There are days when even the staunchest Believer stumbles. A moment of anger, a sudden flush of jealousy, a harsh word, or a quick second-glance at the magazine cover that becomes a quick shuffle through the pages…
What happens when the stumble becomes a fall? When the magazine comes home hidden in the briefcase, when that website you accidentally stumbled across while Googling ends up in the Bookmarks, and you find yourself going back again and again?
You don’t just stumble…you face plant. You hit so hard, and have stayed down for so long, that now you’re not sure if you can’t get yourself back up. You’ve nursed that hurt, that anger for so long that it’s taken on a life of its own. It slowly poisons your mood, your attitude, your spiritual walk, creeping its way into every aspect of your life and damaging all of your relationships, not just the one with whom you are so angry.
You can’t forgive them. Or, you can’t forgive yourself. What do you do?
It’s not what you do. It’s where you go. You go back to God. You drop your pride, you unclench your fists, you shine a light on the lie that says that you can do this all yourself.
The magazine, the Internet, the self-righteous anger, or the carefully nursed hurts are all symptoms of the same disease. The name of the disease?
You addiction to pornography? It has its root in the fact that you want what you want, and that you’re willing to sacrifice your walk with God, healthy relationships, your job, even your health to see and feel what you want to, when you want to. Even though everybody says it’s wrong, you know what you want, and you’ll do what you have to do to get it. Selfishness.
That anger? That clenched fist and bitter root of unforgiveness? At its core is a selfish desire for the other person to admit that they are wrong…FIRST. You will only forgive once they repent. You will only reconnect once they agree to see the error of their ways. Naturally, this is so much easier than first having to face the error of your ways. You want what you want, and you want it like you want it, and you’re just going to stay mad until you get it! Selfishness.
We want what we want. It is human nature. That’s why God’s Word tells us to set aside earthly things. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us,
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
How do we, with a straight face, come before God to ask for his blessing, when we are ourselves unwilling to give a blessing to others? When we harden our hearts against someone, in anger, in hurt, in self-righteous indignation or judgemental condemnation, we close our hearts to the blessing of the Lord. FIRST go and be reconciled. THEN offer your gift. We have to give up whatever it is we are harboring in our heart, before there can be room for God to move in.
If sometimes it seems like we can’t get back up, when we try and try to forgive, or abstain, or accept the apology, but fail, the root cause of the problem may very well lie in the fact that we are still so much more interested in getting our way, than in living the Lord’s way.
The two are incompatible. We need to make a choice. Is living God’s Word more important than winning the argument? Is coming to our knees before God, more important than forcing someone else to their knees before us?
In Luke 18:22, Jesus tells the rich man,
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Not because Jesus was interested in the man’s money, but because Jesus knew that the man was chosing money over God. He was being selfish…and THAT was the root at which Jesus was trying to get. He forced the man to make a choice….take this thing to which you are clinging, take this thing with which you are replacing ME…and give it up.
For some of us it isn’t money. For some of us it’s shopping, or gambling, or drugs, or anger, jealousy, pornography or our own carefully nurtured martyr complex. Regardless, they are all taking the place of God in our lives. And Jesus is calling us to make that choice — it’s them or me, because you can’t have both.
So if you’ve fallen, and you can’t seem to get back on your feet, maybe you first need to take a hard look at what it is in your life that is tying your hands, weighing you down, and coming between you and God. James 3:16-17 tells us,
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
When you finally let go of whatever it is you are holding on to, you’ll find that you suddenly have a free hand to reach out for God to reach down and help you back up.