I have always struggled with feelings of insecurity and comparing myself to others, but I thought it was just a part of my personality. In the past, I went to a couple of retreats in Church movements that use a lot of psychology and I was always tagged as a very insecure, “fragile” person. I just assumed it was a part of who I was.
Struggles with insecurity and even despair in thinking I wasn’t good enough and was doing it all wrong intensified by a thousand times when I became a mother, especially with my second and third children.
It wasn’t until I read Sally Clarkson’s book Desperate that I realized: these feelings of discouragement aren’t true. I had been setting the bar low for myself, thinking that this inner voice of insecurity was telling me the truth about myself. I would never be able to do things like other people or have more kids. However, just because I feel something or think it doesn’t make it true. Christ encourages and doesn’t discourage, so feelings of discouragement do not come from Him. They aren’t part of who I am. Where do they come from?
In a world where the devil is old-fashioned and evil is PC to talk about, I was not prepared for the answer. Feelings of worthlessness, discouragement and despair are a temptation and come about when you set out to do something good. They are spiritual attack from the devil.
Jennifer Fulwiler puts it very well in this podcast at 14:20:
“There is such a lesson here. We, as people of faith, understand that there are bad forces out there. I know I like to make everyone uncomfortable on the show, because I talk about spiritual attack, but it’s true, it’s real. It’s like gravity: it doesn’t really matter if that’s your thing, if you believe that, it’s out there, it exists. And very often the attacks we feel, especially the attacks that tell you: you are worthless. You think there’s hope? Look at you, look at your age, look at your financial situation, look at your past failures, there’s no hope, there’s no hope for you. […] That is exactly the voice of spiritual attack. Does that sound like the voice of the Holy Spirit?”
Obstacles to Good Things
I only realized that spiritual attack is real when we started going to weekly mass. We made a decision, it was a good thing, and when the time came to act on it a million obstacles sprang up. Not only inner obstacles such as these feelings of discouragement and doubt as to whether it was a good idea after all, but also outside obstacles such as bad weather, dirty diapers, etc. Then I noticed this pattern with other good things I decided and then set out to do: our car had to be taken to the mechanic before a prayer group I had planned going to, a lot of very important events happen every weekend, making it impossible for my husband and I to go on a date.
I love this podcast by Leah Darrow called “Press On! The Beauty of Perseverance”. She describes how she decided to write a book and it was a decision she had reflected on thoughtfully, with the help of her husband and spiritual director. Then, before the writing deadlines all three of her children got sick, she had to go to the hospital with them, she was tired and had a lot of doubt as to whether to continue with her plan.
Life is a Battle
Set out to do a good thing and you will experience pushback. Voices from outside, friends and family telling you you’re doing the wrong thing, and voices from inside, your own insecurities, discouragement and even despair. This is especially true for mothers, as I realized with Sally Clarkson’s book. Motherhood is one of the most sacred and important things in this world, so it is also one of the most attacked. Marriage is a sacrament of God’s love in the world, so of course that is greatly attacked. My last article was about how our own marriages are attacked on a daily basis. Even if you are not married or don’t have kids, try living righteously in your daily life and any good thing you set out to do will be attacked.
As Ma says in Little Town on the Prairie: “’The earthly life is a battle,’ said Ma. ‘If it isn’t one thing to contend with, it’s another. It always has been so, and it always will be. The sooner you make up your mind to that, the better off you are, and the more thankful for your pleasures.’” (chapter “Blackbirds”)
Jesus told us, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33). He also warned:
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.”(Luke 12:4-5).
We know this, but we are not always clear on what that “trouble” will look like and what “that one” will do. Our culture and our self-esteem will not always tell us the truth and will not always give us a good plan of action. “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:12). If we renew our mind in Christ and our find our worth in Him, we will find our plan of action.