As a follow-up to the last post in the Endurance series, I’ve been feeling like I need to take the time to go down a little bit of a “rabbit trail” to focus just a little bit more on the topic of sin. More specifically, what do we do when we’re faced with the reality of how ugly our sin is? How do we deal with those lingering feelings of failure and disappointment in ourselves?
This is something I have struggled with a lot over the course of my life. Being a perfectionist, it’s natural for me to “beat myself up” when I realize I have sinned – especially when my sin has directly impacted others I care about. My tendency is often to “wallow” in my failure. I know in my head that God has forgiven me, but I struggle to “let it go” because I feel so disappointed in myself.
The Enemy’s Tactic
John 10:10 reminds us that the enemy of our souls is out to steal, kill and destroy. I believe he often uses our desire to be holy and to live righteously to distract us. We can spend too much time on self-examination in our efforts to grow in Christ. It’s not that we want to be self-centered or that we’re oblivious to those around us. It’s just that Satan can use our desire to be pleasing to the Lord as bait for distraction and condemnation and wasted time spent wallowing. He causes us to get our eyes off of Jesus and what He has done for us and gets us so focused on ourselves and how far we fall from holiness (Isaiah 64:6) that we cease to live in the freedom and joy that Christ has bought for us. We do not live the abundant life He paid for.
It’s so subtle, we don’t even know it’s happening.
A few years ago, I was struggling quite severely with anxiety. I’d had several legitimate physical panic attacks that seemed to come on out of the blue. I wasn’t worried about anything at all, so it didn’t seem to be a mental or emotional thing. It was a physical thing. My heart would race, I would feel like I was going to pass out, I’d get all sweaty, etc. It’s an awful, awful feeling, which would then lead to mental and emotional anxiety because it was panic-inducing.
I was so determined to deal with this anxiety God’s way, according to God’s Word. I was determined to get a handle on it. I knew God could heal me and I knew His Word had everything I needed to walk in victory. I was spending lots of time in the Word. I was meditating on verses about peace and about worry, etc. I was working hard at “casting all my cares upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7). But I couldn’t seem to overcome the anxiety.
The Armor of God
Finally, one morning at church, a dear friend was talking with me and I shared with her what I was dealing with. She said, “Are you wearing your armor?” Then she pulled out her Bible and opened it to Ephesians 6:10-20. She walked me through the armor of God, piece by piece. And we prayed through it.
In that moment, I realized that part of my problem was that I was on the defensive, trying to be on the offensive, but I was fighting the whole battle completely unguarded, unprotected. I was using my Sword (God’s Word), but I was totally vulnerable. I had let my armor pieces slip. The straps were loose and my helmet was sliding off.
Part of wearing God’s armor is the helmet of salvation, which I often think of as guarding my mind by keeping the Gospel at the forefront. The belt of truth holds everything else together. So being intentional about feeding yourself on God’s Truth is so important.
Fighting the Battle On My Own
The trouble for me was that, while I was feeding myself on God’s Word, while I was meditating on absolute Truth as it pertains to peace and worry, I was neglecting some other very important Truths. I was forgetting who God is. I was fighting the battle so very hard, and I was failing because I was fighting it on my own strength and I was forgetting who was fighting for me, who had already won the battle, whose banner I was fighting under. I was growing weary because it felt like I was on the losing side.
I was on the losing side because I was doing it on my own. It’s like the whole Host of God’s Army was fighting over there somewhere and I had thought I’d be really brave and strong and go off on my own and fight a little battle by myself. I knew I had the Sword of the Spirit and that it was mighty, and I was wielding it for all I was worth. But I was wearing myself out and flailing around so much that my armor was falling off.
The Power of Praise
It’s so easy to lose sight of the important stuff. It’s so easy to become a little bit “off” the right track even though we’re so focused on doing what’s right, and our hearts are so deeply desiring to go deeper with Jesus.
One of the most powerful tools the Lord has given us to combat this and to keep us fighting from victory (instead of striving for victory) is praise. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, when we remind ourselves of who He is, we can rise above the battle a little bit and it’s just a touch easier to fight. When we’re focused only on the battle, when we’re focused on ourselves and our weakness and our vulnerabilities and our failures, we’re going to get knocked down.
It’s important to be aware of our sin and our need of our Savior, obviously. But if we’re believing the Gospel, we shouldn’t need to “camp out” there. We can confess our sin, admit our weakness, we can repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness, and then we need to walk in that victory. We put on the breastplate of righteousness, stand up tall knowing that we’ve been bought by the blood of Jesus and that we are on the winning side. Our sin has been paid for and it no longer holds us back. We take a step forward in faith, as a daughter of the King, head held high – not in pride, but in the incredible knowledge of who our Father is and what He’s done for us. “If my God is for me, then who could stand against me?” (Romans 8:31)
I often think of the story of Moses holding up his arms over the battle. Hur and Aaron had to support his arms because Moses was growing weary. As soon as Moses’ arms went down, they started to lose the battle. (Exodus 17:8-16) That story is a reminder to me of the importance of praise – when I praise the Lord, I raise my hands up. When I’m praising Him, I cannot lose.
Walking in Forgiveness By Faith
If you’ve been following the blog in recent weeks, you’ll recall that my series on how to endure is based out of Hebrews 12. In verses 11-13 it says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.“
We are commanded to strengthen the hands which hang down. So there is a personal responsibility there. We must choose to lift our hands up in faith. We must choose to live as if God’s Word is real (because it is!) even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. We must choose to walk as women who have been forgiven, who have been set free from sin. We must choose to believe that we are “new creations” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Live It Out
- If you’d like to take the time, I encourage you to read Romans, possibly in the New Living Translation for a fresh perspective. Whenever I have struggled with the truth of the Gospel and God’s grace in my own life, whenever I find myself striving and working for acceptance or forgiveness, or with guilt and condemnation, I read Romans in the New Living Translation. It’s an easy translation (not great for studying in depth, but fabulous for a quick read and overview) and the Truth in Romans is so foundational, so vital to our ability in walking out the Gospel.
- Meditate on Who You Are In Christ. Maybe focus on one Scripture each day or each week that tells you who you are in Him. But don’t stop there!
- Meditate on Who He Is. (I plan on doing a series on the Names of God in the future.) Get your eyes up. Lift up your hands and praise Him for who He is and what He’s done. He is worthy! He is our Victor!
- Melissa Edgington shared a great post on Moving Forward After Sin. Read it.