I failed at Easter.
That was all I could think as I lay defeated in my bed in the late afternoon.
The major argument against this damaging thought, that I had actually accomplished all I had set out to do and more, was quickly shot down by Yeah, but you didn’t have an attitude that rejoiced in your Savior, so what did any of it matter?
Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t have things to talk about with Jesus about my actions- that I struggled to be patient with my 7-year-old’s learning process that over-indulgence of candy makes it hard to encounter obstacles without responding with a terrible scene- but had this one thing negated all I had done to celebrate this holy day? Which fed into the underlying idea:
You are worthless.
Damaging Core Beliefs
My husband and I recently talked about this problem. We had talked about my fears of not contributing enough. That’s what they call Belief in the ABC model of cognitive-behavioral therapy. And he had reminded me that those thoughts spring from a deeper source, a damaging lie so deep in my subconscious that I would never even say it, but I act like it is true. He calls them Damaging Core Beliefs.
One of the things that is so damaging about these beliefs, like intrinsic worthlessness, is that they are used as a springboard to tempt us into sin. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to experience this! This belief causes some serious psychic pain! And so I, like many, do things to protect myself from this pain.
Temptation of works
The main way I protect myself from this pain is to strive for perfect production. I mean, I am obviously worth something to my family if I cook, clean, educate, emotionally aid, and prepare meaningful activities for them! And I’m certainly worthwhile to God if I volunteer and lead ministries and mentor and even vulnerably write for Him! Especially if I can do it perfectly!
One of the difficult things about illness is that everything I used to protect myself from feelings of worthlessness has been stripped away. As the sickness has prolonged and worsened, I have been able to engage in fewer and fewer of these activities.
And without that protection, God has been able to expose this damaging lie in me.
Temptation of pride
But the last thing the Enemy wants to do is for me to fully, deep in my soul, believe that I am who God says I am! So a different approach has been employed: for me to wallow in my unimportance. To let it color my view of every action and interaction so failure is ever in my view. That the biggest thing in my reality is my failing self. Now this is another method to protect myself from that psychic pain- if I remind myself how much failure hurts, I can motivate myself against doing it.
As I was deep in an episode of wallowing last week, the Holy Spirit came in conviction. He’s so gentle in His correction! Rather than telling me all the ways I had messed up in not doing enough well enough, He gently said, Babe, this is pride.
Now, my mental behaviors are not what we culturally consider pride to be. I’m not bragging about my accomplishments or entertaining thoughts of superiority. And while these are certainly expressions of pride, God’s definition is rather different. To paraphrase Rick Warren,
Pride is not thinking too much of yourself; it is thinking of yourself too much.
My deep-delve into self-pity, mentally thrashing myself for my inability to measure up, kept all of my thoughts on myself. Making myself the center, the most important thing in my world. Keeping myself from fulfilling my purpose- not to do things for God but to glorify Him- be a reflection of Him regardless of the pain of my circumstances.
Combatting damaging core beliefs
God is so sweet that rather than condemning, He gives me tools to combat these lies with Truth.
One tool I can use is recording truth about my accomplishments. I have a list of activities that are valuable and give myself a checkmark every time I do one of them. Basically a star chart. These activities include things as varied as reading my Bible, showering, feeding my family, and talking on the phone or online. That way when the lie comes up You were completely useless today, I can look at my checks and expose it for the propaganda it is. Now, you might think this is still pride because I am focusing on my accomplishments. But actually, the focus really isn’t on me and what I can do (because dude, the list isn’t that grandiose). Instead, it is a focus on reality instead of believing the deceptions that superimpose my “truth” over all other evidence. God uses physical truths to expose that spiritual lie.
Meditating on Scripture
In addition to truths I can record on paper, there are spiritual truths I can focus on when the temptation comes to protect myself from the psychic pain of that lie. I’m so thankful that God has declared my worth! In places like Luke 12:6-7:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God… Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
I’m reminded that what something is worth is determined by what will be paid for it. Romans 5:6 & 8 talks specifically about our worth and what makes us valuable:
“You see, at just the right time,when we were still powerless,Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I have never been valuable to God for what I’ve been able to do or how perfectly I do it- I have value to God because of Him great love! I have never been able to make myself worthy of Him- He says I’m valuable because of Who He is rather than because of what I can do! This can shift my focus of activities from protecting myself from my feelings of worthlessness to revealing His amazing character. This once again shifts my focus from myself onto the Truth of Who God is.
Worth the Wrestle
Exposing damaging beliefs and rooting them out is valuable to God. The more we believe untruth about ourselves, the more vulnerable we are to falling victim to lies about God. Healing our core beliefs is rarely pleasant as the infection has to be dug out and healed through a process. However, it ends with us being free to seek His glory without having to divert energy for self-protection. Now that is a worthwhile purpose!