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When You Can't Be An Overcomer: Coping With Spiritual Failures
by Cate Russell-Cole
11/29/2015 / Christian Living
In 1996, I wrote an article called "spiritually correct is." I was exploring some of the attitudes our church had then, which were generated far more by peer pressure, than Scripture.
Not all peer pressure is bad. The standards set by a group can be a force for good, which supports and encourages people. However, sometimes we take a positive spiritual principle and carry it too far, placing expectations on people that they can't carry comfortably.
Here are two of the points which came up on my list:
- Putting on a 'praise the Lord' face and false demeanour, rather than being honest about where you're at.
- Faking faith in areas you have trouble trusting God in.
Regardless of what denomination you call home, I am sure you have experienced, or seen this in action: or you have done it yourself.
My church was very keen on being an overcomer. This popular coping mechanism came from Scriptures such as: "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." Luke 10:19 and "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4
We sang songs about being an overcomer, and it became the 'must have' attitude to use with everything. I still listen to songs on the theme. As I write this in 2015, there is one on my current favourites playlist, by Mandisa. I think it's a great attitude to have, however, when I'm having trouble meeting that bar... and it can be a very high bar to jump, falling short potentially lands me in a great deal of guilt.
My full time work is studying and writing about King David. It may seem like an easy task, but sometimes I have really bad days. The enemy is no fan of the Word of God, so my computer malfunctions, huge bills arrive, my pain levels shoot up, the negativity on social media starts to get me down... then working from home develops serious drawbacks... There have been times when I have violently hit the wall. I have many buttons which can be pushed, and some weeks, they all seem to get hit in rapid succession. I can find it next to impossible to cope.
To stay afloat, I listen to the voices of encouragement around me. My church life tells me I am an overcomer. So I hook into praying and my praise and worship music. But some days, that is just not enough. I am still slammed up against that wall, feeling wretched. It's fine to think positive, but I still have to find money, apologise to my husband, fix that computer which will take hours, (it was days), and I want to scream, "somebody make it stop already!"
So I have a choice. Do I feel guilty because I haven't functioned as a victorious overcomer, or do I get honest with God?
The benefit of working with the Psalms echoing in my head, is when those bad days hit, David himself, helps to relieve my spiritual-failure guilt. Here are other Scriptures about overcoming. This first one is Psalm 13:3-4, written on a very bad day, with a heavy, discouraged heart:
"Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall." (NIV)
"The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came
over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: "Lord, save me!" Psalm 116:3
When I read about David struggling: the one who won against Goliath, the one who is the grandfather of Christ, our Messiah... the one who seemed to ace everything and bounce back from any disaster... I realise that that being an overcomer is a process and you don't get it right straight away. You don't have to get it right - straight away. - No one has ever asked you to from the Bible!
You don't bounce back up as a victor, until you hit the mat in anguish.
"Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?" Psalm 6:2-3
What the overcomer mindset wants immediately is this:
"But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favour as with a shield." Psalm 5:11-12
Achieving victory and success takes time and you get to develop a lot of wisdom in the process. God has to move all the pieces on the chessboard into the right position, before He can give you the answer you seek; and when blessing comes, it may not look exactly as you expected it to look. If you are fixated on one answer, you may not recognise your victory when it does arrive. As wise people say, we don't always get what we want, we get what we need.
When you hit the dust, feeling like a miserable failure with no spiritual muscle, remember that you are in excellent company. David was given the highest honours of anyone in the Bible, (except for Jesus, of course.) If he can be swallowed by discouragement and come out of it victorious, then we all can. Just do as he did and don't stop praying, praising and seeking God. That is the key to being a genuine overcomer.
David's Last Words
These are the last words of David:
"The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
the hero of Israel's songs:
"The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
'When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.'
"If my house were not right with God,
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire.
But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
which are not gathered with the hand.
Whoever touches thorns
uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie." 2 Samuel 23:1-7
For more information on King David, please have a meander through the King David Project Facebook page, our web site and our blog, "Masada Rain." The blog houses many useful resources on studying, David plus bits and pieces of information which don't neatly fit into article form. Please ignore dates and use the search feature to find what you want. The web site has resources on David's family tree, life and the Psalms. All content is creative commons and non-profit. Sharing of the project's work would be deeply appreciated.
Masada Rain Blog: https://masadarain.wordpress.com
The project web site: http://cateartios.wix.com/kingdavidproject
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fromdespairtodeliverance
"From Despair to Deliverance: the King David Project," is a non-profit ministry, that seeks to make the life of King David easy to understand and relevant, so that believers gain inspiration and comfort from the life of King David. The project is run by Cate Russell-Cole, a Christian writer from Brisbane, Australia.
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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