Letter to My 20-Year-Old Self
Article by Susan Narjala
You want to fit in, to belong — and for others to see that you do.
You think that life will be made if you’re offered a fancy job at one of those skyscrapers downtown. You expect to find a godly life-partner who is also blessed with a sense of humor, a suitable supporting actor in your carefully-crafted game plan. Add in a sizable group of friends who laugh at your jokes, compliment your weight loss, and include you in their travel plans, and your perfect life is essentially written.
Without a doubt those things — the job, the husband, the friends, and their acceptance — give you a sense of security. But only fleetingly so.
Finding a loving spouse won’t cure that nagging self-doubt in your heart. Neither will that enviable job. Winning the approval of people won’t fill that void. That aching search for worth can only be fully satisfied in Christ’s full acceptance and love.
I urge you to find your significance in God. Draw your self-worth from him. Live in the fullness he longs to bless you with, free of the exhausting need to prove yourself to others. Your life is found in him (Colossians 3:3–4).
I know you long to be seen and validated by the world. But if you live by that law, you’ll be tossed about. You’ll feel trapped in performance mode, constantly living up to labels of “successful” or “likable” or even a “committed Christian.”
You have so much ahead of you. It’s promising, but also unnerving. You try to make the what nexts less imposing by plotting out your white-picket-fence storyline. But are all those things merely props that bolster your sense of self-worth?
Those security blankets that you’ve tightly wrapped around yourself will be ripped away. Friends leave or let you down. Your college degree may not get you the job on which you have pinned your hopes. The man who fits all your must-have standards may not feel quite the same way you do. Your performance may not win you the promotion. Standing decades down the road, I can assure you that your perfect game plan will unravel.
When disappointment comes, cling to God and discover that he is your only real security (Psalm 91:4). He is your hiding place (Psalm 32:7) and your rock (1 Samuel 2:2). Pour out your heart before him. But also listen. Listen to his words about you.
Find your worth in his words. His word is the truth. See yourself the way he sees you. In Christ, he sees you as blameless, as precious, as valuable. Tell yourself the story he tells about you in the Bible — the story where he draws you, his beloved, to himself with cords of love, even when you don’t deserve it (Hosea 11:4).
When insecure thoughts come slinking in, test them against the unerring word of God. Ask yourself, “What is the story I’m telling myself? Is it even true? Does it align with the word of God?” Weed out the lies that fuel your fears.
When you feel like you don’t belong, remember that he has called you by name and that you are his (Isaiah 43:1). When you cower in fear, rest in the promise that he has given you a spirit “of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). When you feel the futility in all you cannot do, rejoice that his strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). When you feel unfinished or insignificant, focus on the promise that you are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9–10).
Ten or so years from now, when the world of social media (and its instant and continuous avenues for approval) crashes in on your quiet, your search for significance will become even more thorny. When your soul’s satisfaction is in God, however, you won’t need to compare your life with carefully-curated online updates. Pleasing God will far outweigh all the potential one-dimensional, thumbs-up emoticons.
When you desire to see God glorified, you won’t need to boast in your own achievements. Your boast will be in Christ alone. Seek his presence, because in his presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Know that your highest satisfaction is found not in the world’s applause, but in Christ’s approval.
Only in his presence will you find your forever “safe space.” If you are hidden in him, you don’t have to bury your insecurities. You can be daringly vulnerable. Pour out your hurts, your dreams, and your unspoken hopes before him, and then trust him to do what’s ultimately best for you. As his love works in you, it will drive out all fear (1 John 4:18).
If I had the chance to pray for you, you on the brink of so many unknowns, I wouldn’t pray for a promising career. Nor would I pray for perfect compatibility with your husband, or that you would be blessed with wonderfully obedient children. My prayer would be that you declare David’s words over your life:
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1–2)
Even when your world is shaken, I pray that you will not be, because Christ is your rock and refuge. I pray you will stand fast, because you can hear the love song God is now singing over you (Zephaniah 3:17). I pray that you will rest, knowing you are accepted, loved, and made new, rather than constantly reaching for the world’s approval.Susan Narjala is a freelance writer, and lives with her husband and two children in India. She writes regularly at her website.