I shocked myself. The negative words sputtering out of my mouth, declaring the worst over my circumstances and identity were detrimental to my mental, emotional and physical health. I found myself saying things that I rarely say, things like, "I hate that I'm like this." "I don't like myself." "I hate that I feel everything." "I hate that I want to quit and feel so depressed lately." "I'm an awful leader, incapable of inspiration or strategy." "Why do I even try?" "I wrote a book about freedom, but feel like a phony - how can I be in such a dark place of discouragement and be free, much less tell others how to be free?"
Thank goodness I said them in front of my husband, who reversed the curse of my words and declared the truth over me. I sobbed in his arms. These were the early hours of our 15th anniversary on Australian soil.
Soon after my cathartic sob session in his arms, I got a text from a dear friend who was praying in the States for me. She said, "As I prayed this afternoon, this is what I sensed. Please feel free to disregard anything if you don't feel it's right so, the word 'witchcraft' came to me and I felt like there were some things that needed to be broken off. Witchcraft can mean anything as simple as a curse or negative declaration spoken over somebody or something. I had this sense that things have been said, or even people have agreed in their hearts with statements that are not true and you have been feeling the impact. I believe it is a critical spirit. I feel like it's trying to strangle any growth from happening"
She was right on. Cue more tears. Criticism. I had partnered with lies aimed at myself and our church. I had begun to criticize myself, speaking lies over my life and the endeavors I've been entrusted to steward. As I came out of my emotional fog, I realized I was deeply critical of myself and ready to surrender to the darkness. The cost of a critical spirit is great. It poisons the hearts of those who dish it out, and does the same for those who ingest it as truth.
Destructive criticism is far different than constructive feedback.
One tears down from the sidelines, while the other invests and builds with a sense of ownership, partnership and relational reciprocity. We all know the "feedback" we've either been given or dished out that hasn't been with the intent to build anything. The ultimate cost of this is destruction and it takes its toll on the heart of the giver and of the receiver.
I think of the times I've hurt my husband and children while operating in a critical spirit with words that lacked encouragement or eternal life. I think of the times I've been so high, mighty and "right", assuming others motives while judging those with a critical spirit in church leadership or just others in general who do life differently than I would.
I have brought division. Death.
I have been a part of the problem. I don't win, and it doesn't build anyone or anything. Repentance and humility are the cure and according to the Apostle Paul, living a cheerful life, without complaining or division among ourselves is key - but that's easier said than done.
The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:14-16 TPT,
"Live a cheerful life, without complaining or division among yourselves. For then you will be seen as innocent, faultless, and pure children of God, even though you live in the midst of a brutal and perverse culture. For you will appear among them as shining lights in the universe, offering them words of eternal life."
I desire to be a shining light in the world we live in today. But I have to choose to live from the abundance that is already within me, given as the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have to choose to break agreement with the ways of culture and instead transform culture with words that drip with Kingdom life and love.
My friend continued with a prayer in her text message that literally delivered me as I sat on the stairs up to our bedroom of our Airbnb in Sydney. Maybe you too need to be set free from the criticism of others? Like I did, maybe you need to repent of a critical spirit? May this prayer transform you and set you free.
"In the name of Jesus, I command the critical spirit to flee. You have no right to reside here and you must go now! Father, I thank you that your blood has already paid the price and taken care of our freedom, our LIBERTY. We are free. Andi [insert your name here!] is free. God, as all that is not of you gets chased out of the door, I invite your Presence to invade in a deeper, more tangible way that surprises and explodes like only you can. I pray for a turnaround in circumstances, hearts and spiritual climate. Fear, anxiety and negativity would be no more but JOY would be activated and where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Thank you God for all that you are doing, seen and unseen. We are ready and waiting for you to blow our socks off!"