|Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin|
Henri Nouwen was open about his struggle with self-hatred. He found the antidote to this heart-disease in a life of prayerful dwelling in God's presence. Few have written so well about this spiritual battle. I thank God often for Nouwen, and how God has used him to minister to me and lead me out of my own self-obsession.
Nouwen believed, as the apostle Paul did, that our pre-Jesus condition finds ourselves with this situation: I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. When we become Jesus-followers this situation is defeated within us, and we discover that God's love now reigns in our hearts. In spite of this, the powers of darkness come to accuse us, even "day and night." This should not surprise us.
"As you see more clearly that your vocation is to be a witness to God's love in this world, and as you become more determined to live out that vocation, the attacks of the enemy will increase. You will hear voices saying, "You are worthless, you have nothing to offer, you are unattractive, undesirable, unlovable." The more you sense God's call, the more you will discover in your own soul the cosmic battle between God and Satan. Do not be afraid. Keep deepening your conviction that God's love for you is enough, that you are in safe hands, and that you are being guided every step of the way. Don't be surprised by demonic attacks. They will increase, but as you face them without fear, you will discover that they are powerless." (Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)
The way to hear what Nouwen described as "the inner voice of love" is to spend much intentional time dwelling in God's presence. When I assign my seminary students to do this, and read their spiritual journals, it is common to see this sentence written: "Today God told me that he loved me."
Do not expect to follow after Jesus and escape the voices of hatred. Because of this "the more you are called to speak for God's love, the more you will need to deepen the knowledge of this love in your own heart. The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be." Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant." (Ib.)