Satan is the Father of Lies (John 8:44). His master plan is to lie to us and get us to believe his lies. No doubt, some lies deal with issues of false doctrine. But that isn’t what I want us to consider in this series of posts. Rather, Satan sometimes realizes he can’t devour some Christians with doctrinal error. Instead, he tries something more insidious, something capable of knocking us completely off our spiritual feet. If we believe these lies, we will be taken captive and destroyed.
I received a heart-rending letter this week from a brother who is suffering the earthly consequences of his heinous sins. He had heard a sermon I preached entitled “We are Allowed to Love Ourselves.” You may remember the series on this very topic that I wrote on this blog. The brother wanted to know how he could ever forgive himself. Having committed some heinous sins myself, I want to know the same thing. What does it mean to forgive ourselves? Should we forgive ourselves? How can we?
(If you’ve stumbled across thist post, let me explain where you are. You have landed smack in the middle of one of my favorite series ever. We started some time ago by learning that God expects us to love ourselves. Now, we’re going through the definition of love in I Corinthians 13:4-7 to help us understand how we can love ourselves in a healthy way so can love others better. Go back to that first post to read the series from the beginning and to find an index of all the posts available. Enjoy today’s post as well.)
Don’t Be Irritable with Yourself
I’m told that anger turned inward is a working definition of depression. Thus, to help ourselves overcome depression, we must learn to relieve that kind of anger. We don’t have to be irritable with ourselves.
Don’t misunerstand. We do things wrong. There are times when anger even at ourselves is justified. But we don’t need to let that anger turn into a simmering, just-below-the-surface irritability.
Irritability is not out and out anger. It is not the clamoring and wrath and explosion. Rather, it is that low-lying frustration we carry with us just below the surface. It is something not easily seen. However, when little things happen, this irritability ignites the flame of clamor, wrath, and explosion. Irritibality is not the flame. Rather, it is more like the pilot light that stays lit all the time so that when the fuel hits it, the fire gets going. If we can remove the pilot light, we can prevent many of the burns.
We are allowed to love ourselves. We don’t have to be continually exasperated, frustrated, or irritated with ourselves. The fact is we all mess up. We all make mistakes. We all sin. We are growing; we aren’t perfect yet. While we must not ignore these sins and we must take them seriously, we do not have to respond with a constant barage of berating ourselves. We do not have to hang on to the irritation.
We need to be comfortable in our own skin instead of always being under our own skin. This means we have to learn to be gentle with ourselves, patient with ourselves, accepting of ourselves.
One of the best ways to remove this irritation is to remember that God is working on us. According to Philippians 2:12-13, God is working in us both to work and to will for His good pleasure. Further, according to Romans 8:28-30, God is working on conforming us to the image of His Son. According to I Peter 5:10, God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. When we remember that God is working on us, being patient with us, and accepting us where we are while working on our weaknesses, we can do the same.
If God is accepting me right now, I can too. I’m not improving myself or my standing with God by carrying the irritation or berating myself. If you’re like me, there is part of you that thinks you can make up for the sin by ranting and raving at yourself, being really angry at yourself, and not letting yourself live down the sins. That doesn’t work. What works is allowing the blood of Jesus to cleanse your conscience so you can be set free to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). If you are carrying irritability, you will simply provoke yourself to the same or different sins.
Please understand, loving yourself does not mean ignoring your sins. Rather, it means dealing with your sins properly. Instead of trying to pay for your sins by your own anger, take your sins to Jesus and let Him pay for them. Let His sacrifice purify you and your conscience, but not so you can just keep sinning whenever you want. Rather, let Him purify your conscience so you may serve the living God.
Don’t live in a fantasy land that says you don’t sin or your sins don’t matter. That simply isn’t true. But neither must you let your sins, mistakes, or weaknesses, push you to continued harshness and exasperation with yourself. Even Paul was gentle with himself about his weaknesses. He said he would boast in his weaknesses rather than be irritated with himself about them. Why? Because his weaknesses were what reminded him he needed God. Without the recognition of his weaknesses, he would not have known how much he needed God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He would have been lost on his own way which would have ended in death (Proverbs 14:12).
Yes, you make many mistakes. You are growing; you aren’t perfect. But instead of being irritable, love yourself. God loves you even though you’ve made all those mistakes. You can too.
(Come back next Monday as we learn to love ourselves God’s way instead of resenting ourselves.)
Here is John Powell on our relationship with God. I was totally smacked down with this.
Each of us has a unique and very limited concept of God, and it is very often marked and distorted by human experience. Negative emotions, like fear, tend to wear out. The distorted image of a vengeful God will eventually nauseate and be rejected. Fear is a fragile bond of union, a brittle basis of religion.
Those who do not reject a distorted image of God will limp along in the shadow of a frown. They certainly will not love with their whole heart, soul, and mind. A fearsome, vengeful God is not lovable. There will never be any trust and repose in the loving arms of a kindly Father; there will never be any mystique of belonging to God. People who serve out of fear, without the realization of love, will try to bargain with God. They will do little things for God, make little offerings, say little prayers, and so on, to embezzle a place in heaven. Life and religion will be a chess game, hardly an affair of love.
(Why Am I Afraid to Love?: Overcoming Rejection and Indifference*, John Powell, Tabor Publishing, Allen, TX, 1982, pp 5, 8)
I guess it’s time to quit playing chess with God.
*Yes, that is an affiliate link. Here’s another one:
I’m reading Jim Burns’ book, Creating an Intimate Marriage. (Yes, that is an affiliate link. Go ahead and click on it. While working on your marriage, you’ll be helping mine.) I’d like to share a paragraph from chapter 5, “Becoming a Better Communicator with Your Spouse.”
It took me a very long time in my marriage to understand that Cathy didn’t need me to fix her problems. All she wanted was for me to care. My natural tendency is to be a fix-it person. I would get fully engaged with whatever her problem was and immediately start looking for the cure. What Cathy would rather have had was a sympathetic hug and a sense that I understood and cared about her. After I became comfortable in not always trying to be her fix-it man, I realized it was much easier on our relationship to simply let her know I value her feelings.
I’m sure, husbands, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. It wasn’t for me either. But even though I’ve heard this over and over and over again, I keep missing it. Somehow, I think it is my job to fix her or her problems. I want to be her knight in shining armor who rides in to sweep her away from all that troubles her, destroying her would-be attackers with my cleverness. But my job is not to fix her. That is God’s job. My job is nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:28-29).
When my wife is stressed about about something, even if it causes her to blow up at me, what is my job? Is my job to point out all the things she did wrong that caused this? That may be my natural reaction, but that is not my job. My job is to let her know that she is really doing a great job as a wife and mother, to let her know that what she feels is valid and acceptable, and to let her know that I love her anyway. I can do that through my words or my actions or, preferably, both.
When I come home and she’s had a bad day with the kids (imagine that, having a tough day because you’re dealing with a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 2-year-old) and she starts unloading her frustrations, my natural reaction is to get defensive and start unloading back or to try to calmly explain what she did wrong all day to cause all this frustration. Guess what I’ve learned. Neither of those options ever work. First, it doesn’t relieve her frustration. Second, it doesn’t bring us closer. Third, it usually ruins the whole evening. Fourth, even on the rare occassion when I’m right about why she is frustrated, it doesn’t help her at all. Yet, over and over again, that is the way I respond. Has anyone read that definition about insanity lately?
So, here’s what I’m going to start trying to do. Hold me accountable on this one fellows (and ladies). When that happens, I want to give my wife a big hug. I want to let her cry on my shoulder if that is what she’s feeling. I want to let her know that I can tell things have been tough for her and I’m sorry about that. I want to let her know that I love her and I really do think she is a great wife and mother (I do think that). I want to see if I can take something off of her plate so the rest of her day can be easier. And I’m going to do all of that without expecting anything* in return.
What do you think? Do you think that might have a better impact on our marriage? I’m guessing it will. The fact is, my wife is pretty smart. She doesn’t generally need me to fix her problems. She can usually come up with pretty good solutions on her own. She just needs someone to let her know that having a bad day doesn’t mean she’s a bad wife and mother. It means she’s pretty normal and I love her anyway.
Alright guys, who will take on this challenge with me? Let’s quit trying to fix our wives and start turn our great ability to fix things on to fixing how we treat our wives even when they don’t act exactly the way we want.
Have a great day and remember God’s way really does work for your family.
*When I say anything, I really mean sex.
When I started the break, our Monday posts on God’s Way for Our Lives was starting a series on learning to love ourselves properly. I’m glad to get back to that. However, before we take up our look at the definition of Love in I Corinthians 13, I just want to share a victory with you. It shows this blogging thing is helping me out just like I wanted it to.
Before I started looking at this biblical concept that we are allowed to love ourselves, I would have beat myself to death trying to maintain this blog even through all the turmoil of making the move. That might have meant putting some family issues to the side. It would surely have meant missing out on some time with my children and wife, which was so needed as I was leading them through this transition. It probably would have meant sleepless nights and grumpy Dad. Or, I might have grudgingly caved on the blogs but hated myself for not having the stamina to keep it up. I would have trashed myself, probably even on this blog in order to try to make me feel better about what I would have seen as a colossal failure.
However, I’ve learned that love is patient and love is kind. I’m allowed to be patient with myself. Just because I can’t do everything I want to be able to do, doesn’t mean I need to belittle myself, talk down to myself, despise myself. I’m also allowed to be kind to myself. The fact is, in a transition like a move, something is going to have to give. It is not normal life. It’s okay to let things go for the sake of my sanity. I don’t have to beat myself up for going through a special season.
I’m so thankful for the liberty from stress this recognition that I’m allowed to love myself by being patient with myself and kind to me is bringing. I’m so thankful that I’m able to jump back into this blog without all the feelings of shame for having to break for multiple months. I’m so glad I have God’s word to guide me and help me have peace and serenity through God’s love, knowing that God loves me whether I blog or not. I’m allowed to love me too.
This is a huge victory for me. It means God’s word really is impacting my outlook on life and His peace is guarding my heart and mind. Thank you, God, for that protection. Please, keep it up.
I hope you can keep joining me on our Monday posts to learn more about properly loving ourselves so we can love others properly as well.
Remember, God’s way works.