We sing songs of praise, my family and me on that bright Sunday morning. The sanctuary feels like home. I am happy to be here, surrounded by my children who stand a head taller than me, and growing in a faith they’ve made their own. Then comes the sucker punch.
I catch of glimpse of one and then another who criticizes good intentions; shines the brightest of lights on every mistake; and questions every motive. The weight of my failure sits heavy and I realize I have stopped singing. Stopped smiling. The lump in my throat and the knot in my stomach are a familiar feeling I had almost forgotten. Then comes another blow.
Same eyes see a friendly face. One who always promises intercession and delivers well. And there’s the one who speaks encouragement and highest praise. I feel it still. Same lump, same knot, but different. The weight of my potential to fail and disappoint sits even heavier.
Criticism and praise.Criticism and praise. Criticism and praise.
Criticism and praise can be dangerous weapons in the hands of our Enemy. He uses both in an attempt to destroy us.
Have you known criticism and praise?
I know you have. This is the stuff a thousand “church stories” are made of. But the experience isn’t confined to the meeting place of the Body of Christ. The Enemy prowls around in all the places we live and work and play. The cycle of criticism and praise rolls through your workplace, your home, and the ballpark. The silent dread of family reunions, lunch meetings, and school functions creates a knot in your stomach that cannot be medicated. At the end of the day, you crawl into bed exhausted from the roller coaster ride of criticism and praise, criticism and praise, criticism and praise.
I know how to beat him at his own game.
1. Repeat after me: “He rejoices over me with singing.”
Seriously. Repeat after me. Did you say it? Whisper it if you must but please say it. Truth annihilates the lie that
The Accuser uses to infect and kill and destroy you.
Father God rejoices over me and you with singing. This is one of my favorite verses from Zephaniah 3:17. It reminds me how Almighty God feels about His children. He knows all that we’ve said and done and the motives of our heart. He created us and pursues us with an unfailing love. He is not surprised or disappointed by you and me. He rejoices over us with singing. Because He sees past all that we are to the One who lives inside us.
2. Repeat after me: “The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus.”
Did you say it? It’s deadly poison to your Enemy and medicine to your soul.
When the Enemy uses someone to remind you of all your failures, agree with him. He’s right. The Apostle Paul knew the struggle was real.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25 NIV
And when the Enemy uses someone to pour out praise that threatens to puff up your pride, accept that praise for the sake of Christ. Paul knew about that, too.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” I Corinthians 1:30-31 (NASB)
There will always be those who have heard (or know as fact) something you’ve said or done and they think less of you for it. And there will always be those who have heard (or know as fact) something you’ve said or done and they think too highly of you for it.
When you tear it all away—the criticism-worthy mistakes and the praiseworthy accomplishments—the only thing that’s good in you and me is Jesus.
Our Enemy is relentless in his desire to see us throw in the towel. He’ll do anything to make us forget who we are and whose we are.
- Sometimes he uses betrayal. I shared How to Beat Betrayal (and the enemy) Once and For All last week.
- Frequently, he uses the wearisome, roller coaster ride of criticism and praise.
Beat him at his own game. Untie the knots he’s using to bind you. Remind him that you’ve been set free and watch him run!