Monday, February 20, 2017

I Hear Voices - Feeling Accused and Responding to It

First and foremost, this is not a cry for help. I am having a rare, despondent moment that I know will pass. Feelings come and go. During adolescence, negative feelings enfolded me; happy moments were mere flirtations. In contrast, a sense of blessedness has defined my adulthood. My faith, family, vocation, and strong support systems usually keep me buoyant.

But today, this last hour, my mind has descended. Negativity enfolds me. [Dim the lights. Cue the cello music. Zoom in and fix the camera on my weak and wet eyes. See if I can write myself out of unexpected and lonesome depression.]

It started with the voices. I hear them sometimes. An idea will flash in my head. It draws my attention with its weight and volume. The pitch and tone sound like my voice, but I am reluctant to claim authorship. It's a sudden sermon idea or illustration. It's a word of encouragement I must speak to another. It's clarification on a knotty issue in my personal or family life. It's a term of endearment from a heavenly Father to His beloved child.

These words come regularly - not daily or hourly, but several times a month. They fill my lungs and I run with them.

Unfortunately, another voice creeps in on occasion. It's an accusing voice, a condemning voice, a taunting voice. It's volume is but a whisper, but its weight is lead. Doubt and discouragement follow its tone.
Today, this past hour, I tackled my typical Monday agenda: writing emails, sending texts, organizing my study, making lists, updating my calendar. Then, as I drafted my monthly pastor's report -- an account of my time and energies in teaching/preaching, vision-casting, professional development, and pastoral care -- an assault of accusations poured forth.

  • A denied request for help with a service project proved people are tired of helping me
  • An ignored text message proved I am not worthy of a response
  • A underwhelming response to a new ministry initiative proved my ideas are dumb
  • A mild correction proved I am petty
  • Unsolicited comments on musical choices and sermon content prove I am failing my people 
On top of this relational data, I found in my study evidence of my incompetence as a pastor. 
  • Partnerships I started but did not maintain 
  • Letters I wrote but did not send
  • To do lists with outstanding assignments
  • Ministry projects I sanctioned but did not resource or empower
  • Books I will never read
  • Leadership skills I will never master
  • People I will never reach
Every corner of the room offered insult and accusation. This heavy weight, this haunting voice, this present darkness comes from the father of lies. He's robbing my joy and stealing my light. From the beginning, this has been his task (John 8:44-47). Like a lion, he roams, desperate and hungry, looking for an opportunity to pounce on lonely prey (1 Peter 5:8). 

In her book, When Godly People Do Bad Things, Beth Moore distinguishes between temptation and seduction. The latter, she writes, raises the enemy's efforts. "Seduction is... a [sudden] tidal wave of temptation and unholy assault” (pg. 4). It manifests itself in loneliness and errant thinking (1 Cor. 2:11; 11:14). Today, I am seduced: deceived and alone.

But these are feelings. They are not true. [Raise the lights. Cue the trumpet. Zoom out to frame my strong and steady shoulders. I am writing myself out of this lie.]

The assault is real, but it distorts reality. I know I am not a failed pastor or worthless person, but I am susceptible to the enemy's voice. It may derail me or anyone it targets. Surely, it will come for others as the hour draws to a close. 

But Satan will never have the last word. That privilege belongs to God. And He is on my side. So really, who can be against me? 

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-38, ESV)

NOTE: This blog felt too much like an easily resolved TV drama, but I truly feel released. Truth does transform Christian thinking (Rom. 12:1-2). And exposing the enemy subverts his attacks.

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