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Several years ago I had a profound spiritual realization. I was sitting quietly in a church meeting when it happened. I had enjoyed such a beautiful week, – filled and upheld by the spirit, – but unexpectedly at that moment, it was as if a dark cloud overshadowed me. I began to feel a feeling of strong condemnation against me, like I was being spiritually assaulted. I started to feel guilty, but didn’t know why. (Not doing enough? Not being enough? Saying the wrong thing? etc) My spirit was shrinking because I was believing these condemning thoughts and feelings.
Just as I was sinking into the dark abyss, I became alert to what was really going on. I realized, in a flash of spiritual insight, that “Something is wrong! These things I’m feeling bad about aren’t even true! I instantly understood that I had been “acted upon” by the adversary. This condemnation had been thrust upon me, and I had been buying into it hook, line and sinker.
This inspiration empowered me to pray, “Heavenly Father, please take this darkness and guilt from me. None of it is true! As easily as it descended on me, it departed and I was once again enveloped in peace. I felt that the whole experience gave me a gem of knowledge that I could truly use in my life and share.
I recognized that I had been “pounded” many times like this before, (and usually with good reason), but this was the first time I figured out the source of my condemnation.
If we hear “voices” that condemn, they are NOT of God!
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”(John 3:17) If the adversary can get us to believe that we are condemned, he has won a major battle, even if it may be justifiable. Because we are not perfect, he always has fodder with which to condemn us. The particles of truth that he uses are just what he needs to threaten our peace.
One of the greatest tools Satan uses to keep us from being “one” with the Lord is to convince us that we don’t “deserve it.” When we do something wrong, (if we have any kind of conscience at all), we are made to suffer. He tries to convince us that we are bad, or we’ll never change. With his continual thrashing, we sometimes find ourselves agreeing that we aren’t worth saving, and we perpetuate the “beating” with SELF- CONDEMNATION. We generally continue where Satan and his minions leave off, and we do a pretty thorough job.
Convicting vs. Condemning
It’s important to recognize that while the Lord doesn’t condemn us; he DOES CONVICT us! He may pierce our very souls with a conviction of what we have done wrong, but the difference is that He ALWAYS throws us a rope.
After the woman taken in adultery was left alone from conscience-pricked scribes and Pharisees, she stood alone before Jesus. He asked where her accusers were, and after she answered that she had none, he said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) She was convicted by his compassion, and the opportunity He was offering her. He pierced her heart with His offering of a second chance at life. He will do the same for us.
The Need For Short-term Guilt
Guilt is an emotion designed to serve one purpose, and one purpose only; to turn us around. Boyd K. Packer has said, “You have an alarm system built into both body and spirit. In your body it is pain. In your spirit it is guilt… While neither pain or guilt is pleasant, an excess of either can be destructive.” (FHE video Supplement 2, 1990) This alarm system allows us to experience sensations that are very instructive. Guilty feelings need to be noticed and then transcended.
When we feel condemned, our spirit CONSTRICTS, and faith lowers. As the Lord convicts us, we may initially feel guilt, but when we turn to Him and ask for His help, the guilt leaves and our spirit EXPANDS. What do we choose to feel? We CAN choose!
After praying mightily Enos was assured by God that his sins were forgiven. He must have been carrying a heavy burden for something he had done that really weighed him down, because he was amazed to find that his “guilt was swept away”. In wonder and awe, he asked the Lord, “Lord, how is it done?” The powerful answer was, “Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen…thy faith hath made thee whole” (Enos 1:5-8) Light and faith will ALWAYS trump darkness.
When You Feel the Sting of Condemnation
- Realize that those feelings did not come from God. Where DID they come from?
- Notice how those negative feelings cause your spirit to shrink.
Guilt is only meant to be a pointer to awareness. It’s not designed to be basked in. What is it trying to point you towards? (Restitution? Asking for forgiveness? A humble willingness to change?)
- With this new wakefulness ASK the Lord to help you.
Satan wants you to feel the full force of those emotions for as long as possible, because he knows they will keep you out of God’s presence and in darkness. Know that whatever you have done, it is reconcilable, and changeable. If you will turn to the Lord, he will champion you, and lead you back to joy. HE DIED FOR YOUR DARKNESS!
Repentance simply means changing direction and focus. Let the Lord change you. Give Him power over your life. Just as Enos experienced, Faith in Christ will make you whole.
- Feel yourself EXPAND!
Let your eye be single so that your mind is full of light.
Notice the next time you are “acted upon” to feel condemned. When we turn to the Lord, HE WILL ALWAYS LIFT US! That is His way! Elder Jeffrey R. Holland counsels:
“Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. Call out like Alma, “O Jesus, … have mercy on me.”7 He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek.” (General Conference Address April 2016)
The Lord doesn’t come to attack and condemn us. He comes to show us our errors and boost us so we can begin climbing again. Don’t listen to “voices” of accusation and condemnation, even if they become your own! They are NOT of God! Notice what you are believing about yourself. Guilt is a very useful tool when we view it as a signal to change direction. We need to make the change, let it go and then get back into joy.
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