“No, I’m a man of God!”
That’s how battled evil thoughts for years. It was my remedy for my people I didn’t like, folks who intimidated me or with people that just ticked me off for some reason. Right away, my mind was in attack mode. Dude looks like a sponge on wheels, why does he stand in my way?. Immediately after that, I corrected myself with “No, I’m a man of God”. I felt guilty and tried to disregard those thoughts right away.
You see, this has been a pattern for many years. It’s a behavior I couldn’t seem to shake. It kept coming back up, no matter how much I despised it. I tried a few things to get rid of it but nothing really helped. I asked around to see if there are answers but usually, people would tell me something like “Just trust in the Lord for His grace is sufficient”.
It’s a convenient filler that’ll work as an answer for every problem you can think of. You look like you got it all together and you feel like a guy who just ate two lbs of wisdom for lunch. But it made me feel even worse. It’s almost like they told me to stop making up problems. How can a guy have problems if he walks with the Lord? Just buckle up and trust him. Things will work themselves out eventually.
Can’t argue with the Bible
The thing is, there is some truth to it. His grace is sufficient in many areas. Paul had to rely on God’s grace when he asked him to “remove the thorn from his flesh” (2 Corinthians 12: 6-9). Joshua and Moses had to rely on it just as much as Churchill and Lincoln. We need his grace when we go through the desert of life, when we are faced with trials and we have to overcome hardship, his grace will be enough.
But if everything is so simple, why then is the Bible so thick? There are many nuances between black and white and we can’t settle for the extreme in every situation. Pushing through hard times is a good advice but it’s not a rule that fixes all our issues.
The struggles of our minds are real and they can taint every waking moment. If we don’t understand what’s happening, we will run in circles for the rest of our lives, condemning our thoughts and cursing our minds for their immaturity. We will use the same tools to fix our thoughts but we will never arrive at our destiny because we are tackling the wrong issues. It’s like digging a tunnel with a fork: painful and without progress.
We all believe in the love of God. That’s what got us saved in the first place. His willingness to die for the people of this earth is a fundamental Christian concept and yet, we don’t believe that he loves us. We have the verses down and we teach it to our children but there are very few who actually believe it.
I know because I struggle with that myself. I am concerned with how my life looks on the outside, even the thoughts in my head that only God can see. I believe in the theory of God’s acceptance but my thoughts keep on accusing me. I put people down, to make me feel better about myself. It’s a coping mechanism to numb my own pain.
Of course, I realize that this is not the Christian way. The Bible calls this out among the things God despises (Proverbs 6:16-19). It’s a good reason to stop but my strategy failed miserably. I want to stop and so I yell at myself to stop. But it’s like plugging the leaves off a plant you want to kill. Unless you go for the root, the plant will live on and the leaves will come back each season.
Our thoughts are an expression of our inner lives. In my case, I believed that I’m not worthy of God’s love. I had to find some ledge I could put my feet on, some assurance that I have, despite all the lies I believed that pounded the opposite into my heart. The only proof of worth I could find was in putting others down to feel better about myself.
We can now see why my strategy was so fruitless. I was plucking the leaves of a giant tree that grew in my heart, a tree of self-doubt and searching for meaning. I need to focus on the huge tree in the center of my garden, not the rotten apples that are falling down from it.
The core issue is not my hate of others but my inability to trust in the love of God. So instead of trying to stop my bad thoughts, I had to focus on the truth of God’s word. Instead of pushing away the thoughts, I started saying “Michael, you are loved by God”.
Now I was putting the ax to the root. I needed to understand his love where it mattered, in the places unhealed and the places still raw. Deception and pain corrupt our true identity and they will do so until we address them. We need to stop memorizing verses and instead start applying them to the gaping wounds in our hearts.
Knowing about God’s love is not enough. We need to experience it. Once we do, those thoughts will disappear on their own. The root will die and the truth will set us free.