Some Bible verses bring me great peace and comfort. Some make me want to sing and dance, and others make me want to cry tears of joy.
However, there’s one verse that doesn’t do any of that. There’s one verse I find terrifying. In fact, to me, it’s the most terrifying verse in the Bible. It literally scares the living daylights out of me, and I can’t get it out of my mind lately.
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7
You see, I think some crazy stuff. I think things that I wouldn’t want printed on the front page of the newspaper.
I think things I wouldn’t post on social media.
I think things I wouldn’t say out loud to anyone.
Jealous things. Angry things. Hurtful things. Prideful things. Selfish things.
And every one of those thoughts reminds me of a previous action. Something I actually did in the past.
You see, there was a time in my life when I a real jerk. I was extremely prideful and selfish. I, frankly, was a person I did not like.
As a result, I find myself terrified…terrified that my thoughts must mean I’m still a jealous, angry, hurtful, prideful, and selfish person.
And every time I think one of those thoughts, I feel a great sense of shame. I hear a voice in my head saying…”See! That…THAT is who you really are.”
A person that isn’t worthy of God’s great love. A person that isn’t worthy of his wife’s and kid’s love. A person that isn’t worthy of friendship…or even sharing on this blog.
After all, who could love a person who is jealous, angry, hurtful, prideful, and selfish?
So, I tend to live in fear.
In fact, this fear has become my biggest stronghold.
Here’s an example of how that stronghold looks in my life…
Something rude or snarky flies out of my mouth, and my my mind immediately jumps back to a night out with friends many years ago.
I remember I got agitated about something and let out a curse word (very loudly) in the middle of a crowded restaurant. My buddies tried to quiet me down, but instead, I said it again. And again. I didn’t care. What a jerk move. I remember vividly there was a family next to us with small children. (Eek! I know!) Now that I have children, I’m so ashamed of that moment.
So, I say something I shouldn’t…that scene enters my mind…and then the enemy whispers “Same old Stephen.”
I haven’t forgiven or forgotten a moment that happened like 15 or 20 years ago. There are many, many moments in my life that fall into this category. Some are more recent. Some are worse. But they all haunt me.
And it’s created a mental stronghold that has worn me down.
You know, recently I heard Craig Groeshel, pastor and author, define people who live in a stronghold this way:
[They are] “A prisoner locked by deception…Someone who is in a prison and deceived believing there is no way out. It’s a wrong mindset. It’s a spiritual trap.”
In other words, I’ve been living in a false prison created by my own mind. Even though deep down I know it isn’t true, I let myself believe there is no way out of this prison…the prison of my past self…the door is locked and there is no key. I am who I am. I haven’t changed. Or worse…I cannot change.
Every time I make a mistake, the enemy pulls out my “rap sheet,” adds it to the list, and then reads it all back to me. And I listen. I withdraw. I feel ashamed. And I feel that stronghold getting tighter and tighter and tighter.
Lately, it’s been happening more and more.
It’s effected my marriage…my role as a dad…my friendships.
Joy has been missing from my life.
I’ve even wanted to quit writing. In fact, I was going to quit. My last post was going to be my last post.
You see, every time I post a new blog, I assume all you see is my sin (and bad writing). I assume you’re thinking “This guy writes about faith? About God? Why would I read about God from a guy like that?” And, if you knew me when I was that super-selfish jerk, I assume you see my posts and roll your eyes and think…”yeah, I know who that guy really is.”
You see, somewhere along the way I started equating who I am with the things I have done instead of with what Christ has done for me.
And because of that, the past few months have been really hard on me mentally. There have been highs when I feel approval, forgiveness, and acceptance from myself and from others. There have been lows when I haven’t felt any of that.
I mean, we are always going to have those types of swings…highs and lows…when we associate our identity with anything other than the cross. Our feelings change. The forgiveness and opinion of others change, but no matter what…the cross remains. What Jesus did for us can never be undone.
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve realized why that verse in Proverbs is constantly on my mind.
It’s not because of my thoughts and my actions…not because of who I am…but because of who Jesus is.
You see, there actually is a key that will break me out of my stronghold. I’m just not the one who holds it.
But I’ve been so focused on my shortcomings and what that verse might say about me that I’ve completely missed what it says about Him. And I think God has been using it to try to remind me that HE is the one who is worthy. HE is enough.
And He’s been asking me if I truly believe that.
For too long, I’ve said I believe with my mouth, but haven’t lived like I believe with my heart.
I haven’t been leaning on a God greater than any sin…any thought, spoken word, or circumstance I find myself in. I’ve been leaning on Stephen.
So, I think God has been reminding me of that verse over and over…not to terrify me or to even point me at myself, but rather to point me back to Him. To remind me the way I view Him in my heart is more important than the words I speak about Him with my mouth.
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
I don’t want to be “a prisoner locked by deception” any longer.
I don’t want to be terrified any longer.
So, I’m reclaiming my true identity.
I’m choosing grace over fear.
I’m going to let Jesus break me out of this stronghold.
I’m going to hold fast to His promises.
I’m going to remind myself that He is enough…that His grace is way bigger than any sin…that He is my everything.
And I’m going to keep writing. At least for now.
I want to continue to share encouragement and God’s love and grace with others…not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He has done for me. Besides, it’s a message that I so desperately need to hear myself…to be reminded of over and over and over.
If the mistakes I’ve made disqualifies my voice for some people, then so be it. I can’t worry about that any longer. It’s far too heavy of a burden to bare.
But, please don’t take that as an “I don’t care what people think” statement. It’s far from being that. That’s the way that guy in the restaurant thought. It’s important to me, as a Christ follower, that I try to glorify Him in all I say and do…to point others towards His love. That’s the goal, but I’m finally okay with the fact that sometimes I’m going to fail.
So, what about you?
What are you struggling with?
What is your stronghold?
Is it your past? What others think about you? Fear? Addiction?
Whatever it is, I know it may seem like there is no way out, but you can break free.
There is a key, and His name is Jesus.
You know, I’ve realized that most of my struggles occur when my identity is out whack. When I associate who I am with anything other than what Jesus did on the cross.
Today, claim your true identity.
You are a child of God.
You are His masterpiece.
You are loved. You are forgiven. You are free.
P.S. Here are some Bible verses that will help remind you who you really are today. Oh, and they aren’t terrifying at all! 😉
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