Release from Self-condemnation

Devotions for those who are weary of feeling not good enough, regardless of the source of those feelings.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Self-hatred's Cure

"There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things."
--1 John 3:20 The Voice Translation

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Day 30 opens with a quote from Matthew Henry:  God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned…

The remainder of the reading talks about criticisms other people might aim at us when our physical appearance changes because of overweight. This kind of humiliation is difficult enough to bear, but even more painful is the self-condemnation we feel when confronted with a candid photo, the reflection in the mirror, or the number on the scale.   

From day 30, edited to address the pain of self-condemnation: 

 God’s word offers comfort for those of us who have judged ourselves harshly: “Mercy triumphs over judgment”  (James 2:13). We can rest in the assurance that, even if we suffer the scourge of self-hatred, love will eventually win out. God’s mercy will triumph. When we leave the safe shelter of our homes and venture out into the world, we can go forward protected from the devastating consequences of rejection. We no longer have to be injured even by our own mistaken or sinful attitudes. We have been pronounced as acceptable by God’s love through Jesus, the highest authority of all. The Lord’s judgment overrules all others.

When we sin, God does not condemn us. Rather than judgment, we receive only the gentle assurance that His presence with us has freed us from suffering over how we have acted; His love covers us.  We can trust in His cleansing forgiveness and protective love. God’s mercy has triumphed through Christ, covering us with His seal of acceptance. 

Pray:  Lord, thank You for covering me with the forgiveness purchased by the Blood of Christ. I rest in the assurance that You have accepted me, and I release my self-hatred to You.  Please help me see myself through Your eyes. Your acceptance triumphs over the rejection I feel for myself. Judgment finds no landing place where there is no guilt, and Your blood has washed away my guilt. Be in the way others see me, and be in the way I see myself.  

~~~

There is no vision of wrongdoing by Jacob;
        God has seen no trouble for Israel.
    The Eternal One abides among them;
        and the shout of a king is among them.
Numbers 23:21 The Voice

…mercy always wins against judgment. Thank God!
James 2:13 The Voice



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Keep Trying

God doesn't overlook our sin, He removes it in a process made possible by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. We can't comprehend the horrific suffering of the heart of God as He watched His son die on a cross, agony He endured for the sole purpose of drawing us unto Himself.

It is a travesty to excuse continued sin with the logic that Jesus has already died and so we can't make things worse for Him by continuing to sin.  In the first place, this logic is inaccurate because it is limited by our earth-bound perspective; all times are present to the Almighty God. He is above time and space, so that the death of the Savior is a current reality.  How else could Christ have died for sins not yet committed?

We must not misunderstand the grace God extends to us.  It is a grace that allows repeated cycles of failure, but it is not a grace that allows us to give up.  We are not to say "what's the use?" or to give in to the status quo. We are not to continue in sin so that grace may abound.

Time and again we must come before the throne to say, "Father, forgive me."  But woe to us if we fail to come, fail to desire repentance and renewal, fail to acknowledge that sin that costs the death of Christ is anything but reprehensible.  Sin has no redeeming qualities at all.  Occasionally, as when a convicted criminal recently gave an interview for our local paper, someone will try to excuse wrongdoing with the argument that God brings good from evil.  This man claimed that his crimes didn't really cause harm because God works everything to good (he'd held numerous people at gunpoint, and stolen thousands of dollars).  He evidently doesn't know that Romans 3:7-8 says that anyone who speaks this way is condemned.  This man's evil-tainted logic seems obvious to us, but we are in danger of the same kind of rationalization of sinful behaviors that seem too difficult to purge.

We must never give up; God forbid that we make peace with the sin that cost our Father God the death of His only begotten Son.

~~~

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
--Romans 6:2-14


Saturday, June 17, 2017

God's Plan is Grace

Years ago, when I was struggling with numerous fears of "what might be," the Lord gave me a very specific word regarding a very specific fear:  "You can be frightened, but not stung."

I was in my early 20's then, and had never been stung by a bee or a wasp.  I immediately understood the Lord's meaning; I was terrified of the possibility of a sting and, as was not too unusual for me in those days, had developed an irrational fear; stinging insects terrified me.  This promise gave me courage, and although I have had many close encounters with hornets and bees in the 40-some years since, I've never been stung. I believed the promise was literal, and lost my fear of stinging insects as a result.  I have reached my mid-sixties and despite living in a rural area my entire life, gardening, and going on daily walks down country roads and across cow pastures, I have never been stung.

Not until the day before yesterday, that is.

I had walked out to my herb garden, unwisely scuffling through a patch of clover in full bloom while wearing flip-flops. What happened next has inspired several people to carefully explain to me that wearing flip-flops in a clover patch is unintelligent, particularly since my father-in-law is a beekeeper, and two active honeybee hives are stationed less than a quarter mile from our house.

I felt an agonizing stinging sensation in my foot.  I ran a few yards away,  kicked off my shoe, and hopping on one foot saw something that looked like a tiny black splinter at the site of the pain.  I plucked it out, ran to the house, and immersed my foot in ice water.  It was an effective treatment and the pain receded, although an itching, aching sensation has remained along with some minor swelling.

I didn't see the critter that stung me, but the fact that my husband counted a half dozen worker bees busily engaged in the clover patch I'd walked through lets us know that I have almost certainly received my very first bee sting.   It occurs to me that the long ago promise has reversed itself; that during this latter portion of my life though I may be stung, I will no longer be frightened.  There was no fear even as I felt a sensation somewhat like a hot needle being poked into my foot. I reacted, but I did not feel fear.

Most fear happens in anticipation of an event rather than as we undergo the trial itself.
A new promise of freedom from fear would be  a blessed one.

I don't want to be stung, but the truth is, none of us escape bouts of physical discomfort in this life, and we do have to eventually pass through death.  Fear is removed from the prospect of death when we remember that because of Christ, those who accept Him can view death as a doorway and not a destination.  By His blood, our guilt has been atoned so that we are not under the law, but under grace.  We may feel discomfort as a passing sting, but all our suffering is temporary. The Lord Himself has paved an escape for us, away from the suffering of our sinful, self-inflicted wounds. This knowledge alleviates fear.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
--1 Corinthians 15:55-56


Monday, June 12, 2017

Before Humility Comes Faith

Day 27 is entitled Humility.  

I heave a sigh of weary resignation at the thought of humility.  The word sounds like an accusation to me: "Here is the source of your trouble. You place yourself above the Lord and reserve the right to decide what you will do and when; you are not humble."

But this quote from Andrew Murray takes us back a step to show us what must precede humility:

As you work, abide in Christ. Let a living faith in Christ working in you be the secret spring of all your work; this will inspire at once humility and courage. 
-- from Abide in Christ

So...according to Murray, faith that God is at work in our hearts, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit inspires humility as well as courage.  It does no good to say, "Woe is me, I need to be humble, I pray to be more humble (and don't we secretly also pray that the process of becoming more humble won't require some uncomfortable, humbling experience...)."

Instead, let us look to our faith.  Do we believe that Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God, and is at work in our hearts and minds to bring about His will in our lives?  

Yes, Lord!  

~~~

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
--Philippians 2:12-13

Friday, June 9, 2017

That Slender Cord of Willfulness

Honestly, I wonder if I will ever learn.  I have been sick for five days with a virus that must be a cousin to influenza.  I had to stay in bed most of the time and was miserable with body aches, sore throat, and coughing.  Today I'm somewhat better and what did I do?  Barely 12 hours out from being so sick I couldn't get out of bed, I began making plans to get my act together.  "I'm going to get healthier and stronger and I'm starting now!"  I made great plans for myself first thing this morning...but by noon I didn't feel well at all and threw my pretty plans out the window.  Not having submitted to the Lord,  but rather to myself and my own goals, I felt free to deviate from my own idea of what is good.

Here are quotes from Day 26 that hit me right between the eyes this evening:

You are putting forth the wrong kind of effort. You aren’t working hard to conform yourself to God’s plan, you are attempting to arrive at His outcome by another path, a path of your own making.

The Lord says, "Plan to abide. Plan to obey. Plan to abstain from influences not of Me. But don't plan how you are going to obey, or your goals for your day will take preeminence over Mine.”

~~~

How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?
 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
Galatians 3:3-5 NLT