Jess Bee talks to young women who have battled with low self-esteem and life-controlling issues. How have the Bible's life words made a difference?
“The Bible has been a massive part of my journey … rediscovering [the] truths and promises that God has given me in his Word. I’ve learnt how to take the truths from the Bible and declare them over my life … and to know through the Word that … he’s always with me. And when I feel insecure [or] alone I can look back at his Word.”
Kasha has battled with feelings of low self-esteem – struggling all her life to feel loved. Through the help of a dedicated ministry to young women, and through the Bible, she has discovered her true identity in Christ and has been transformed into someone who believes in herself and the truth about how God sees her. “Psalm 91:1 is my favourite verse,” says Kasha. “[It’s about] learning to go to him for love and affection.”
Kasha is part of a discipleship programme run by Mercy UK where pastoral care, worship and teaching help women aged 18–28 who are struggling with life-controlling issues – including eating disorders, self-harm, depression, low self-esteem and abuse – discover their identity in God, and their purpose and calling in his kingdom. Many young women in the UK struggle with these things – the UK has the highest rate of eating disorders and self-harm in Europe; recent figures suggest that 1% of women in the UK have had a clinically diagnosed eating disorder and over 50% have “serious issues with food” that are not clinically diagnosed but cause them significant trouble. In addition, 1 in 4 women will require treatment for depression at some time (National Institute For Clinical Excellence, 2003), and women are twice as likely to experience anxiety as men. Of people with phobias or OCD, about 60% are female (Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001). In partnership with local churches, Mercy UK tries to provide safety, stability, structure and support to help women deal with these issues and empower them to live life in freedom and wholeness.
Hungry for the Bible
The Bible plays a key part in this process and Lifewords resources are invaluable in helping the women read, retain and live out God’s Word in their lives. “Without the Bible we would just be people trying to make something happen and failing miserably,” says Arianna Walker , Executive Director , Mercy UK, “So we absolutely, passionately, wholeheartedly believe in the Bible, believe in the power of the Word. One of the greatest joys we have is teaching these principles to our residents, because it changes lives.”
Kelly is another young woman who has been discipled by Mercy UK . Part of the programme centres on teaching, using the Bible to educate and inspire the women to reflect on who God is and who he has made them to be. “The longer I’ve been here, the hungrier I’ve become for God and his Word,” says Kelly. “I really look forward to class, because that’s where God speaks to me the most … beforehand [reading the Bible] had become a religious duty and something I did just to try and please God, or out of fear that something bad would happen.” Kelly holds on to the truth of Romans 12 which says, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:12). “[The Bible is] a vital part of my life now – to read the Word every day and to believe the truth of what it says about who I really am and who God is, and to stop believing the lies that I believed before. I couldn’t live without it.”
Part of the journey to understanding and believing God’s truth is through Lifewords resources like Little Book of Help and Little Book of Faith . “They’re a wonderful, versatile resource,” says Debbie Harvie, Executive Director of Programmes. “They bring life, and that’s what we want to do here. [The women] will pick them up, have a flick through and a Scripture will stand out for them. Or they’ll send them home to their loved ones or people that they’re praying for .” “I really like the Lifewords booklets,” says Kelly. “I’ve got one beside my bed and I read it every day. I find it really helpful to have the different truths of what God says about me, and about my future put into a booklet. It’s easy to read and it’s powerful.”
Building a future
While part of the process for the women is discovering their identity in Christ, another is looking to the future and their part in God’s kingdom. Arianna talks about the legacy of what God does in the lives of the women: “They go home, they go back to local churches, they walk out their normal lives, but something in them has changed. They’ve been equipped and empowered, they have tools now that aren’t just about getting free from their past, [but are] about being able to build a future. And because they now have the means to overcome the adversity life throws at them, because they’ve learned the mechanics of forgiveness and how to renew the mind, they don’t just change their own life, they are people who become builders of other people.” She talks about one particular woman who used to spend every day thinking about different ways to die. “She would fantasise about ways of killing herself,” says Arianna, “it’s all she could think about … But after meeting Jesus, after understanding that he is the giver of life and accepting that for herself, she is now a trained midwife. She wrote to us a while ago saying what a transformation it’s been going from spending each day thinking about ways to die to now spending each day bringing new life into the world.”
The truth of God’s Word and the support of fellow Christians is a powerful tool in changing these young women. “When I arrived here I felt like an irresponsible, helpless, lost, angry little girl who had no hope and couldn’t do this life on her own,” says Kelly. “But now [I’m] a powerful, beautiful young woman who has a hope and a future with God.” “It’s so encouraging knowing now that God is with me all the time and that I can trust him with things,” says Kasha. “I know how to deal with anything that comes up for me, and I’m really excited to go out and put things into practice and really start to live my life for God.”