Before I knew the Lord, I used to tell a lot of lies.
Some were harmless. Sometimes I would fake an Australian accent at the restaurant where I worked and make up a story about my life, something more interesting than my actual life.
Some lies, though, were less harmless. With a broken moral compass, I didn’t think twice about bending the truth to get out of a shift at work when there was a party to go to, or to get an extension on an assignment in school that I procrastinated beginning until the day it was due. My word wasn’t worth the breath that gave it voice.
Today, as a Christ-follower, the idea of telling lies for my own convenience or personal gain seems detestable. And yet, I find that I am still a liar.
But now I’m not lying to other people. I’m lying to myself. I tell myself stories about myself and my circumstances that simply aren’t true.
We all have a personal narrator, a little voice in our head that is constantly chattering, evaluating each situation, reflecting on what just happened, verbalizing options for our next move. From the time we learn to talk as toddlers, our thoughts are dominated by words. It’s an inner monologue.
I tend to believe whatever the narrator says. After all, it’s my voice and my words, right? I wouldn’t lead myself astray, would I?
The scary thing is that my narrator is easily influenced. He is influenced by my emotions and memories. He is influenced by my hopes and dreams. He’s also influenced by the culture around me. And I believe that the enemy can even whisper convincing lies into the narrator’s ear and influence the story that is being told.
Over the past few years, I have dealt with significant anxiety and depression, and my narrator wasn’t on my side. Here are some of the lies I kept telling myself when life was difficult:
Lie #1. You are all alone in this struggle. No one else has ever dealt with the problems you are facing. No one could ever possibly understand.
Truth #1: You are not the first person on planet Earth to deal with whatever struggles you are facing today. In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon tells us that there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). And in the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes that you will face no temptation (and, presumably by extension, no sin and no struggle) that is not part of the common human experience (1 Corinthians 10:13). I fully believe that we are each created uniquely in God’s image. But let’s face it – you’re not that unique. There is little more the enemy can do to Christians than to make them feel isolated, from other Christians and from God Himself. Don’t give him a foothold.
Lie #2: I am a victim of circumstances. There’s nothing I can do about the stressors and struggles in my life. Nothing can or ever will change.
Truth #2: While it is true that some trials come our way due to no fault of our own, it is rare that we have no recourse, no protection. If we are honest with ourselves, generally we find that many of the challenges in our lives are things that we actually have some influence over. By playing the victim card, we absolve ourselves of all responsibility (much easier), but at the same time drain ourselves of all power to make things better. If we look our struggles squarely and honestly in the face, on the other hand, we are empowered to make choices that just might change our lives and those of the people around us. Whatever you’re facing today, don’t yield your power to change, the power granted to you by Jesus Himself. Never give up – never surrender!
Lie #3: God isn’t really God. He must not be all-knowing, all-loving, or all-powerful. If He was all-knowing, He’d know what I’m going through and intervene to rescue me. Or maybe He’s not as loving as the Bible says He is. How could a loving God allow (fill in the blank with your struggle)? Or maybe He is all-knowing and all-loving, but His hands are tied. He’d like to help me, but He’s just as much at the mercy of the universe as I am.
Truth #3: God is God regardless of our circumstances or our perception of Him. Just as a red wall reflects light in the wavelength range of 620-750 nanometers, no matter whether our eyes are able to correctly perceive it, God is omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent, no matter our ability to perceive Him as such. God is indeed God.
The Old Testament character Job learned truth #3 the hard way. After his life crashed in all around him – he lost his wealth, his children, and his own health all in a few days’ time – he lashed out at God. When he boldly declared that he’d like the chance to charge God face-to-face with his crimes, God obliged. In a very brief but convincing scolding, Job was reminded that God is God, and man is not. Job quickly humbled Himself before the Creator.
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted… Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know… I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you, therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)
No matter who is lying to your life-story narrator, your best defense is to listen to the One who created you, the One who loves you to death, even the death of His own Son. He will always tell you the truth.