We as women are super talented at carrying around proverbial file cabinets and filing every single hurtful word, message of condemnation, and voice that accuses us. We are the great administrators of thoroughly organizing each one, putting them away for safe keeping. And we add one voice to another voice to another voice. We add dad’s voice to the clique’s voice to the disappointment of a dream’s voice. We add one wound, to another sin, to another bruise; file after file after file. All the voices are in there and we pack them around and pull them out and let them keep hurting us because we believe their nasty lies.
A woman new to the Collide ministry team this year shared her story with all of us by pulling out a quilt and laying it in the center of the circle the team sat in at the fall retreat. It was made especially for her as an exit gift by the same people who fired her husband who pastored their church for 30 years, so they could hire someone younger. The file she pulls out since being given that carefully schemed and crafted blanket keeps saying “You’re not welcome here, at church.”
A woman who was facing a terrible health scare asked to meet me. She was deathly afraid to face both heaven and hell. She was afraid to be without God and afraid to be with God. The file she was pulling as she faced the fear of cancer’s devastation was “Because of who you are, you should be ashamed and terrified of God.”
A woman I met speaking at a retreat kept crying to me while saying “Why am I crying? I should be fine if I’m good with God, right?” She kept talking about something that happened 12 years ago and was clearly fighting the need to process any grief. Finally I pressed,“What happened 12 years ago?” She said she broke up with her boyfriend and then he killed himself. But someone, somewhere along the way made this woman falsely believe that God doesn’t do sad. So every time she feels upset about someone she loved ending their life, that voice pops up and says “Something’s wrong with you spiritually if you’re not over it.”
There’s a kid I know who was misdiagnosed in 4th grade with a brain and memory issue that made him believe that he is utterly stupid. The diagnosis came with a list of everything he would never be able to do. You will always struggle with this and don’t even try that. A few years after the diagnosis, it was discovered that the wrong numbers were input in the testing system and he had actually been misdiagnosed. He lived several years believing lies about himself. He does have a learning disability, but not nearly to the extent as he was first labeled. But now whenever he doesn’t feel capable or smart enough to accomplish a task, old files get pulled that sting this kid with insult after insult, “You are dumb and deficient.”
I hired a very talented, passionate, young woman to work for Collide. She was quickly invited into our culture which strongly believes we all have brokenness and saying yes to God’s healing is our best yes. She started counseling through our wholeness and counseling program. One day she came to me in tears and basically asked if she should still work for Collide because she feels like a bit of a mess. I asked her where she got the idea that people who do meaningful work for God have to be perfect? The voice of an old lie was trying to trip her up saying “Your a mess, so you’re disqualified.”
We all have accusers voices filed away. And you know when these files usually get pulled? They get pulled out when we need to overcome something hard. It’s right when you are about to accomplish your dream and you face an obstacle, that a file gets pulled that says “You don’t have what it takes.” It’s right when you’re life calling is gaining great momentum and you face the betrayal of the one person in the world you hoped had your back, that a file gets pulled that you’ve heard before and it says “You were never enough to stay.” It’s right when you began to believe God for your miracle and your sickness slowly gets worse that a file gets pulled that says “God wants to keep you sick.” It’s in the moments that you and I need to overcome hardship, sickness, doubt, fear, tragedy, and obstacles that we start pulling files and pressing play on a lifetime of accuser’s voices. “You’ll never accomplish your dreams. You’ll fail. Your prayers won’t be answered. They won’t choose you. You can’t do it. You won’t get back up.”
How’s a girl supposed to get back up and overcome something hard when she gets knocked down again and again every time she tries to rise? These condemnations keep us down and they hold us back. They wreak havoc on our dreams and mess with our relationships. These accusations convince us that we cannot overcome what God says we can. These lies begin to be our truth. And we let them. So I want us to confront these lies, do battle with our files and win the war against our accusers.
Here’s 10 things to know about our accusers:
- We all have accusers.
- Accusers can be other people’s voices and they can be our own. An accuser could be our old demeaning boss that still puts us down even though we haven’t seen or worked for him in years, but we still hear his insults. Accusers can be the mean girls we went to highschool with and though we graduated eons ago, they still kick us off the lunch table which is why we don’t show up to group things even still. Accusers can be the voices of our enemies or thee enemy. In fact, Satan’s very name means ‘accuser’. The Bible makes it clear that we have an enemy. If you don’t believe in God it might be even weirder to believe in Satan but when you think of his main job being to bring forth accusations against us… it starts to feel like he might be real, with all these accusatory messages coming our way. Accuser voices can be other people’s voices, the enemy’s voice and our own voice- our never satisfied, eternally critical, overly perfectionistic, hard to please self that is always telling us how little we measure up.
- Accusers aren’t just the voices of people, but also experiences; memories, traumas leftovers, disappointments, sicknesses, distorted mindsets, condemning religious beliefs. Accuser’s voices can be mistakes that call us by name. They can be a messed up eating disorder that nags at us every night at dinner. They can be an insecurity that speaks negative claims over us. They can be a miscarriage that convinced us that somehow we don’t deserve what other people get.
- The accuser’s goal is to beat us down when we’re already there. Accusers’ voices want us to believe that we won’t make it, we will lose, and we won’t overcome. We won’t overcome this circumstance or that failure. We won’t overcome a relational break up or reputation ruin. We won’t overcome weakness, scarcity, or the obstacles in the way of our dreams. We won’t overcome the diagnosis, and we definitely won’t overcome death. If an accuser’s voice can get us to believe we won’t overcome, we won’t even try.
- Accusers are the best liars. They’ll even use truth to lie. They’ll use our actual history of mess ups, bad habits, and literal files. They’ll accuse us of everything we’ve ever done and everything we haven’t. These voices will lie to us about what our past indicates about our present and our future. They like to remind us of our record of wrongs and sure – we’ve erred along the way, sure we have regrets, sure we’re a work in progress, but what these voices like to do is lie to us about what all that means.
- The accusers voices don’t have to be present to speak. They can speak for years after they first spoke. They wound us once, but if they’re still talking, it’s because we’re packing their voices around with us. They’ll hurt us again and again as long as we let them.
- Accusers are really great at getting new circumstances to trigger old files. When we have to be vulnerable, it can trigger an old memory of what happened when we were real with people who told us our “emotions were too much.” When we really blow it and hope people will have grace for mess getting on them, we remember the last time we counted on grace and didn’t experience it. When we get set up on a blind date we remember the voice that said “No man will ever accept you” and that’s when we decide to cancel, stay home alone in pajamas, and binge watch The Good Doctor.
- We have accusers but we can also be accusers. People have put things in our file and those hurtful words still speak, but we too have put files in other peoples mobile cabinet. What we said or did or didn’t say or do probably still speak messages that hurt them too. We walk around carrying files of things they said about us and they walk around carrying files of things we said about them. We filed them as backstabber. They filed us as judgemental. We filed them as gossipy. They filed as needy. We filed them as can’t be trusted. They filed us as rude. We filed them as addict. They filed us as a no-show.
- The accuser’s goal is to have us so held back by the belief that there’s something about us that will cause separation. They have so much proof that we aren’t worthy of their love. There are wrongs that can’t be made right. There are too many “I don’t like you’s, I can’t handle you’s, I don’t trust you’s.” So we start to believe there’s something about us that will cause people to leave us, divorce us, break up with us, not hire us, accept us, or love us. And we think that, because we have experienced it to be true, with a mobile filing cabinet pulling out all her files, that there’s something in there that’s gonna be the “thing” that puts distance between us and others.
- The accusers grandest work is to get us to begin to put words in God’s mouth. The hurtful words of our accusers begin to feel so true that we begin to believe God thinks them too. For months after a friend’s divorce, she was so sick that she couldn’t get out of bed and go to work. She was struggling with anxiety and depression. Her body was catching up to the suffering her mind and heart had experienced for decades. One day she said “I must deserve this. God must think I deserve torture.”
When we start to believe there’s something in that proverbial file cabinet about us that will keep others from being with and for us, we start to believe it about God too. And unconsciously we begin to think “If God’s not for me, neither will my luck be for me, my prayers be for me, my karma be for me, my efforts be for me or my plans be for me. We think there will be something, some kind of file, policy, asterisk, loophole, or reason that will make God not be for us. And we will be left in that ditch, that sickness, that torture, that darkness, that deep and utter aloneness. The accuser’s voices start to convince us that maybe one or all of those files will ultimately be the thing that drives away God’s love, God’s favor, God’s goodness, and God’s presence because it already pushed someone else’s love away.
Look, what you believe is everything. You don’t accomplish your dream with an injury and a belief that God wants you to sit in defeat. If you believe that, that’s exactly where you’ll sit. You don’t get back up from betrayal and find purpose in that pain if you get stuck believing your not enough for God or others to stay. You don’t overcome a sickness by believing the daily lies that try and keep you there. Your belief predetermines what you will overcome. You don’t stand a chance to conquer hard things if you get to the place where you no longer believe God is with you and for you. If we keep listening to these voices, if we keep letting them be our pep talk and our inspiration, if we keep pulling out old files we’ve already shred, we don’t stand a chance. Every abusive thing we abandoned will still abuse. Every dream we have won’t come to pass. Every miracle we pray for will be extinguished by the doubt that drowns any faith we had. Every obstacle we face will look bigger than it really is and so we won’t even try to overcome.
As you continue to battle the lies, names, condemnation and accusers’ voices in your life, know that there is power in naming them and getting to know what they are really good at. (Check out this blog with a downloadable exercise to help you name them!) My great hope from this blog is that you might begin to recognize all the accusers voices, so that you can better boldly invite them to exit your life and you can stop carrying around that proverbial file cabinet pulling files that lie to you! And instead may you pull this truth: God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. No matter what anyone else puts in your file. God has nothing but love in there.