It’s possible that you grew up in a religious tradition that made you feel afraid of many, many factors outside yourself.

In a fear-motivated faith, the list of threats to our spiritual health scrolls on infinitely. From music styles to unfamiliar cultural practices, from fictional books about children’s witchcraft academies to hidden satanic symbols on energy drink cans, from blood moons to the Y2K bug, Satan lurks around every corner just waiting to pounce like a lion and shipwreck your faith.

Granted, in this beautiful world created by God, there exist both good and evil forces at work, both seen and unseen. The biblical authors had plenty to say about their experiences with such issues.

But what if the greatest threat to our spiritual vitality isn’t external at all? What if our real problem lies deep within us?

Henri Nouwen, the contemplative mystic, said this:

Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us God’s beloved. Being the beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.

~ Henri Nouwen, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Dailly Life

If you’re still thinking with the old fear-based filter, you’re likely arguing with Nouwen in your head because any focus on self rather than on God is bad, right? But think of it this way.

The Bible unveils for us a God who created all that exists and who identifies each of us as objects of his infinite, unstoppable love.

Therefore, recognizing the truth of that love is powerful. Affirming God’s acceptance of us, in Christ, is a confession of faith.

That affirmation clears the way for us to hear from God. It prepares us to have an active faith. It draws us out of the dark corners and recesses and into the light of God’s smile.

To put it simply, you cannot believe that God loves and accepts you and at the same time reject yourself.

On a practical level, operating from a basis of self-rejection never leads anywhere holy, healthy, or happy. It always leads us into isolation and destruction.

And in the same way, basking in the goodness of God’s love always leads us to holy, healthy, and happy places, regardless of our external circumstances.

Photo by Eric Ward via Unsplash.