I have a constant critique running through my head. I judge myself and others all day long sometimes to exhaustion. I used to think this was a valuable way to live, a way to protect myself from chaos, but instead a critical spirit seems to throw me into chaos. The standard I apply to myself and to others creates a “Mindy Measure” that is hard to achieve:
“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure that you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:2
This measure is not based on God’s grace, but instead it originates from my own hand-crafted measuring stick that originates from a critical, self-condemning and others-condemning heart. There is hope for those of us who wield our own measuring stick. As I yield to God’s sovereignty, I find that the accusing, condemning voice gives way to thoughts of love and redemption.
I have learned to distinguish the difference between the voice of condemnation and the voice of conviction.
When God puts his convicting finger on something that needs to change, it is always with hope, with an invitation to move from death to life.
When Satan puts his condemnation on something that needs to change, it is always with hopelessness and despair.
I am slowly walking away from a condemning shame-based foundation in my life. This is a work in progress, and sometimes I reel when I catch glimpses of how far I have to go, but I know that God is faithful — His timing is perfect — and He longs for me to walk in freedom.
One the quickest ways my emotions get derailed is by comparing myself with others. There are two major outcomes of this activity: either I come out on top and my pride gets an injection of self-love, or the “other” comes out on top and my self-loathing gets an infusion of despair. The holidays are tough enough without this comparison wrecking ball smashing my fragile hold on serenity.
My sister told me a story about this comparison trap, a common theme for all of us during the holidays. After spending an evening at someone’s beautiful home, professionally decorated for Christmas, including no less than four Christmas trees, my sister was dissatisfied with her single tree humbly bestowed with homemade ornaments. With a dinner party planned just days away, she decided to run out to the local Christmas shop and do something about this sad state of affairs.
During the shopping trip, she was frustrated and irritated, unable to decide what she really wanted, feeling that everything was overpriced. She finally returned to the car, having purchased nothing, and sat in the driver’s seat, disappointed in herself. She cried out to the Lord, “I feel like such a failure, such a fake.”
God kindly responded in her thoughts, “Look at your words, ‘feel’ and ‘like,’ you are not a failure nor are you a fake.” My sister was comforted, but she was still disappointed at the feelings of irritation and frustration that she felt while shopping.
I listened to this story, knowing from personal experience exactly what my sister described. I often feel that way when I’m doing something I’m not supposed to be doing. If I start a project that I secretly know God has not called me to, such as cleaning, cooking, shopping, writing, anything really, I have a feeling of discontent in my soul, and if I continue, the discontent develops into irritation and frustration.
When I feel negative emotions, I should not jump to conclusions and berate myself for being so unlike Christ, nor should I automatically rebuke Satan; instead, the negative emotion is a warning, a voice calling me near to God’s heart to receive comfort and instruction.
It is the voice of the accuser who tells us that we don’t measure up, but in God’s presence we can be certain of His love for us. When you experience frustration and irritation or other negative emotions this season, let this warning sign draw you back into God’s presence, gazing into His eyes, receiving comfort and instruction. If you are tackling the wrong tasks, just repent and ask for insight. He does not condemn you. He longs for you to find His peace
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
The next time you entertain hopeless, condemning thoughts of yourself or another, I would encourage you to consider Jesus’ words for the woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders had gathered around, ready to stone her, but Jesus scattered them by suggesting that the one who was without sin should cast the first stone:
“Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’ ” John 8:10-11
Let Jesus speak these words of life over you. Insert your name in the dialogue, “Mindy, neither do I condemn you.” Grasp His hand and allow Him to lift you to your feet and walk away a free woman.