An Excerpt from my book Obsessions: Hell and Back Again
I turn off the overhead light, turn on my lamp, sit in my bed, and grab my pen and journal. Ever since my counseling session I haven’t been able to stop thinking about my works-based approach to God.
I wish I could just click a button and it would go away. No matter how many times I pray or tell myself grace-based truth, this mindset won’t leave.
I open up my journal to vent my frustrations.
“Somehow over the past four years I developed the idea that God is mad at me because I’m not good enough. I think I have to be better to meet his approval. The more I read theology the more I feel I’m not good enough or don’t know enough. I would never admit it to anyone, but it’s the way I think.
I’ve believed for a long time that God is angry at me, but I’ve never told anyone. My happiness in him has diminished. I’ve become depressed and withdrawn. I’ve dug myself deeper into a hole, although I’ve hid it behind books, schoolwork, and mission. I’ve replaced God with mission, theology, and acceptance from others. Once these pillars I’ve hid under collapsed, I was exposed.”
I turn the page. On the top left-hand side, I write “How I Feel.” On the top right-hand side, I write “What the Gospel Says.”
On the left side under the title, I write, “Rejected. God is displeased with me.”
On the right side under the title, I write, “I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus.”
On the left I write, “Cast out. God won’t take me back. Alone. If I don’t get my life together, God won’t accept me.”
On the right, “My salvation is based upon the work of Jesus, not my performance. I am God’s child; he will never leave me or forsake me.”
On the left, “Beyond his forgiving grace.”
On the right, “My sins are completely forgiven.”
On the left, “God has bigger and better things to attend to than me. He doesn’t care about my soul.”
On the right, “He loves me with everlasting love.”
I immediately turn to the next page and start writing my prayer.
“God, I don’t believe you. I want to believe your every word—to embrace it, cherish it, and love it—but my heart refuses. I’m lonely, and it feels as though you’ve forsaken me. But your word promises you won’t.
I’m hurting. I should have dealt with these issues long ago, and now I feel like you’re mad at me. I want to feel your love again. I don’t want to think I have to ‘be somebody’ for you to accept me. I want to believe you love me in spite of me. Help me believe, whatever it takes.
I confess that I studied your word and prayed for the sake of others and not my own relationship with you when I led Bible studies and Christian groups. While I was serving you, I forgot you. Forgive me, and never let me repeat my mistake.”
My eyes are closing. I set my pen and journal on my desk, turn off my light, and place my head on my pillow.