What kept me from true healing for so long? I could talk the whole good game from the time I first became a follower of Jesus in 1993. God’s declarations about me to myself moved me and inspired me and even changed my behavior and my desires.
Jesus loves me.
He died to save me from my sins.
God is gracious and I am forgiven.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am seated in heavenly places with God.
I am more than a conqueror.
I can do all things through Christ.
So what was going on when I believed every word of the above but I couldn’t make a permanent change in my life for the good? No matter how many times I prayed, how many retreats I went on, how many Bible studies I did, every effort I made eventually fell flat. I would come home from the retreat feeling a glow of God’s love but by the next weekend the voices of shame would be back.
I was hypercritical of myself.
I lacked discipline.
I felt unworthy.
I thought no one liked me.
I was ineffective at things I thought were important.
I couldn’t reach my goals.
I was depressed.
What caused this? I never understood until I was set free through one final study that finally brought it home for me – Surrendering the Secret. (If you haven’t read my four-part blog post about my healing journey and how I finally let go of the shame of abortion, I promise you don’t want to miss it.)
I’ll try to lay this out in the simplest way possible. It’s not difficult, if we take it bite by bite.
- Your actions determine your beliefs. If I say I believe God but I act like I don’t, guess what? There is some other belief system getting in the way there.
- You believe God in your head (you give him mental assent) but in your heart you believe yourself. This is a bitter pill to swallow. The reason you continue on in your shame and lack of effectiveness is because you have decided to believe what you say about yourself over what God says about you.
- Since God has forgiven you, you do not need to forgive yourself. This really tripped me up at first but it makes complete sense to me now. If God has forgiven me, what else needs to be done? Doesn’t God’s forgiveness carry infinitely more weight than my own? The fact that God has forgiven me obliterates every obstacle to living as a forgiven woman. Unless I cling to it in my pride.
- Pridefulness blocks you from experiencing God’s grace. I did this. God told me I was forgiven. He told me that he threw my sins into the sea of forgetfulness. He told me that I was a new creation. But I was so prideful and stubborn that I clung to my self-loathing, believing in my heart that was the only proper response to have, considering what a wretch I was. Do you see it? I refused to let go of my assertion that I was a terrible person, even in the face of God telling me the opposite. That is pride.
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18
I never in my life would have thought that my continued belief that I was a terrible person, that I was unworthy, that I couldn’t do anything right, was pride! But anytime my beliefs conflict with God’s and I choose my own belief over his, that is pride and haughtiness. What I thought was humility and lack of pride was actually SIN.
When I figured this out, I quickly decided to take the leap of simply accepting that I was everything God said I was, in spite of all the things I had done. In spite of what I thought about my mistakes, in spite of what I felt about any number of things – my appearance (which has always been a huge stumbling block for me), my failures, my personality, my inadequacies as a wife, mother, and friend.
In other words, I humbled myself. I decided that what I believed no longer mattered. I was desperate to finally have all the things God promised to me and I didn’t care what I had to give up to get them. Even my prideful beliefs that I was so loathsome I didn’t deserve the riches of God’s grace.
You see, God doesn’t just forgive us our past, present, and future and let it go at that. That would be enough, wouldn’t it? More than we could ever conceive of. He doesn’t stop there though. God also redeems us – he restores to us everything that was taken away as the result of our sins. And beyond even that, he adds to us. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us….
If you have been struggling with receiving God’s grace and forgiveness, or if you are feeling ineffective in life, or that you are not worthy of more, my prayer for you is that you would simply humble yourself and accept what God has to say about you. Let it sink deeply into your heart. Amen.
Image courtesy of Pierre Bouillot