I don't usually watch TV. It tends to disappoint and there is rarely anything on when I want to flake out in front of the telly. Today, however, I went on the SBS website to see what show they had to watch for free. There was an interesting documentary about various people with food issues. One who rarely ate, several who were overweight, and another man who was frightened to try new food - particularly the healthy food a person with his family history of heart disease should eat. The show was called 'House of Food Obsessives'
The psychologist which created a program and experimented in a controlled environment ( obviously captured on video) has a theory about food related issues. He believes food related issues are caused by unhappiness. You may think 'Well duh!', but it seemed that these people were so caught up with feeling that their unhappiness was caused by their food issues that they had forgotten that their food issues were probably originally rooted in unhappiness in the first place.
One of the activities that the participants needed to do was to 'rebrand' their perceptions of themselves to create a more positive self-esteem. There were some precious moments when the participants read old letters or viewed videos of their friends praising them - and were forced to conclude good things about themselves. However it was at this point that I could see that the people lapsed back into depression and defeatism. The psychologist said that if the project fails if they can't change their self-perception. Then I realised that they were back where they started - having to change themselves - which they knew they could not do.
A better way
The greatest thing about God's gospel, his message to us of good news, is that our perceptions DO NOT create our own realities, God does. God is the person who hears us - our cries of desperation and helpless and frustration and fear. However, God also calls us to see at least two beautiful things about ourselves:
1) We are made in the image of God
Genesis tells us that God thought his creation of man and woman was 'very good'. This was after creating the universe, the beautiful, wondrous world in all its vast array. The world is good. Humans are very good. We are made in the image of God! God is perfect, wise, kind, loving, lavishly generous. How much greater than any praise our friends could bestow on us is the knowledge that God made us and was pleased with us. He took a step back, put down his chisel and sighed with satisfaction. 'Very good! Just what I wanted'.
2) We are redeemed
A realisation hit me as I saw the sadness and lack of self-care that these people had. What positive psychology does not address is the sneaking feeling that things are very wrong. No amount of positive thinking will fix what is broken about us. 'What is lacking cannot be counted and what is twisted cannot be made straight' - says the teacher in Ecclesiastes. This is because sin has entered the world and pollutes our minds, our thoughts, our decisions, our good intentions, our generosity, our love, our wisdom. We are in desperate need of rescue, quite apart from our personal problems and imperfections is the greater problem - We have hurt God irreparably.
God - however, did not hold our wrong against us forever, and he has willingly shouldered our burdens by sending Christ to take the place of us on the cross and take the anger we should receive. So all those guilty feelings are unfounded if we are in Christ, our sense of failure or 'not good enough' feelings are false - our negative self talk is based on a wrong perception of our standing in the universe.
For who matters more than God, the maker, the judge, the ruler?!
He is also the rescuer, redeemer, the justifier, the sanctifier, counsellour and lover of our souls.