Today's guest blogger is Suzanne Holland. Suzanne is a grateful follower of Jesus Christ, wife to John, and mom to two grown up boys. She is also a student at Reigning Grace Counseling Center and hopes to become a Certified Biblical Counselor, offering the hope of the Scriptures to those who are hurting.
Well, it’s Monday morning, and as I look back over my
weekend, I have to say that it wasn’t a great one. I spent most of it feeling
down and unhappy about an ongoing trial in my life that just won’t quit. Several
times I have thought that I was “over” this particular heartache, but God keeps
sending circumstances that rip off the scab, and I experience the pain all over
again. My initial response is often sadness and self-pity. I really want a
permanent solution, and I am so weary of this suffering. But, as of today, God
has not seen fit to provide it.
One thing He has provided, however is a strong desire in my
heart to be rid of this sinful pattern of response to trials. I know that this
desire to change can come only from the Lord, because I have been very
comfortable in my pattern of response for most of my life. If I’m honest, I
have to confess that I like the sympathy I get from expressing to my family and
friends all the grief and pain I am suffering. An added bonus is that little is
expected of me when I am in this state, and the reduced expectations of others
provides a break for me from my responsibilities. This is sinful, and it has to
stop. It doesn’t glorify God, it doesn’t edify the body, and it certainly does
not help me to grow and become more like Christ. I must change. If you see
yourself here in my story, perhaps you’d like to come along with me to study what
the Bible has to say about this.
How do you change a behavior that has been a lifelong
pattern? You know that a particular response to circumstances is sinful, and
you know that this behavior is not glorifying to God. It damages your
relationships and leaves the people you love at a loss for how to help you. God’s
Word offers us the answer to this question:
…Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they
are hopelessly confused. Their
minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because
they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him…But that
isn’t what you learned about Christ.
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from
him, throw off your old sinful
nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.
Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be
like God—truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:17; 20-24, NLT).
If you and I are indulging sinful thoughts about our
trials, giving in to self-pity and despair, we are living as the Gentiles do. I
don’t know about you, but when I give in to this unbiblical thinking, I am
hopelessly confused, and my mind is full of darkness. I have chosen to take the
path of despair, and in doing so I have wandered from the life God gives into a
life of my own making. Why would I make such an obviously foolish choice?
Because I have closed my mind and hardened my heart against Him. Ultimately, I
know that my trial is from the Lord, and because I don’t like it, I am angry. I
don’t understand why He has ordained this suffering for me. It seems unfair and
But wait! That is not what I learned about Christ! I have
heard about Jesus and I have learned the truth that comes from Him. I know that
He is good, kind, loving and merciful. I know that He gave His life to save me
from my sin—the very sin I am committing right now in accusing Him of doing
wrong against me! I must put off these evil thoughts. I know that the Lord is
good, and He desires to make me more like Him. I was created for His glory
(Isaiah 43:7). Am I glorifying God right now with my thoughts, attitudes, and
behaviors? If I truly desire His glory, I must change. But how?
The next section of our passage tells us how: We must throw
off our former way of life and our sinful nature. They are corrupted by lust
and deception. We must confess to the Lord that we have lusted for our own way.
We have desired to have what we want when we want it. When we don’t get it, we
think we are entitled to feel sorry for ourselves, and to get others involved
in feeling sorry for us, too. This is lust. My lexicon defines lust like this:
craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden.” As believers, we are forbidden
to indulge self-pity, and commanded to deny ourselves (Matt 16:24-25). We have
deceived ourselves into thinking that we are entitled to our own way, to the
comfortable life we desire. This is a lie. God has not promised us an easy
life, or even a happy one. What He has promised is that He can be glorified
through us. But we must desire His glory
more than our comfort. This requires heart change.
Heart change is an act of the Holy Spirit, according to our
passage. We must let the Spirit renew our minds. We do this simply by asking
the Lord, in an attitude of repentance, to change our hearts. Psalm 51 is the
perfect passage for us to meditate on as we ask the Lord for this heart change.
This is a Psalm of repentance. As we read it, we can repent to the Lord of our
specific sins: Self-pity, despair, doubt, anger. All of these have led us to
our need for heart change. Central to this passage is verse 10: Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Our
God is faithful, and He will do it. He who has begun a good work in you will
complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
As you begin to renew your mind, there are several passages
of scripture that I have found helpful. First Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us
to rejoice, pray and give thanks, because this
is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. We may not like our
circumstance, but it is what God has ordained for us right now. Our trial is
uniquely suited to our sanctification. This verse reminds us of God’s desire
for us to be more like Him, so we can be thankful for His plan. James 1:2-4 is
another encouragement to be joyful in trials, knowing that they will bring
about the qualities that God desires, making us useful to Him. Another passage
that gives me great hope is James 4:7. Here we are commanded to submit to God.
(This is not a suggestion!) Resist the
devil and he will flee from you. The devil prowls around like a roaring
lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) but we don’t have to run from
him. As we submit to God, the enemy will run from us! Our loving God will
enable us to resist Satan’s attempts to draw us away from our goal. As we draw
near to our Savior, He will draw near to us.
Lifelong habits of sinful responses are stubborn and
require hard work, prayer, and much time in the Word. But when the Lord places
a desire in your heart for change, nothing can stop you! Habits are born of
practice, and new habits even more so. As you put off those old responses,
become renewed in your mind, and begin to put on godly ones, you will see a new
pattern forming: A pattern of change. It
may not happen overnight, and you may still sometimes fall back into sinful
responses, as I did this weekend. But with the Lord’s help, you and I will
begin to see the change that God has in store for us when we trust in Him and
obey His commands.
Labels: Guest Blogger-Holland