The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

I remember the day well. It was the one and only time I was put on the witness stand at a court hearing. Sure, I’d been sworn in many times and had given updates on the progress of the teenagers on my caseload from my seat in the crowd. No problem. But to actually be put on the stand was a first. Not to mention, this was without a word of warning or preparation. It was a different type of hearing than the normal progress report. This was an attempt to get my client’s record expunged, but since I was only a contracted therapist and not part of the Department of Children’s Services, I expected to answer the usual, “How’s his progress in the program” from my seat and simply just watch the rest of the proceedings. So imagine my surprise when I heard the other party’s attorney call me to the stand.

I raised my right hand, swore to tell the truth, and haltingly stated my name and relation to the client. It was incredibly intimidating. I had never met this attorney in my life. I had never been present when he or the case worker discussed the case. I had never had anything to do with the legal aspect of this kid’s life except to be his therapist. And yet, the attorney proceeded to completely thrash me. He questioned my competence by forcing me to read an assessment that I had never seen before out loud and tried to make me interpret it even though I was completely unqualified to do so. He asked confidential questions about our therapy sessions, trying to get me to offer information even though neither I nor my notes had been subpoenaed. He paced back and forth for show and threw his hands up every time I answered a question as if my answers were ridiculous. I allowed him to make me feel like the worst social worker in existence.

When I was finally dismissed from the stand I just knew that I had hindered my client’s chances. I felt like I had completely messed everything up and I was sure I had ruined his life. Thankfully, by some divine intervention, the judge saw through all the hype the attorney was creating and ruled in our favor anyway. He didn’t have to do it, but he even offered a word of encouragement to me by way of informing the attorney that it was unnecessary for him to “completely ream the poor [social] worker.” Despite the favorable ruling, utter defeat must have been written all over my face because as we left the courtroom the bailiff whispered to me, “Smile, it’s not so bad”.

Even though the judge still ruled in our favor, I was not the same after that. I allowed that attorney to shatter any confidence in my ability that I had possessed. I questioned my effectiveness as a therapist and I questioned my career choice. I questioned myself as a competent person. When I think of that day, I’m still tempted to pick it apart in an attempt to figure out everything I did wrong. That attorney’s sole purpose was to make me look like a fool in order to win his case. He didn’t care that it would ruin a teenager’s life and cause an innocent person to question her entire career.

I’ve been reading “The Bondage Breaker”, by Neil T. Anderson, and when I got to the chapter called “Accused by the Father of Lies”, Anderson’s description of Satan took me straight back to the memory of that day in the courtroom. “In Christ we are important, we are qualified, we are loved. Satan can do absolutely nothing to alter our position in Christ and our worth to God. But he can render us virtually inoperative if he can deceive us into listening to and believing his insidious lies accusing us of being of little value to God or other people” (Anderson). If we let them, accusations from Satan can paralyze us with feelings of worthlessness. We can believe there is no hope for us and we can become completely ineffective in our walk. Anderson says, “But Satan is not your judge; he is merely your accuser. Yet if you listen to him and believe him, you will begin to live out these accusations as if they were a sentence you must serve.” The attorney was not my judge, and yet I allowed what he said to impact my life in much deeper ways than the judge’s favorable ruling and encouragement of me. Satan is not my judge either. God has already expunged my record through Jesus and yet I often live weighed down by the accusations and lies Satan feeds me that make me question my worth.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I’m sorry/not sorry to the attorney that I will never read this verse again without picturing him in my mind. The way he paced back and forth in that courtroom in an attempt to devour me is just too menacingly similar to ignore. And unfortunately, I allowed the attorney to devour me. I believed his accusations that I was a completely incompetent and worthless social worker. The judge had taken up for me and put the attorney in his place, but I still let it cast a shadow on the rest of my career. In the same way, we often allow Satan to devour us. We believe his accusations that we are worthless and our lives don’t matter. His goal is to make us ineffective and he succeeds more often than he should. Our Judge has taken up for us and our Defense Attorney, Jesus, “has never lost a case before God the judge” (Anderson), but we still let the accusations cast a shadow on our lives.

Well, I think it’s time to fight back with the truth. Jesus has already won our case and we belong to God, but Satan’s lies can render our ministries (and we all have one) ineffective if we believe them. But when we hear his lies, I’m learning that we have to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When a lie about our identity or worth comes into our minds, we need to capture it, throw it out, and combat it with the truth that we are children of God and have mind-blowing worth in His eyes. We have already been set free from bondage because Jesus took all our guilt. Our records are clean. We need to swear to tell the truth to ourselves and stop believing the lies. When we live in the truth, our ministries will not be stifled. Instead, they will thrive in the light of the gifts God has already given us for those ministries.

So, smile! Jesus has already won our case. Hallelujah!

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How Do I Keep Forgetting?

How do I keep forgetting? How do I keep forgetting it is well? Ann Voskamp calls it “chronic soul-amnesia” and boy, have I got it bad.

I may have told the story before, but my chronic soul-amnesia needs to hear it again. I’m not sure how I’m alive to tell of the Fall of 2015. I was already sick and losing weight due to undiagnosed autoimmune disease when I contracted pertussis. When I have a cold, I may feel like I’m dying for a few days to a week but then life goes on. But this time I coughed non-stop for fifteen weeks. I gave myself mouth sores and I’m certain I rotted my teeth from all the cough drops I constantly consumed day and night. I coughed so much I gagged and couldn’t breathe. When I did try to work, I would find my coworkers standing outside the bathroom making sure I came out of a coughing fit alive. I barely slept. I was so weak and sick. I truly thought I was dying. I made sure I had life insurance and things were in order. I hadn’t started writing letters to loved-ones but it did enter my thoughts and if I had possessed the energy, I would have done so.

I would sit up nights on the couch listening to worship music, sometimes begging God to take me home. It was during one such sleepless night that God introduced me to the song, It Is Well, by Kristene DiMarco. I found myself sob-coughing, lifting my hands in full worship, “Let go, my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know his name.” The miracle is not that I discovered the song. The miracle is that in the midst of truly believing I was dying, hardly able to breathe or sleep, God helped me worship with this song and mean it. How do I keep forgetting it is well with my soul?

My chronic soul-amnesia often comes in the form of fear. Fear of the unknown, of uncertainty, of pain, of vulnerability. Sometimes I’m nearly paralyzed by fear. But God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). God is strong in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). How do I keep forgetting? How do I keep forgetting it is well? How do I keep forgetting that, though the earth gives way, God is my ever-present help? (Psalm 46:1-2) It is very well with my soul.

My fear has become particularly debilitating lately. I haven’t been doing very well at laying my burdens down without picking them right back up again. I often walk up to the mountain, as I call it, and attempt to release my burdens. Last Saturday, I cried out to God on the mountain. I laid down my burdens before him and I sang to him. God often gives me songs to sing on the mountain when I can think of nothing else to say, and that day he gave me How Great Thou Art. I was struggling to leave my burdens there in peace so I continued to sing it over and over all the way down the mountain. Because this is how God speaks to me, I knew that we would sing How Great Thou Art the next day in church. When we did, I just smiled and felt incredibly loved by a God who cares about my burdens. Who am I that he would pay so much attention to me? How do I keep forgetting? It is very well with my soul.

I’ve had a pain in my side for more than a month now. I feel like I have a literal thorn in my side, a big one! Ultrasound, X-rays, CT show nothing. And yet it is always there, lurking, sometimes able to be ignored, sometimes excruciating. Much of my illness is puzzling in general. Kind of like my chronic soul-amnesia, it never leaves. Sometimes I fear what this pain means. But perfect love casts out fear. On the mountain of the Lord, He provides his songs for me to fight the fear and pain. It is well with my soul. This pain in my side meets the one in Jesus’ side and shared pain means less fear and more healing. Jesus endured pain for the intimacy of a relationship with me. Through unknown pain, I experience dependence on God. Through uncertainty, God is constant. Unless I allow it, fear has no power over me when Christ is living in me. Jesus’ wounds heal my wounds. It is very well with my soul.

 

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