There is a saying from the German Poet Goethe, “that talent is formed in solitude, but character in the storms of life.” So when we began this series and I asked, “What are those distractions that you really want, or love, or maybe even crave?” and “Are there idols in your life?” what I was really asking is, “where are you in your life?”
I remember when my kids were small and we were taking a trip, they would ask, “are we there yet?” And when one would start, the others would chime in, over and over they would ask, “Are we there yet?” In unison, in stereo, louder and louder, in concert, they would repeat the question, over and over, until it would drive me crazy! Mom, would then turn around and administer corrective action, and calm would return to the vehicle, for at least a little while.
That is how it is with unchecked wants, loves and cravings. So, because of this and from these questions, we have therefore come full circle to the problem of breaking stubborn habits, changing destructive attitudes and conquering addictive sin. Why? Because the answer is found in the fact that all those distractions, idols and unhelpful cravings, without being checked, turn into destructive habits, self-destroying attitudes, and vicious, unrelenting compulsions…every time!
Last time, we also looked at how that there were three things which were requisite in order for an individual to successfully make the changes necessary to put this pattern of self-destructive behavior behind them. And yes, there are a lot of self-help books that purpose alternative, though similar points and perspectives. But for the Christian, these items are really almost self-evidentiary upon reflection and prayer. In short, they are: 1. Acknowledge that, “God is good.” 2. Owning up and take responsibility for your behavior. 3. Trusting in God’s grace for you.
If you are one who is suffering from the effects of self-destructive behavior and you have tried to change, only to fail in an endless cycle of pain, then you know that each of these three items may be some of the hardest pieces of advice for you to accept. But accept them you must.
What Next? Seeing With God’s Eyes!
Ask yourself, “What would God like to accomplish in my life?” Is it just the eradication of stubborn sin? That alone would be an awesome accomplishment, and something we could really be proud of, but in God’s eyes, that would not be enough. Do you think that God is working in you so that rise above sinful temptation? I think that we would all find that a blessed relief! Wow, no more real temptations; smooth sailing, Christ-like, saintly lives with no real personal struggle…. No, God is aiming for more than that, and he wants us to get a bigger vision!
God wants to develop within us tempered, Christ-like qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Recall Goethe’s poem, “…but character in the storms of life”… nothing could be more true. Listen to Moses, “Remember every road that GOD led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. …” (Deut. 8:2 MSG.). If God put the Israelites through rough times to develop their character, do you think that he is going to let you skate through life “on flowery beds of ease?” No way! But God is going to be there for you, no matter what you have to go through, and he is going to be there for you even when you don’t hear him or see him; he will be there.
But let’s be perfectly clear here: Surrendering your heart and life to God is the first step in this very long journey, and the “all important step”. Fortunately, God gives you the grace and ability to make this step, he does it all…so there is not boasting on our part, but it is still, only, the first step.
However, what is the practical outcome of this first step? The “out working” as theologians like to call it, is that our lives are changed from being self-centered to being God-centered. We are now beginning the process to change our focus. Instead of focusing on ourselves, instead of focusing on our problems (which are not our real problems, by the way…, another item to be dealt with later), we are instead focusing on God; and in response to his love and through his love, on our solutions to these manipulative compulsions.
At this point, you may be saying to yourself, this is all very well. But what I was really looking for was just “quick fix”, something that would just relieve the symptoms; I wasn’t looking for some life changing, monument building, change to who I am. My answer is: “you and everybody else.” But a quick fix to character doesn’t exist, and it sure isn’t easy. But you can do it!
You may also want to look at the other side of the coin. Look at all those who decided not to change: drug addicts, sex addicts, those who let laziness rule their lives, those who let deception rule their lives. How did things end up for them? Now, ask yourself this question, what makes me think that I am just different?
I think that John Greenleaf Whittier said it best, “For all the sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’” Think about it.
Mike W. Pursley
Post Tenebras Lux