How to know when you’re believing a lie
The following is an excerpt from Clayton King’s book, “Overcome.”
For years I didn’t see the progression. I would push myself for months and months. I would travel too much, preach too often, accept too many invitations, and fill my plate too full ... because there was work to be done!
Naturally, I would stop exercising regularly because I just “didn’t have the time.” This, in turn, would increase my stress levels and diminish my body’s natural defenses. And we all know that when we are overloaded, it’s harder to eat healthy and way easier to eat junk and fast food, with lots of calories and little nutrition.
Additionally, because of the workload I willingly took on, my mind would begin spinning as soon as I would lie down to go to sleep at night. I couldn’t turn it off. I would think about upcoming projects, sermons to write, book deadlines, staff meetings, fund-raisers, new hires. On the nights I could fall asleep without trouble, I would wake up between 2am and 3am with a compulsion to get up and work. Then I would be sleepy (and grumpy) the rest of that day.
This would go on for weeks every fall leading into the holidays. The pattern repeated itself for several years, but I was too blind to see it. My wife, Sharie, saw it, though, like she sees everything. Thank God for her ability to notice what I miss.
If we want to get better, we have to change our pattern.
The day after Christmas, I was storming through the house like a raging Brahma bull, complaining that “This happens to me every year,” and “Getting sick ruins my Christmas,” and “I don’t get to see anybody or spend the holidays finally doing something I want to do. Why me? I am cursed! God is punishing me for something. Satan is attacking me!”
With great care for my soul, Sharie gently spoke up: “This is what happens to us every year. We go and go and go. We take on too much. We don’t take time off regularly. You don’t have many things. We wear ourselves out telling ourselves that we will rest up during the holidays. But when the holidays get here, our bodies finally slow down enough to actually get sick. We need to listen to our bodies. If we want to get better, we have to change our pattern.”
The Lie That Lurks Beneath
At the center of the destructive pattern was a lie. And I wasn’t just listening to this lie. I believed it, was controlled by it, and often didn’t even recognize it as the cause of the havoc in my life.
The lie that fueled my sickness was the belief that I needed to do more in order to be more successful and thus more content: more speaking opportunities, more people responding to the Gospel, more ministry relationships established, more promotion for our camps and mission trips. For me, “more” was like a drug that gave me a sense of euphoria. It made me feel alive, important, valuable, and respected.
When I finally got what I thought I wanted, I realized I didn’t want it after all.
I was chasing a unicorn. There would never be enough achievement to make me feel at peace. I believed the lie that if I worked harder I could achieve more, which in turn would make me feel more accomplished and respectable. The trap was hard to recognize because hard work actually does pay off! But I was never happy when I reached the end goal. To put it bluntly, when I finally got what I thought I wanted, I realized I didn’t want it after all.
The lie I believed was what I like to call a root lie, or a bedrock lie, and it led to my self-destructive behavior. I thought that if I worked hard enough, people would notice and respect me, I would feel good, and God would love me more. I was blind to this pattern for years, and the lie was eating me alive.
Notice the Pattern
Here’s how lies work. If we believe lies long enough, they:
Watch, for example, how the lie of achievement and success played out for me. First, the lie infiltrated my mind with subconscious thoughts:
You know that some of the biggest and best speaking opportunities of the year happen around the holidays. You might want to take them, because they may never ask you back if you say no this time. And just think of all the people who will get saved, or hear about Crossroads Summer Camps. Plus you’re getting older and these events won’t always be there for you to take. Take them now. You’re tough and conditioned for it.
The infiltration is always subtle, like a stealth attack by mind-ninjas — so subtle we fall for it without putting up a fight. The lies we listen to are leading us somewhere — and the destination is always destruction.
Next, the lie insinuated that if I said no, I was a bad husband and father and a spiritual wimp:
You could turn down these opportunities, and that would be OK because everyone needs time to unplug. But just know that if you do, they will call someone else. And they will think you’re a diva who can’t take the heat of ministry. They will probably talk about you to other churches and ministries and warn them not to call you. Or maybe not. But is that a chance you’re willing to take? Remember, this is your calling and your source of income. This is how you provide for your family.
You do love them, right? The insinuation is that if I don’t say yes, I’m a bad father and husband. And a spiritual weakling. Then the lie intimidated me by making me feel like I don’t really love Jesus or ministry: Just think about all the other Christians around the world who suffer for Jesus every single day. They get locked up in prison and murdered in public because they won’t stop preaching the Gospel.
And here you are, invited to preach the Gospel to thousands of people, and they will fly you there on a plane and pay for your meals and hotel, and no one will be there with machetes or machine guns to stop you from preaching. But hey, stay home for a few days and rest if you need to. Just remember, you get paid a salary to do what other people die for.
The lie intimidates me by making me feel spiritually inferior to others. When I play the comparison game, I lose. Every time.
Finally, the lie re-created my reality:
If you were a man of God, you wouldn’t even hesitate to fly to Montana on Christmas Eve to preach at a candlelight service with 13 people. So while you’re spending time with your friends and family, reading your Bible and resting, you may want to ask God to forgive you for being so shallow. Actually, ask God if you’re really even a Christian because real followers of Jesus know there’s work to be done now and they can rest when they’re dead.
At this stage, I’m doubting my calling, my salvation, and whether or not I’m even going to heaven when I die. The lie re-creates my own identity and makes me feel ashamed and condemned for making a wise decision. It’s the same progression each of us falls into, regardless of which lie we believe at any given time.
Fighting the Fight
Once our eyes are opened to the pattern, we can predict the outcome and preempt the process. Fighting the lies we hear is a lifelong journey that requires daily attention. I think of it like eating. I never have a meal and declare, “Well, that was delicious. I’m glad that’s over. Eating can be quite a hassle and I’ve got other things to do, so let’s get on with life.” Eating is essential to living, so it’s a daily part of the life I live.
Likewise, confronting and overcoming the lies that hold us back is essential to living (at least living a truer, freer life). It requires vigilance. It’s never over. But it’s for our good, and if we get in the habit of replacing lies with truth, the process becomes as second nature to us as eating.
Read more in “Overcome,” available now at the NewSpring Store.