You’ve concluded that it’s you. Something about you messes up relationships…causes people to leave you out…makes you disappointing or not measure up…or causes things to happen only to you. Thinking this way can make you emotionally and spiritually ill from a mass of self-condemnation.
But what might happen if you produced antibodies of repentance instead?
What if you looked at each troubled relationship, each instance of rejection, and each personal shortcoming and circumstance and accurately took responsibility where appropriate, and then rested in the promises of God for everything else?
Such true repentance is the Lord’s treatment plan for self-condemnation:
First, He wants you to see the full picture. You are right that something is wrong with you, but it’s not just you. There is not something specific to your condition that makes you more of a loser than anyone else. (Lam. 1:8; Rom. 3:23, 5:19; Rev. 3:17b)
Second, He wants you to have the good habits of regular confession so you can continually experience forgiveness. (Ps. 32:5; Prov. 28:13; Mk. 1:4; Acts 2:38; Heb. 10:23; Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9, 4:15)
Third, He wants you to receive the loving gift of repentance and its benefit of freedom. (Acts 5:31, 11:18: Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25; Rev. 3:18)
Therefore with each added act of confession, you are building strong defenses of repentance, restoring health to your mind and soul. (Lev. 26:40-45; Lk. 3:8; Acts 3:19-26, 26:20; Rom. 8:1, 2 Pet. 3:9; Rev. 3:19-21)
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Fears, habits, shame, and/or spiritual warfare can explain why some Christians struggle severely with self-condemnation, even if you know all of the above. Being accountable to Christ and to godly counsel gives repeated opportunity for truth to be spoken into the lies that feed self-condemnation. Don’t stop working for your remission while you wait for the day when all struggles will pass away. (Rev. 21:4b)
You know the obvious traits of a responsible person, such as keeping up with your belongings, showing up to work or school on time, paying your bills, and prioritizing your daily activities. Those skills are taught from an early age and are somewhat reinforced in this culture.
However, there is a deeper layer of personal responsibility – socially and relationally – that modern American society no longer encourages. Yet, unchanging Scripture commands you to take ownership anyway.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Taking Responsibility in a Social Context:
For example: Let’s say you are the first female employee to ever be hired at your company. You go out to dinner with all of your male colleagues and feel left out of their conversation. The world would tell you to be offended if these men don’t have immediate acceptance of you as their new female colleague. God’s Word would lead you to engage them in conversation so that you could earn their respect. Do you think you would feel more competent if the men were forced to accept you, or if you were able to earn your place in their circle?
The world wants to make you irresponsible; but live by Biblical principles of personal responsibility and watch your confidence and self-worth increase.
“After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Lk. 2:46
Taking Responsibility in an Interpersonal Context:
For example: What if you feel like your husband isn’t meeting your needs. He isn’t that great of a listener, doesn’t predict what would make you feel special, and seems to care more about his interests than what matters to you. The world would say he isn’t being a good husband. God’s Word would ask you if you are thinking of your husband as greater than yourself. Do you think your husband will be more drawn to you if you are focused on making him a better husband, or making yourself a better wife?
The world wants to make you irresponsible; but live by Biblical principles of personal responsibility and watch your relationships prosper.
“For each will have to bear his own load.” Gal. 6:5
Be careful. It is hard not to retaliate or seek justice when you’ve been wronged. And you’ve probably even been told that it’s your right to punish those who hurt you. Then, of course, social media makes it seem so normal to lash out against your offenders, or to even take them down. But all of this can lead you in a bad direction. And even if you don’t fight your cause very hard, anger can remain at a simmer if you aren’t on guard.
- It’s not your job to respond. When Paul writes to Timothy that Alexander the coppersmith did him great harm, Paul didn’t even begin a new sentence before he quickly said, “…the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” (2 Tim. 4:14)
- Don’t insist that others take up for you. When no one defended Paul, he emphatically asked the Lord not to hold it against them. (v. 16)
- Use wisdom to know when and how to warn others. Paul was right to speak out about Alexander because the man’s actions opposed the gospel. But he didn’t elaborate unnecessarily, nor did he throw him under the bus. (v. 15)
- Know your true Defender. Paul had no doubt that the Lord would strengthen him to carry out His message, rescue him from any and all evil deeds, and bring him safely into His kingdom, for His glory. Declaring his beliefs was a reminder to him and to others who his God is. (v. 17, 18)
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Let this passage of the Bible be your “victim mentality” prevention plan…make you a more forgiving person…improve your relationships…help you focus on what you’re to be about…and foster a closer walk with God.
No matter how hard you try, there’s just something that makes you feel not quite at rest with yourself. You just can’t seem to ever fully be at total peace. You know that if you trace this unsettled state to the source – you’ll find that it has to do with your view of the way you are, or the things you’ve done. And that leaves you with three choices. 1) You can go before yourself as your own judge, restating your guilty sentence every time you think you need to hear it. 2) You can deny or justify the issues so that you won’t have to live with the aching guilt. 3) You can get acquainted with self-compassion.
Biblical Starting Point:
Choice One: GUILTY SENTENCE: If you realized just how free you are because of Christ, there would be no condemnation for you. (Rom. 8:1-2)
Choice Two: AVOIDANCE: If you could face the uncomfortable facts, you’d be confessing, repenting, and enjoying the gift and freedom of forgiveness – not living life as a lie. (1 Jn. 1:8-9)
Choice Three: SELF-COMPASSION: If you could focus on the truth that God is the only person you know who is called the “Father of compassion,” then the notion of approaching Him could soothe and calm you. (2 Cor. 1:3)
Keeping Room Tips:
So how can you find SELF-COMPASSION?
1) Balance the scales. You are not meant to live under this kind of judgment. You are right that you are a sinner who needs to confess and to be forgiven. And it’s true that you are not good enough to fix your sinful condition without the death and resurrection of Christ. But it breaks His heart to think of you wearing a scarlet letter when He died so that you could wear a crown.
2) Give yourself a reality check. You’re putting all this energy into protecting yourself from facing the facts about your problems. Nobody has it as together as you’re trying to present yourself. Shift your focus to accurately admitting your faults and weaknesses, and then allow the Lord to help you move out of this place of denial.
3) Learn how the Gospel works. The gospel is not a book of words and it’s not just a religious idea. It’s a saving Person who pours compassion out of heaven into those who latch onto Him for dear life. Decide this is your course to a guilt-free, denial-free life. And for the first time, put your feet up and just relax, really relax.
The pressure is intensifying, and as a Christian you have a good reason to wonder what is going to happen to your freedom in this country. While you prayerfully prepare yourself for what is going to externally impact you, it is also a good time to evaluate how much freedom you are personally experiencing internally.
The Message translation of Romans 6:19 gives you a visual of two opposites when it comes to individual freedom. On one end of the continuum, is the soul who thinks he is free because he “does what he feels like doing, not caring about others or caring about God.” And yet, “his life is getting worse and he has less freedom,” because it’s not real freedom at all. On the other end of the continuum, is a soul trusting in “God’s freedom, a life healed, and expansive in holiness” (Rom. 6:19, Msg.). That is authentic freedom that transforms. So, where would you plot yourself on this continuum? Do you know which end you are heading towards?
Keeping Room Tips:
You may not be living in as much freedom as you think you are if certain thoughts and feelings are controlling your decision-making. Holding on to such thoughts and feelings could be keeping you away from the best end of the continuum –the place of great healing, holiness, and real freedom. For example:
- Being offended. It seems so harmless, but being offended can rapidly move you away from the true freedom end of the continuum. When you stay offended, you can’t be healed of the offense. Clinging to the offense drags you down that continuum and wants to leave you there, so eventually you’ll only care about yourself and your offenses. That’s not freedom. Release the offense, and make the move back into His healing, holiness, and freedom.
- Wanting your way. It seems so innocent and deserving, but wanting your way keeps you from getting His best for you. When you pursue your way, you can’t have your freedom. Self-preservation yanks you down the freedom continuum and wants to leave you there so eventually you’ll only care about what you think you deserve. That’s not freedom. Die to yourself and your self-focused wants, and decide to return towards His healing, holiness, and freedom.
- Striving for the good life. It seems so fulfilling, but living “the good life” isn’t the best you could have. When you define the good life according to the world, you can’t have the best according to the Lord. Wanting everything the world has to offer weighs you down the continuum and wants to leave you there so eventually you won’t care what God wants for you. That’s not freedom. Decide to trust His best for you, and you can soar along the continuum back to His healing, holiness, and freedom.
What threatens your personal freedom? Confess it today and ask for His help so that you don’t miss out on your available freedom. Jesus is the One who defines, declares, and gives freedom (Is. 61:1, Jn. 8:36; 2 Cor. 3:17). If you are deeply embedded on the end of the continuum that offers you no real freedom at all, He may direct you to find a partner (friend, counselor, spouse, mentor, etc.) to help you find His healing, holiness, and true freedom.
“But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” (Rom. 6:22-23, Msg.)
If you are in a situation where you feel like you have very little control or insufficient involvement, it would be common and understandable for you to feel anxious or depressed at times. You may be tempted to give up and become inactive within your circumstances. While it may be true that you do not have as much control in a particular situation as you would like or think you should, your perception of control can be making it even worse. In actuality, you may have more control than you think; but you aren’t seeing it that way because you’re overly focused on the areas where you don’t have any control.
Keeping Room Tips:
1. Lean on the One Who is in total control. Trust that Jesus has the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control (Phil. 3:21) and fix your eyes on the Sovereign Lord so that you may take refuge in Him (Ps. 141:8). Then, remind your soul not to be downcast since your hope is in God (Ps. 43:5).
2. Remember the control you have in the area where it most counts. Christ has set you free (Gal. 5:1), so start from your place of freedom. The most important area where you already have control is in your relationship with the Lord. A situation or person may attempt to influence your thoughts, but you have the power to decide how much of your mind you put toward intimacy with the Son of God. So, in Him, and through faith in Him, you can approach the Sovereign God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:12), and pray to Him throughout your day about everything (1 Thess. 5:17).
3. Engage in small areas of control and watch them grow into bigger things. As you pray about your situation and open your mind for creative solutions, God can show you areas where you do have some control. He’ll show you what first steps to take to feel a little more involved, engaged, and stronger in your situation. For example, He may ask you to serve someone else even when your situation is making you weary; He may remind you to be thankful every day; or He may suggest that you enhance a tiny portion of the atmosphere you’re in by making it useful, attractive, and honoring to Him. And before you know it, those small things will lead you to feeling more control over certain aspects of your situation, even if your overall circumstances don’t change. Ultimately, being engaged with God and your situation in this way can really help reduce your depressed and anxious symptoms.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)