Who do you think you are? How do you really think God looks at you? These are two of the most fundamental questions we ever ask ourselves. They color many of the choices we make, and they have a great influence over the way we relate to the people around us.
Precisely because they are such important questions, the devil expends much of his energy trying to feed us false answers to them. He figures that if he can give us a negative picture of ourselves, we’ll feel unworthy of God’s love. And if he can convince us that God doesn’t love us, we won’t devote time to seeking out the Lord.
In this article, Deacon Keith Strohm takes apart three of these lies from the devil: that we don’t matter, that God doesn’t think we are worth his attention, and that God expects us to be perfect before he will bless us. After discussing each of these lies, he offers a clear and encouraging explanation of the truths that the devil wants to cover up. May we all become more confident in what God says rather than in the lies of the evil one!
Lie Number One: “I Am Insignificant.” Those who struggle with the lie of insignificance wrestle with a poverty rooted in their identity and a “smallness” that they see as a part of who they are. They may not feel ashamed of themselves, and they may also acknowledge that they have real gifts and talents, but they believe that these gifts are irrelevant in the circumstances in which they find themselves or are unimportant enough that others fail to see them or their gifts.
Those who struggle with this lie may bury their gifts or sit in the background, convinced that they don’t matter. They might quietly go about their lives with a pervasive sense of sadness, bitterness, and anger that serves as an obstacle to their relationship with God and others.
The Enemy also likes to dress this lie up in the language of humility. As Catholics, we know that we should be both faithful and humble. True humility, however, is not the belief that we are insignificant or invisible or don’t matter. Authentic humility means that we live out who we are created to be without attaching undue significance to our gifts or abilities.
The Truth: “God Treasures Me.” God’s personal and intimate love extends to each member of the human race. “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?” Jesus asks. “Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted” (Matthew 10:29-30). Your life is not invisible to the Lord. His gaze is so intimate that it numbers the hairs on your head.
Jesus didn’t leave the glory of heaven for a nameless, faceless humanity. He didn’t hand himself over to be beaten, tortured, and crucified for an idea. When Jesus hung on that cross, his eyes gazed upon you and upon the winding track of your life. When he was laid in the tomb, he held your sins in its silent embrace. And after his resurrection from the dead and his ascension, he carried your name into the heart of Trinitarian love. This fulfills what the prophet Isaiah proclaimed many years before the coming of Christ: “See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you” (49:16).
God doesn’t see us or love us because we are significant in some way. Rather, we are significant because God sees and loves us. Because of him, we are never invisible, and we will never truly be overlooked.
Try to see yourself as God sees you and not as you think others see you. Recognize that of all the people who have ever lived and all the people who will ever live, no one can respond to the love of God exactly as you can. You are an unrepeatable gift that God offers to the world as a sign of his goodness and care.
Lie Number Two: “I Am Too Damaged for God to Save Me.” Often, Satan places temptations before us and encourages us to rationalize why giving in to a particular temptation wouldn’t actually be a sin for us. Then, if we end up yielding to that temptation, he takes a step back and begins to accuse us. It’s as if he says, “Oh, man, . . . I can’t believe you actually did that. God will never forgive you for that. And even if he did, if you confess this to a priest, he is going to judge you.”
I’ve heard it put this way: the Enemy knows your name—and chooses to call you by your sin! Why does he do that? Because Satan wants us to fall into the lie of believing that we are what we have done wrong (or what has been done to us). If he can do that, then he has us wrapped in shame.
This sense of shame causes us to focus on our own unworthiness. In a sense, we become so blinded by it that we decide for God what his reaction to us will be. This lie can also bring with it an accusing voice that speaks into our hearts, telling us that we are “no good,” “stupid,” or “not deserving of love.”
The Truth: “I Am God’s Delight.” God the Father delights in you! Perhaps this seems like a much more shocking statement than “God loves you.” Many of us think about the love of God in a kind of theoretical way. But the reality that he delights in you is much more intimate, in your face, and personally challenging. God’s delight is not abstract. For him to delight in me, he must see me, and he must know me; he must be radically involved with the details of my life.
Think about that: from the moment of your conception, your heavenly Father has gazed upon you with love. Not because you have done anything worthwhile or believed the right things or kept yourself spotless—but simply because you are his creation.
There is nothing that you have done, there is no thought you’ve ever had, there is no tragedy or trauma that you have experienced that can ever change God’s love for you. It is constant and unchanging. He has saved you, not because you are good, but because he is good. And that goodness is everlasting.
So don’t be afraid to run to him. Open your heart and receive his goodness. There is new life waiting for you: rest and relief and a love that can never, ever be swayed.
Lie Number Three: “I Have to Be Perfect to Earn God’s Love.” Our culture places a high value on productiveness—on what individuals contribute to society—and that can infect our relationship with God. The Enemy is quick to capitalize on any leanings we have to judge someone, including ourselves, according to what they accomplish. Often, those who have experienced either one or both parents as judgmental or as having exceptionally high standards can grow up with the idea that affirmation only follows when they meet expectations or do things perfectly.
The Enemy’s strategy here is to get us to transfer this image of a demanding parent to God. Under the effects of this lie, we come to see God as a cold, impersonal, distant judge who only offers his approval and love to those who follow him perfectly. This can lead us into a kind of “performance Christianity,” whereby we see ourselves as needing to earn God’s love but perennially falling short.
Those who suffer under the effects of this lie often feel a tremendous pressure to get things right. Every failure, every sin, every imperfection can bring with it a heightened sense of fear and a sometimes overwhelming sense of guilt.
The Truth: “God Loves Me Right Now.” Faith’s power is located in God and not in us. Of course, our assent and cooperation are essential, but the transforming power of faith does not come from us. It comes from the Lord. This means that we are not the cause of our salvation, and so salvation does not depend on our perfection but on the perfect love of God.
No one deserves to be saved or to enter into heaven just because we are good. Paul proclaims the truth that “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is only through the actions of Christ—his life, death, resurrection, and ascension—that we can be saved. There is nothing that you and I can do that will make God love us even more than he already does right now! There is also nothing that you and I can do that will make him love us any less!
God meets us right where we are, and he loves us for who we are right now. Not for what we may one day become, or what we have been in the past, but in the here and now.
You don’t need to perform for God’s love. He loves you right where you are, and he longs to bring you into the center of his sacred heart. All it takes is your yes.