I’ll never forget my first annual job review. I walked into it like a prisoner on death row. As a recovering perfectionist and professional people-pleaser, I just knew that my work over the past 365 days somehow fell short. I spent a week preparing myself for the blow – a meeting detailing how less-than-satisfactory my performance had been.
It didn’t matter how many days I worked my tail off that year, I always ended the day feeling like I wasn’t doing enough by the time I shut my computer. If there was still more work to do at the end of the day I must be slacking, I thought.
Needless to say, I was shocked when the review was lighthearted, friendly, and positive.
I thought the problem that caused the guilt within in me was about my work performance, but now I see it was never really about my work at all. It was about my perception – both of myself and of my boss’ thoughts about me.
As trivial as that story seems, it isn’t trivial at all to me. Because about six months ago a light bulb turned on and began illuminating the fact that I have a much bigger perception issue than in the workplace. As the light spread into a dark, never before touched part of my heart I saw that I’ve had a perception issue my entire life – both of myself and of God’s thoughts about me.
Turns out, I’ve been listening to and submitting to a voice that I thought was God’s when it’s actually been His biggest adversary’s.
Maybe you’ve heard the voice before too.
It screams that you’re not enough. That you’re guilty. That you’re a failure. That you have to do better. And it leaves you feeling like you are in a hole you can never climb your way out of. You try and you try and you try…until your energy runs out and you find yourself face down in the bottom of the pit. Hopeless.
Friend, don’t miss this: that’s not the voice of our Savior.
That’s the voice of condemnation. That’s the voice I’ve mistaken as Jesus’ for far too long. And that’s the voice I’m fighting to stop listening to. Condemnation is from the enemy. Conviction is from the Lord. They both are long C-words that may look similar on paper, but their meanings couldn’t be more opposite.
Here are 3 differences between the Voice of Condemnation and the Voice of Conviction.
The Voice of Condemnation wants to destroy you. The Voice of Conviction wants to save you.
The enemy is strategic, and one of his biggest strategies is making us feel an overwhelming amount of guilt that we have to “fix”. The catch is, we can never “fix” it. The harder we try, the louder the voice screams and drowns out the voice of the Lord. Condemnation makes us hate ourselves. It destroys us.
Conviction on the other hand, isn’t a voice screaming in anger. It’s often a gentle whisper, empathetically pleading for us to turn to the Lord. When we truly feel convicted over our sin, it isn’t because we aren’t “measuring up.” it’s because we feel a Godly sorrow from turning our back on the Lord. As we feel conviction, we feel the Lord looking on us in love, begging us to surrender our own efforts, repent of our desire to put anything before Him, and humbly turn back to Him. The Voice of Conviction wants to save us.
The Voice of Condemnation only shows you the problem. The Voice of Conviction shows you the solution.
It can be confusing in the moment to know if we are hearing Godly Conviction or the Voice of Condemnation. I’ve began asking myself in those moments if the voice I’m hearing is driving me towards a loving Lord, or if is leaving me caught in the pit of a problem that is too big to climb out of. If it’s the latter, then I know the Voice of Condemnation is at play.
To make things super confusing, often times we can be hearing a mixture of both. We can be very aware of our sin, which is the grace of God, yet the screams of our guilt are louder than the whisper of our forgiveness through Christ. It’s hard in those times to choose to hear the whisper, but it’s the only voice that will save us. I think we find it hard to listen to the still, small voice because it doesn’t require us to “do” anything to fix it, rather trust in the One that has already done all that is needed through His death on the cross. Faith is hard. But it leads to freedom. (See When Your Head and Heart Think Differently).
Following the Voice of Condemnation leads to a life of Anxiety. Following The Voice of Conviction Leads to a Life of Peace.
For the majority of my Christian life, I’ve wondered what it meant to live “at peace”. I knew that a fruit of my walk with the Lord was supposed to be peace, but I had never experienced it. That’s why I am so thankful God showed me that I have been listening to The Voice of Condemnation rather than His Voice.
I’ve found that as I begin to hear the voice of my Father, my anxieties disappear.
The voice I’m listening to now doesn’t scream that I’m not enough. It tells me that I am just who I am created to be.
The voice I’m listening to now doesn’t scream that I’m unworthy. It tells me that I’ve been made worthy through Christ.
The voice I’m listening to now doesn’t scream that I’m ugly, awkward and unlovable. It tells me that I’m perfectly and wonderfully made and FULLY lovable.
The voice that I’m listening to now doesn’t tell me to “work harder”. It tells my soul to rest, the work is done.
This is just a 1,000 word blog that maybe a few dozen people will read on an Internet full of a billion blogs, but I pray that it touches one person as more than words on a screen. I’m begging the Lord to break your chains of condemnation that hold you back from experiencing the freedom of the Christian life that God intends. I’m begging for Him to continue breaking my chains, too.
He isn’t angry. He isn’t disappointed.
He is begging for you to give Him your heart so He can keep it safe.
He loves us. He wants the best for us.
Stop listening to the screams, friend. They are from the pit of Hell. Turn to the Savior. Hear His whisper.
“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9,
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17