When the Lie Won’t Go Away

Copyright Creationswap, by Eric Sikma.
Copyright Creationswap, by Eric Sikma.

An old lie reared its ugly head this week as I sat—of all places—in a prayer meeting.

Regular readers will have read multiple posts before about how I often feel like my life isn’t very useful for God, and how God has answered that issue.

But earlier this week, as I sat and prayed, once again I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I’m not doing enough for God, and that what I do isn’t effective anyway.

The thought never starts out that obvious. Usually the way it begins, is I hear about a ministry or people suffering or a need that I’m not involved with, and feel like I should be a part of it. Yet I don’t really want anything extra on my plate. Then I weigh up everything I do to see if it’s ‘enough’, and it never is, and then I struggle between ‘I don’t want to do anything more’ and ‘you’re selfish for not wanting to do anything more’. Then that spirals into ‘the stuff I do never makes a difference anyway, even if I tried it wouldn’t work’. And that’s how the downward spiral works.

This is something that has come up a lot, so  I won’t bore you by repeating  how God has shown me the right way of handling these thoughts.

Rather, I’d like to talk about the fact that that this is a repeating issue. Because God really has dealt with this, probably five times already this year alone. It was a major theme of my trip to India, two years ago. And it had come up even before that. God has answered, and answered a lot. Yet I still get plagued by the same insecurity, and when it happens, I really can’t remember what God told me last time.

What can you do, when God has dealt with a problem or issue and it hasn’t gone away? What is left in your arsenal? Do you give up and say ‘enough!’?  Do you query whether God was strong enough to really deal with it the first (or second, third, and fourth) time?

This week I read 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul wrote about a problem he had; a ‘thorn in the flesh’ that he asked God to remove.

But God did not. Instead he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. (2 Cor 12 NIV)

Perhaps the answer is not that God will solve our issues and make them go away. What God does promise is that His grace will be enough, every time a problem comes up.

How much more trust does it take to rely on God repeatedly, than it does to watch Him slam-dunk an issue and send it on its way?

I hope the devil’s lies, like this one about uselessness, will fade over time. But goodness knows he’ll probably come up with new ones. Yet I don’t have to accept defeat.

I’m glad that God promises it’s okay to be weak. Every time something happens, He will be there to get us through.

Lies I Never Knew About Mum

God breaking chains.
Photo sourced from CreationSwap.com, by Marian Trinidad.

I could hardly listen in church on Sunday.

I posted last Thursday about how I’m afraid I’m selfish. Three days later, Dad (who’s just started moonlighting as an assistant minister when he’s not farming) preached a sermon on identity. More specifically, on how our identity in God motivates us to do good works, rather than a sense of duty.

The topic of good works has been hard for me lately; I feel torn in two directions. On the one hand, I look at my life and fear that I don’t serve enough. On the other, I don’t want to serve out of guilt, and I don’t want to have to fit another activity into my schedule. I’m praying that God will show me what to do, but at the same time I’m afraid that I’m a selfish Christian.

My Mum and I had a conversation about the sermon on the way home from church, and when I said I’m afraid that I’m selfish, Mum laughed. (She did it nicely. Feeling guilt has always been an issue for me, and she’s used to hearing about it.)

She told me I’m not selfish. And said she gets a similar thing, but her insecurity is different. It flared up at the start of the year when she was asked to lead a Bible study.

But before I share more, there’s three things you should know about my Mum:

1. She is very wise, and has always given me great advice;

2. She’s always been good at working with kids and teenagers and explaining things in a way they’ll understand; and,

3. She loves God and I’ve seen her sacrifice what she wanted to follow His plan instead.

To me, this sounds like an ideal combination for a Bible study leader. But this is what ran through her head when she was asked to lead a group of Year 12 girls:

You’re not smart. You can’t lead that group. Those kids will see straight through you.

You see, when Mum was a kid she changed schools a few times and had major gaps in her education. Her teachers never caught her up on the material she missed, and so she struggled with schoolwork till she graduated. One teacher called her dumb to her face.

Now, I know my Mum is actually quite an intelligent person.  But ever since that teacher said those careless words, she’s had a voice in her head repeating them.

But when she told me her insecurity, I laughed too. The thought that she’s not smart enough is just as ridiculous to me, as the thought that I’m selfish is to her.

Thankfully, Mum ignored her insecurity when it flared up six months ago and trusted God instead. She took on that Bible study group and one of the girls recently made a commitment to God. Mum is also aware of the devil’s plot, and is trusting God to help her. Yet that voice is still often in the background.

I can relate. I’ve also been aware of my tendency toward guilt since the Great Inner Turmoil of 2009. And God’s been helping me with it, but the devil still tries to use it against me again and again. And he does it because it works; it’s my weak spot. But as soon as Mum and I said our thoughts out loud to one another, the spell was broken. We could see them for what they were — manipulative lies.

It made me think, how many things run through my head and get me down … and they’re just nonsense?

My family.
Dad took this photo of us kids and Mum last year. L-R; Jack, me, Mum, Abby (on Mum’s lap), Bek and Jake.

I think we all have these weak spots. And I know I get surprised when the devil tries to use mine against me a second time. “Haven’t I outgrown that?” I think. The fact that I’m facing the same issue again makes me think that the solution I found the first time round must be flawed. I must have missed something. So I need to find it. And the merry-go-round starts again.

But no, Mum and I shared our insecurities and knew we hadn’t missed a thing. We knew what was right and what was not. The devil was just trying to psych us out. 

What does this tale tell us?

First, if you face an issue you’ve faced before, don’t get freaked out by it. You might not need more answers; you might just need to remember the ones God already gave you. Give it time, and the feeling could pass away.

Second, the devil is a tricky mutt who likes to use our insecurities against us. Recognise them. Fight them. It’s God’s power working through us that accomplishes anything anyway; our flaws just shine a light on Him even more.

Third, talking about the crazy thoughts in your head is helpful.

Last week, I posted about Matthew 7 and how I was taking my questions to God. I think I just got one of my answers.

 

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters