“You’re such a failure.”
“You’re completely inadequate and worthless.”
“How are you still struggling with the same sin?”
“If people saw you for who you truly are, they would want to run away.”
The Lies We Tell Ourselves
If I could describe self-condemnation in two words, they would be despair and defeat. How do we even get there in the first place? We find ourselves guilty of sin and inescapable of the punishment incurred. Lies of our self-worth are conjured up in our minds and incessantly tear us down, making us believe that there is no hope for the crimes we have committed. While it is true that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), the state of our guilt, fortunately, does not end there.
“For what I do is not the good I waant to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Romans 7:19-24
You’re aware of your guilt. You feel hopeless about the sins you have committed. What should (and shouldn’t) you do now?
The 3 Don’ts of Dealing with Self-Condemnation
Don’t believe the lies (Rejecting God’s Word)
This is pretty self-explanatory. If we accept the lies as truth, we are only fooling ourselves. There is no room for God’s Word because we’re adamant on believing and being defined by the lies.
Don’t replay the lies in your mind
If you’re like me, you tend to ruminate without even being aware of it. However, this can become dangerous because it then enlarges the ditch of guilt you are already in. Be careful of how you think, because thoughts can lead to harmful consequences.
Don’t Isolate yourself
If you isolate yourself, you are missing out on opportunities to be transparent with other brothers and sisters in Christ. No one will know your struggles if you keep them to yourself – isolation will entrap you because you are left alone with deceitful thoughts.
The 7 Do’s of Dealing with Self-Condemnation
Believe that Jesus did not come to condemn the world
If Jesus Himself does not condemn us, how can we?So now “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” (Rom. 8:34).
Remember and receive the grace of God
It is vital for us to not only remember the grace of God, but to receive it as well. One of my Bible professors once told me that grace is like oxygen – it’s already been provided for us. Though we are forgetful human beings, we need to return to God’s grace with humility, recognizing that we cannot be saved apart from the work of Christ.
Combat against the lies with the Word of God
Satan is known as “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). One of his tactics in deceiving us, then, is to make us think that the lies we’ve been accused of are actually true. I would encourage you to identify the lies that lead you to condemn yourself. Write them down, and compare each one to the Word of God. In “The Screwtape Letters”, C.S. Lewis wrote from a devil’s perspective, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy” (the Enemy is referring to God here). Christians, it is vital for us to know and believe in the Word of God to fight against the lies.
Be transparent with other believers. Let them know how they can be praying for you. But don’t just tell anyone – be wise in who you share to. Ask yourself: “Are they people that I trust? Will they help me by pointing me back to Christ?”
Conviction of sin is not the same as self-condemnation. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, He brings us to repentance – turning away from the sin and toward the Lord’s forgiveness. If we confess our sins, He is “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon [Him]” (Ps. 86:5). But if the guilt is still present, the Holy Spirit is not the source of that guilt.
“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray…and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”(James 5:13, 15-16).
Look to Jesus
Sometimes when we look at our own shortcomings, it is easy to become discouraged. But let us remember to look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. A.W. Tozer once said, “the victorious Christian neither exalts nor downgrades himself. His interests have shifted from self to Christ” (A.W. Tozer).
Apostle Paul is right – we are “wretched” human beings. But “thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:25) we have been rescued, reconciled, and renewed!
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because
through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
The truth is, we all mess up. We all fail to obey God’s commands. But out of His great compassion, He has blotted out our transgressions and has declared us righteous through Christ’s sacrifice, once and for all! As the author once exhorted to the Hebrews, I would encourage you as well to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
If you are facing self-condemnation today, may you find rest in the truth of this hymn:
“Before the Throne of God Above”
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.