The conviction of the Holy Spirit is a gift to us. Though it may make us feel terrible, and we struggle under it and against it . . . conviction is evidence that God hasn’t given up on us. He has not walked away.
In this sense, conviction is pressure from the Holy Spirit, leading us to recognize our sin. That process can be helped or hindered by our own natural conscience. If our conscience is well developed, it can be in sync with Holy Spirit conviction.
However, sometimes it can be distorted to work instead in tandem with “the accuser.” Instead of pointing out something we need to do differently, and believing God can make us victorious, a distorted conscience makes us feel worthless; trapped in shame and discouragement.
On the opposite side, our natural conscience can become blunted. If we often ignore natural conscience and Holy Spirit conviction we become calloused and less sensitive to the Holy Spirit altogether.
But genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit is a gift of grace. Sometimes God does not jump immediately to confirming forgiveness when we confess. This experience is different from the false guilt that lingers because we struggle to believe God’s grace or struggle to forgive ourselves.
It seems to me that occasionally God delays confirming forgiveness for a while so I feel pressure to deal deeply with an issue. In other words, He is mercifully giving me time to gradually face more truth about myself. He is letting me continue to feel badly so I will let go of whatever root is causing destruction.
In this way, what might be called the anger of God is not the antithesis of love, but an expression of it. It is a painful mercy designed to set me free.
It is also an expression of God’s love for the other person—the one I hurt. My recognition of responsibility and consequences is His vindication of them. In addition, my discomfort moves me to try to make it right with them. Perhaps that may even begin to heal the relationship. In this way, His anger creates the conditions to begin rebuilding what I am sorry I destroyed.
So God’s love and mercy are not diminished when I am under conviction. Although it feels much different, His goals are still the same. He wants me to be purified, healed and set free so I can pass on that same abundant life (and not destruction) to others.
What does prayer look like during this process?
There is repentance and confession of course. But there is also a lot of listening and asking questions. Often it is a path of mini-choices to let go. Each one takes trust in God because deep down I am afraid to truly see.
Because my identity is quite tied to the best expressions of myself. Each time I acknowledge an ugly part of myself, my faith needs to grow to believe His continued affirmation of me.
What happens on the other side? I find new security in God. He loves me in all my weaknesses, sins, and failures. Whatever the issue is today, He already knew about it; already paid for it; wants to set me free from it.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 ESV