Do you ever have those times when you look around, and all you see is your failure? Life is beep-bopping along fine and dandy, until some event, comment, or circumstance has you swapping your rose-colored glasses for those of Debbie Downer. I’ve experienced this swift change more than once, and the startling truth is, our enemy can use the subtlest of events—even the seemingly innocuous ones—to jumpstart a cycle of defeat and failure.

I experienced the beginnings of one such failure cycle this week, coming at me in the form of potty training my almost 2 ½ year old son. To put it mildly, Monday was a disaster. And after about 8 swimming pool sized failures, I found myself waving the white flag with nerves shot, reaching for the skittles that were intended as a reward for Isaiah’s potty successes … potty successes that never happened.

Before I knew it, the word failure came calling on me, yowling its accusations in my ear. Therein began the cascade of negative emotions, paving the path toward self-defeat. Before long, my clouded mind told me nothing is right, all is wrong. I looked around and saw failure in everything: every pile of clothes needing washing and every dish on the counter that needed putting away taunted me with my shortcomings.

All at once, my home wasn’t decorated enough, my office wasn’t organized enough, my cooking skills weren’t Food Channel worthy enough, and—basically—the sky was falling.

Accusations flew at me right and left, until my already frazzled nerves wanted nothing more than to run away for a bit.

The Language of Lies

When these moments hit, distinguishing truth from lies can feel exceedingly difficult. Any time we experience that sense of being accused, we would do well to step back and remember the quintessential source of such vitriol: the enemy. Indeed, the Bible describes our enemy as “the accuser of our brothers,” guilty of accusing believers “day and night” before God (Revelation 12:10 NIV).

He is also given the illuminating moniker of “father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV), a name that pairs perfectly with his profession as accuser. Satan’s voice is cruel, nagging, hurtful … it’s unrelenting, yet fruitless in bringing about any true change. He hits us where it hurts the most, then turns tail to run. He cheerily leaves us high and dry.

Conviction Over Accusation

In stark contrast to accusation, the voice of conviction has quite a different “feel.” God’s voice is gentle, yet serious. When He comes with conviction, He doesn’t come to simply make us feel bad—He requires action and obedience. But He also makes a way for such obedience, and He supplies the grace and strength we need to do it! He is exceedingly good, even in our failings.

Conviction is a difficult but necessary part of the Christian life. Sometimes, the painful truth is that we do need to change. Perhaps we aren’t being the best steward of our time and our resources, be it at home or at work. Or perhaps we’re not being disciplined enough in a specific area of our lives. Maybe we find ourselves wearing our messiness as a “badge,” as some articles have criticized … though, as someone striving to write with authenticity and genuineness of spirit, I take issue with this point of view’s characterization of such writing as an “obsession with brokenness.” But … that’s a blog for another day :-).

When feelings of failure threaten to hijack your mind, take some time to step back and ask God for wisdom in discerning whether you’re facing accusation or conviction.

Fight Back!

Whether our feelings of failure are rooted in some truth or in baseless lies whispered by the enemy, we must confront them the same: we must fight back. We are, after all, engaged in a battle as we walk this earth. Paul understood this reality, and in Ephesians 6:11-12, he admonishes believers to put on the full armor of God:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (NIV).

To those who have been a Christian for some time, it can be tempting to gloss over this well-known passage. But if we fail to take Paul’s words seriously, I’m afraid we’ll find ourselves cycling through the pathways of failure and defeat all too often. Which is exactly what our enemy wants: us sidelined and distracted from fulfilling God’s call on our lives.

Fight back with the truth of God’s word and cling to “his very great and precious promises” (II Peter 1:4 NIV), given to us through His divine power—a divine power that supplies everything we need to live the abundant life.

Thank Him for all He’s done, humbly asking Him to help you discern whether your feelings of failure are grounded in a genuine need to change something or if they’re merely empty lies—a vexing manifestation of the enemy’s “flaming arrows” (Ephesians 6:16 NIV). If the former is true, then God will be faithful to direct His conviction into action. If the latter is true, then naming off gifts will help disentangle you from those lies. Doing so has been a lifeline for me.

Personally, I like to tailor my gratitude toward the exact things about which Satan is attacking me. So if I’m frustrated at the piles of laundry, I thank God that such piles signify the blessing of clothes. And dirty dishes signify the blessings of nourishing food and family meals. I’ve found this approach turns the enemy’s strategy on its head, sending him running out of my house.

Whatever your circumstances, dear reader, my prayer is that you will refuse to listen to that voice telling you that failure abounds. May your eyes see His transformative grace and power in all the places, big and small, where failure once dwelt. And may we both dig into faith a little deeper and grow a little closer to our Lord and Savior this week.