Monday, March 21, 2016

Squash the negative self-talk

When I was a college student, I was involved in a campus ministry that hosted short-term missions trips in the summer. I went to Ocean City, New Jersey. It was revolutionary for me in so many ways. That summer we studied the Book of Romans. Our key verse was Romans 8:1, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." That summer I was taught so many foundational truths that it truly changed the course of my faith walk. Our leaders called them positional truths because they addressed our position in Christ, things that were unshakeable because they were not based on us, but started with God and His covenant with us.

I learned grace and confession and God's redemptive power. I thought I was living my life in light of those truths but recently had to come face to face with a truth that I could not ignore.

I was attending a Bible Study a few Saturdays ago and we were journaling about ways to actively engage people in sharing the gospel. And in my journaling, I begin to see a negative picture of myself that I had not previously been aware that I was painting. The writing was filled with negativity and I realized that I had been struggling with a spirit of condemnation. I had been talking the language of grace, but living the lie of condemnation. Let me explain.

You know how things happen in your life and you play it over and over again in your mind trying to figure out if you had done something different, maybe the outcome would have changed. Not necessarily something big, but maybe one small thing. One time you should have spoken up, but you chose to stay silent. One time  you should have said "no" but you did it anyway. Just one time that you should not have gone along, but you didn't want to offend. If you have had those times then you know that the regret can silently eat away at you. And you can allow internal guilt to rob you of the peace that God wants for you.

So I realized in my journaling that I had been consciously and unconsciously playing these scenarios in my mind and the more I did, the more I walked away from God's grace and instead clothed myself in condemnation. I forgot the truth of Romans 8:1, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus."

At this same Bible Study, I shared this revelation after our journaling session, and an older woman told me that the key is discernment. If that tugging at my heart is from God, it will point me back to Him, that is conviction. If that tugging at my heart, points me back to self, that is condemnation, and that is not from God. That helped me to examine my emotions and that negative self-talk I had been battling. It was a beautiful example of Titus 2:3-5, older women teach the younger women.

Just this week, I was listening to a book on tape. I would have never thought that it would be a place that I would find the summary of my situation. After a tragedy had occurred, one of the lead characters was feeling guilty over the role he played because his friend was hurt. He was told, "It happened. It was awful. You aren't perfect. That's all there is. Don't confuse your grief with guilt."

And I remember sitting in my car thinking how profound! Don't confuse my grief with guilt. The situation I had been replaying in my mind definitely involved a lot of grief. But in my grieving I had allowed the voice of the enemy to turn my grief into guilt. I was being weighed down by internal accusations that were truly, 100% condemnation and not conviction.

So I am working my way through it this week, continuing to be honest with myself and with God. I'm not perfect. I trust His grace. I need it always. But He knew that already. So embracing Romans 8:1, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." Even when we know God's Word, sometimes we need to be reminded not just to apply it to others, but to apply it to ourselves.

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