google search tells us, “Affirmations are positive statements that can help you challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often and believe them, you can start to make positive changes.”*
Below are some examples of positive affirmations:
“I am smart, kind, brave, and beautiful.”
“I am perfect just the way I am.”
“I can do anything I put my mind to.”
“I believe in myself.”
“I deserve to be happy.”
“I deserve to be loved.”
“I am in control of my life.”
“I am enough.”
I took a sip of my coffee and thought about what advice these people would give me. They would tell me to speak to myself that I am enough. But then, another thought crossed my mind. Are these affirmations words that Christians should be repeating to themselves and believing? The world tells us that positive thoughts (which they say are the opposite of negative thoughts) lead to positive feelings. But when I repeat these positive affirmations, am I really helping myself, or am I doing more harm than good?
There are plenty of scriptures that talk about renewing our minds and changing the focus of our thoughts (Ephesians 4, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:2 are a few). The difference is, we don’t see examples of positive vs. negative in the Bible. What we do see is truth vs. lies. Philippians 4:8 says that we are to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.
Looking back over some of the examples of positive affirmation, I realized that many of them are just more lies on top of the lies I naturally believe about myself. As a Christian, I am not in control of my own life, I cannot do anything I want to, I am not perfect, and God never promised that I would be happy. What these positive affirmations are doing for me is taking my focus off of the truth of God’s Word and placing the emphasis back on me (which is how I got into this negative mindset in the first place).
That is not how the Bible tells us to renew our minds. Does Philippians 4:8 describe me (true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report), or does it describe God? The attributes we are told to affirm about ourselves (smart, kind, brave, beautiful, loved, etc.) only come from God.
Here is an example of what I mean:
Your mind tells you, “I am not enough.”
Positive affirmation fires back, “I am enough, I believe in myself.”
Your mind tells you, “I am not enough.”
God’s truth says, “You are NOT enough, but Christ is enough for you.”
This might be hard to hear because it moves us from passive emotions to active change. It shakes the victim mentality that depression brings with it. Suddenly, I have a choice to make. What will I choose to believe? That I can do this, or that Christ can do this, and I can trust him? The truth is, I don’t have to be enough! In fact, I can’t be. That was never my position to fill. When I used the affirmation, “I am enough,” I would never follow it up with, “I don’t need God,” but that is precisely what I am implying. Sometimes, we Christians tend to live as though the responsibility all falls on us and that Christ can’t help us with our mental health. Is this the one thing that Christ is not sufficient for? When I trusted Christ to save me, I understood that I wasn’t enough to save myself. Now that I am saved, can I expect that I will become sanctified, not through Christ’s help, but because I am enough? I can’t be enough in life without God any more than I could have been enough in death without him.
I’ll never be the perfect wife, mother, friend, counselor, teacher, etc. That doesn’t mean that I can give up my responsibilities (God still gave me the role of wife and mother), but instead, I can trust God that He will provide me with the grace I need to accomplish the tasks He has called me to do, even when I don’t feel like I’m enough. My kids don’t need to see me “being enough.” They need to see me relying on Christ’s strength through my weakness. Why? Because they will never be enough either. I have an opportunity to show my kids that Christ is enough for me and that He will be enough for them too. When I am weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
I love the song,
“Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion.
Now there’s nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy.
Through every trial,
My soul will sing
No turning back.
I’ve been set free.”
“Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me.
Everything I need is in you.
Everything I need.”
(Christ Is Enough lyrics © Hillsong Music Publishing Australia)