I’m a failure.
It’s all my fault.
I’m not good enough.
People will resent me.
I’m not really forgiven.
I’m not a good mom.
I talk too much when I should shut up.
I stay silent when I should speak up.
God is disappointed in me.
Have you ever said one of these lines? I have a growing list in my journal of lies I’ve repeated and believed over the last year. But sometimes the lies we believe are true, aren’t they? Sometimes it is my fault. I have failed. I’m not always a good mom. I don’t listen well or speak up when I should. There’s enough truth in those lies to make them believable.
This past winter, I sat in my car in the Panera parking lot with my phone held against my ear talking to my counselor. My twins were at preschool for a couple hours, while my youngest munched on Cheerios in his carseat behind me. This setup became my regular rhythm — phone appointments while I only had to keep my third child content.
I’d been back in weekly counseling sessions for a few months. In that season, I felt like I was treading water, constantly fearing I’d be asked to hold a brick. Even the smallest shift in our schedule, added responsibility, or interpersonal tension felt like that brick. I couldn’t keep kicking my legs and many days left me gasping for air. What was wrong with me? I honestly live a life of privilege and relative ease, yet I felt completely joyless. Time only made me feel more worn, and if something didn’t change, I’d drown.
I tried to put my confusion and weariness into words as I spoke with my counselor. I felt lost and dark and sad for a thousand reasons that seemed both completely ridiculous and utterly debilitating. Why couldn’t I escape this darkness when from the outside, my life looked pretty near perfect? I’ve never experienced major trauma, and with professional help, I knew I wasn’t suffering from physical illness or clinical depression. This was different.
“It’s like there’s a dark, windowless room,” she said. “You used to be outside the room. But there’s a battle going on for your mind, and every time you believe a lie, it’s as if you’ve opened the door to that room a little further.” And then with every lie, I took one more step inside until eventually the door slammed shut behind me. And there I was, unable to escape a spiritual darkness so heavy, so all-encompassing I’d forgotten life outside even existed.
“Now, you need someone — God, counseling, your husband, friends — to unlock the door, remind you of truth, and pull you out.”
My eyes watered as I prayed no one parked close enough to witness me weep. I mumbled, “That’s it. That’s exactly it.” For so long I’d been stuck in this dark, windowless room, and my attempts to fix the issue over the past year were no more freeing than if I’d been rearranging furniture. At times it got more comfortable, but I was still trapped.
I drove home exhausted but hopeful. Maybe this cycle of self-condemnation, this joyless living, this all-consuming darkness could end. I knew it wouldn’t be a quick and easy journey out, but recognizing that I didn’t have to live in the darkness gave me a taste of freedom. Because the truth sets us free, right?
Maybe people hurl false accusations at us, and we wrestle with what it means for God to be just in the midst of that battle. Other times, we’re accurately accused of very real failures. The evil one knows how to speak condemnation to our hearts and kick us when we’re down. He can speak the truth about our unfaithfulness and lure us into a dark, locked room of shame until we start to believe that’s where we belong. But the devil, when he reminds us of the lies, leaves out the part about our redemption.
Eugene Peterson writes, “The lies are impeccably factual. They contain no errors. There are no distortions or falsified data. But they are lies all the same because they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God.”
As truthful as the lies may seem at first, they leave out the grace of God and who we are because of it. In Psalm 51, David pleads with God to forgive. He committed murder and adultery, two very real and public failures. He confesses and repents, and then he prays, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12, ESV).
The truth of redemption is that we don’t have to be trapped by our failures or the lies we hear because of them. Instead, God can restore to us the joy of our salvation, a joy that can’t be claimed by believing we’re good enough or that our sins aren’t bad enough. It’s a joy that comes from confessing our very real sin and resting in the forgiveness, grace, and freedom we have in Christ.
God really is that good. He is that forgiving, that loving, that faithful, that gracious. And there truly is no condemnation for those in Christ. There is no more powerful truth than that to combat the lies and no greater joy to be found anywhere else.
Joy comes from confessing our very real sin and resting in the forgiveness, grace, and freedom we have in Christ. -Sarah J. Hauser: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment