“You were never created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, condemned, ashamed or unworthy. You were created to be victorious.” – Joel Osteen
Lately I’ve thought a lot about the things in my life that need to change – habits, thought patterns and actions that fall far short of God’s approval. In fact, there have been many times in my life that I’ve even questioned whether or not I should stop writing – wondering if someone like myself is even capable or worthy of helping others learn more about God.
Stinging conviction has brought on some sleepless nights and many hours spent reflecting on what direction I need to take moving forward. At times, the condemnation has been so overwhelming it has left me with thoughts of abandoning my writing ministry and running the opposite direction, all in an effort to squelch the voices that constantly remind me I’m not good enough, strong enough or worthy enough to be a follower of Christ.
Have you ever felt the pain associated with conviction? Have you faced condemnation so strong that it began to alter your self-esteem and self-worth?
I believe feelings of conviction and condemnation are at the very heart of why many people walk away from a relationship with God. Why attempt to live the Christian life when it seems so out of reach or unattainable? Why abandon behaviors or actions in our life that are pleasurable and more in sync with the masses – all in an attempt to become a better Christian, yet constantly coming up short and feeling like a failure?
I’ve prayed a lot about this lately and here’s what I’ve discovered: There’s a fine line between conviction and condemnation. One is based in love and faithfulness and other is grounded in self-defeat and personal destruction.
The Love and Faithfulness Found in Conviction
God is at work in each of our lives, calling us live a fuller, richer life based on the values and principles found within His Word. The foundation of any conviction we experience in our lives is based on God’s great love for us and His desire that we live a life filled with an abundance of peace.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8
If you have read a few of my articles on this page, you know how much I emphasize actively looking for God – being aware of how He communicates with you as daily events unfold. Here is a great example of how this concept plays out in our lives.
As I was packing my groceries in the back of my car at the shopping center, I noticed a man who was parked directly behind me walk across the driving lane toward the shopping cart bin that was next to my vehicle. As I glanced up at him, I heard his young son across the lane – calling for his father and running toward him with excitement.
Instinctively, his father looked to see if cars were coming down the driving lane, and sure enough, one was coming quite fast toward his son who was paying no attention to traffic. With a stern voice and an upheld hand that signified “STOP”, he shouted at his son in horror, “David! Stop right now! Stay there!”
Fortunately, his son listened, but you could tell he didn’t understand. Thinking his dad didn’t want him by his side, he sadly hung his head, closed his eyes, and started to cry very hard. As soon as the car passed, his dad ran to his side, picking him up, holding him close and doing his best to comfort him.
As I looked into the father’s eyes, I could see his hurt, knowing his son didn’t understand his stern voice or the danger that was just avoided. He didn’t want his son to misunderstand his motives, but that stern warning indeed saved his life.
Sometimes when we feel convicted, God, like this father, is lovingly protecting and redirecting our lives. You see, these feelings of conviction that I’ve been dealing with are rooted in God’s love for me. They are gently calling me to examine the current path I’m taking and directing me to a better place in my life – one that is filled with greater peace, joy, and contentment.
Have you felt any conviction lately in your own life? Is God trying to get your attention – shedding light on behaviors, thoughts, and decisions that are outside of his good and perfect will for your life? Like the little boy at the shopping center, are you confused and hurt – misjudging God’s motives in the process?
Conviction is indeed a symbol of God’s intervention and loving guidance in our lives. Like the father at the shopping center, God connects with our hurts, understands our struggles, and will give us the strength and courage we need to face the underlying source of our conviction.
The Self-Defeat and Personal Destruction of Condemnation
Whenever conviction is accompanied by feeling unfit, worthless and despicable, you can rest assured it has crossed that fine line toward condemnation. Condemnation is NOT from the Lord. It conflicts with the basic nature of God’s relationship with us.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:17
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ the law of the Spirit of life set us free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8: 1-2
Think back to that father and son in the shopping center parking lot. What if the father would have harshly scolded his son, pointing out his careless stupidity and aggressively punishing him on the spot for his lack of awareness? What if he told him he could never come with him again to the shopping center? Would it have crossed the line from conviction to condemnation and personal destruction?
The feelings I had in the past to abandon my writing, focusing on my failures and unworthiness, were centered in self-defeat and condemnation. Evil is the source of all condemnation – seeking to destroy our hope and causing us to view our failures as terminal and irreversible.
Are there currently any aspects of your life where you feel condemned or unworthy? Have past failures and mistakes undermined your self-esteem, causing you to lose all hope for your future?
If you have, I hope like me you begin to recognize condemnation for what it truly is: A tool used to defeat and destroy you – distracting you from God’s grace and mercy in the midst of any personal failure you encounter.
When I think about the father’s reaction to his son’s cries, how he ran to him, embracing him when he mistakenly felt rejected and unlovable, it reminded me of God’s reaction to our feelings of condemnation.
Like this father, God sees our heart, understands our humanity, and runs to comfort us 🙂 He knows that through Christ and the cross, we no longer need to feel condemnation when we make mistakes or fail in any way.
I pray that you join me this week in contemplating areas of your life where God is convicting you – calling you into a deeper relationship with Him and toward a life filled with an abundance of peace and happiness. As well, I pray that you reject any feelings of condemnation – realizing they are not of God and far from His plans and desires for you.
May God bless you today and always!