The devil has a way of making a sin look like no big deal when you are thinking of committing it, but too big of a deal for God to forgive after you’ve done it. We’ve all experienced the endless voices of harsh thoughts after we’ve made mistakes. So, how do we know which voices are from God?
If you’ve fallen in your pursuit of purity, it’s important to know the difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation is the voice of guilt that makes us feel damaged, worthless and shameful. This was the reaction of Adam and Eve when they hid from God in the garden. Their feelings of condemnation resulted in their failure to run to His mercy— and this was what hurt Him most of all! Conviction, on the other, hand allows us to see how we have failed and therefore calls us to change. This is why St. Thérèse could say that her weakness and wretchedness was like an elevator that kept her close to God. Conviction motivates us to hold fast to mercy.
How about you? Have you made mistakes? Have you fallen in your path to purity? Have you made choices you aren’t proud of? Do you feel the weight on your conscience? Do you hate your sin? Welcome to the club!
We’ve all heard people talk about “Catholic Guilt.” The misconception is that Catholics are shamed into good behavior because of inner condemnations. On the contrary, when we make a mistake, our conscience knows we were created for more. The healthy version of “Catholic Guilt” gives us the drive to find out what that “more” is all about.
Chances are you’ve heard some follow-up chatter in your mind and felt it in your heart as you’ve wallowed in guilt. So, how do you know if these thoughts and voices come from God? Here are some ways to discern God’s voice from all the others:
- God speaks with conviction, not condemnation. His voice never encourages shame, only an invitation to conversion. It’s God’s kindness that pursues our brokenness. Psalm 23:6
- The voice of God doesn’t make us feel hopeless, but always provides a way out. 1 Corinthians 10:13
- God’s voice is usually gentle, not harsh or obtrusive. 1 Kings 19:12
- The devil will make you feel like there are these daunting labels put upon you that are too overwhelming to overcome (you’re selfish, worthless, impure etc.). God will call you to precise, specific ways to turn from sin and encounter Him. John 16:8
- God’s voice makes us feel like everything is under control. 2 Chronicles 20:6
- The God whose words created the universe wants to speak peace into your life. The devil wants to speak discord and indignity. Philippians 4:17
- God came not to ruin our joy but to fulfill it. When you encounter a voice ask, “Does this voice bring me abundant life or shrink my heart?” John 10:10
- God’s word strikes us in a place that no one else can access. His word penetrates us in a way nothing else can. Hebrews 4:12
To hear the Lord, we must give Him a chance to speak. Our lives are so full of distractions and in every moment the world is vying for our attention! God wants to speak His love into your shame. It’s in this relationship with Jesus that we can discover that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. His mercy wants to recreate you in His love! Jesus doesn’t come to us in anger but rather with a desire to reconcile so that you can be together forever. Let His voice calm the storm in your heart and heal you in the way only He can!
Katie Hartfiel is the author of Woman In Love, which coaches young women as they pray for their future spouse. Katie received her Theology degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and three daughters. For more on Katie, her books and her DIY purity retreat visit womaninlove.org.