Coping with one’s own foolishness: Christian help when ashamed of one’s stupid mistakes

Coping with One’s Own Foolishness

Christian Help When Ashamed of One’s Stupid Mistakes

How to Live With One’s Idiotic Blunders

Shamed & Embarrassed by One’s Own Stupidity

Grantley Morris

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Do you ever beat yourself up over past blunders? I know that pain. Even as a Christian, it has taken me a lifetime to break through the agony, but finally I have answers.

Although Christians talk a lot about God wiping out past sin, it doesn’t touch my problem. My source of torment is not the things for which Christ was tortured to death to wipe from heaven’s data banks, but all my quirks and slow-mindedness and foot-in-mouth disease.

I’m no genius but I have brain waves – my brain waves goodbye and returns in time to find another reason to be red-faced for the rest of my natural life. How do I live with myself when the issue is not sin but my own stupidity – all the times I’ve made a fool of myself, humiliated myself, shamed myself?

Some people reach the point where they can look back on their slips and laugh. Not me. Whenever haunted by a memory of any of the embarrassingly many idiotic things I’ve done, I feel like shriveling up and wishing it were possible to die of embarrassment. What of all the times I have been just too dumb to do better – especially on the spur of the moment, but sometimes even after enormous effort? And then there’s everything about me that makes me weird, unpopular, a loser, a social misfit. I don’t even know the latest word for cool but I do know it isn’t me.

Given the petty nature of my affliction, you might feel like stoning me for being a wimp. I am not so self-obsessed, however, not to realize that there are some very human slip-ups that cut so deeply as to send even the toughest of us reeling. Longing to lift your spirits, I’ll keep most of this light, but lest you think me insensitive to the horrendous depths to which feelings of shame and remorse can plunge, I’ve scoured my writings for two heart-wrenching examples. I’ll commence with George Whitefield, a world-renowned evangelist who was a contemporary of John Wesley, and almost as famous.

    When his wife was pregnant with their only child, George Whitefield knew he had heard from God: it would be a boy and this son would become a great evangelist. Newspapers grabbed the story and mocked. Whitefield was unmoved. The whole world could laugh; time would vindicate him. Finally, the baby was born. It died.

    Doug Hunt, chief pilot for Wycliffe Bible Translators – dead. Dr. Darlene Bee, brilliant linguist and Bible translator – dead. In all, seven mangled corpses lay strewn amongst the aircraft wreckage. All because a missionary-mechanic neglected to tighten a nut.

    “The funeral was a ghastly ordeal,” confessed the shattered mechanic. “The sight of those caskets lined up . . . hit me like a blow to the stomach. I wanted nothing but to get out of there . . . How could I face my friends? How could I face myself?”

    Anyone who can keep going after that is not a negligent mechanic. He’s a spiritual giant.

    “Except for God’s grace,” he later wrote, “I’d be somewhere cowering in a corner in guilt-ridden despair – the eighth fatality of that Aztec crash.”

These horrors make my worries seem pathetic. Somewhere in between, however, are disabilities beyond what average people battle. This was brought home to me by a dear friend who for years has been kindly proofreading my webpages. Upon checking this webpage, she shared her private list of frustrating and embarrassing limitations that advancing years have placed on her. For most of my life, I’ve been plagued by some sort of chronic fatigue that annoys me greatly, but there is no denying that I’ve had it easy, relative to many people. What makes this webpage important is that having limitations beyond the norm is challenging enough, without twisting the knife by tormenting ourselves over them.

If you belong to the in-group, or can look into the past and giggle at your faux pas, or you are not continually battling feelings of inferiority, inadequacy and stupidity, this webpage has little to offer. I’m writing for people who are squirming, even decades after the event, over their limitations or unintended acts of stupidity. This is a matter so little mentioned in Christian circles that I have no idea how many of us there are. What I do know, however, is that someone who is literally a genius responded to one of my webpages and began sharing his heart. Especially considering all the dumb things I’d done, I am jealous of his astonishing intellect. Even he, however, has suffered horrifically as someone who doesn’t fit in. In his case, it is precisely because he is so smart. It might be 90% illusion, but the other guy’s grass always looks greener.

I know someone who, from puberty onwards has been tall, which further accentuates the fact that he is abnormally skinny and he has no other redeeming physical features. He has no fashion sense, nor any interest in it. He considers clothes not worth wasting money on and, even when he considers himself well-dressed, usually wears the dorkiest second-hand clothes. He has no sporting ability, nor any interest in the subject. Likewise, he has no interest in music or movies. For most of his life, he was agonizingly lonely and desperate for a girlfriend, but was always too scared to ever ask anyone for a date because he was sure no one would say yes. He was always the odd one out and never grew out of it.

Now it’s time to confess that I’m referring to me. I’m such an oddball that I never want to talk about myself because it would depress me, let alone anyone having to hear me. I’m not interested in a pity party. It just seems necessary, for the sake of this webpage, to be honest with you.

I’ve crammed the following with humor, lest my confessions make someone cringe to death but, for me, this has been a painfully serious matter that has haunted me all my life, despite my every effort to push it from my consciousness. Although I hate talking about myself, it is my conviction that sharing my journey with you will help you see not just the pitfalls of letting oneself be tormented by the past, but will also reveal the solutions. That way, you’ll be able to find the road to peace and fulfillment much quicker than I did.

My life has produced a spectacular array of things to beat myself up over. Mostly, in the grand scheme, they are ludicrously insignificant things, and yet they claw at me as if they really mattered. Often, it is things done decades ago – a slip of the tongue, or whatever – but whenever my spinning mind slows until it lands on the memory, I feel as much shame and torment as I would if it had just happened. I have all the answers for anything that could be called sin – things that I could claim forgiveness for – but what I kept floundering over was how to cope with my own inadequacies.

Close to twenty years ago, the Associate Editor of a national Christian magazine e-mailed me, saying she would like to join my ministry’s prayer team. Deeply honored and anxious to impress, I immediately e-mailed her back, saying among other things, that I expected she was very busy.

Well, that was the plan. If you know the saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men . . .” you’ll have an inkling where this is heading.

Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”) It’s actually my biography. They must have changed the name as an act of mercy. Anyhow, by Murphy’s Law t and y are right next to each other on the keyboard. My finger slipped, hitting both keys at the same time. I had just told the woman behind this significant Christian publication, “I guess you are very busty.” (Why are rocks so hard to find when you need to crawl under one?)

This is one of the rare cases I can actually laugh about. I happened to catch the blunder seconds before clicking Send. Otherwise, it would have been tacked on to my nearly endless list of foibles and rattle-brained antics; the memory of which orbit my head, ready to re-enter my consciousness to torment me whenever I’m alone with my thoughts.

I continually limit myself to writing because if I spend enough hours on a paragraph, I might come across as adequate. In any other situation, it’s immediately obvious that I don’t fit in. I finally married – in my mid-fifties, would you believe (I lived with my mother until then – don’t even go there). And I was forced into retirement due to health issues. Nowadays, I’ve become such a recluse that I sometimes go for months without speaking face to face to anyone except my wife and an occasional bare minimum to a shop assistant if I buy something.

To quote what I wrote decades ago (feel free to slide down if you have already seen it):

    Of my legendary brain malfunctions, you’ll squeeze just one example from me. Divulge more, and I’d be sentenced to wearing a paper bag over my head for the rest of my natural life – and that’s a prospect I don’t relish, no matter how much you think it improves my looks.

    I was about to go home when a manager said he couldn’t start his car. Some idiot had left the headlights on. Suddenly my nerves thought I’d caught malaria. That morning I had tested the lights of our entire vehicle fleet. “That’s funny,” added another manager, “I can’t start my car either – battery’s dead.” (It was definitely malaria, maybe yellow fever as well.) Up walked another manager – and was that another one behind him?

    I’ve got a mechanical mind; it’s just that the gears have jammed.

    When I have mistake and onions it’s neither rare nor well done. And just when I’ve had my fill I’m forced to eat my words. And that’s only the entrée. Somehow I always end up in the soup and have to pay for it. Humble pie follows with a generous serve of raspberries and I scream.

    I make more slips than a 1950’s lingerie company. As my mind lurches from one goof-up to the next, I fill with despair. Then I limp to the Bible and find comfort. I bump into Isaac, who blessed the wrong twin; (Genesis 27:21-35) and Jacob, the scheming mummy’s boy, who had to marry his sister-in-law to patch up his first mistake (Genesis 29:20-28). I hear Job clawing for words to recount the tragedy that marred his childhood – he was born alive (Job 3:1-19). I see Saul hiding amongst the baggage; (1 Samuel 10:22) David squabbling with his brothers; (1 Samuel 17:28-29) Jonah bewailing the death of a weed; (Jonah 4:7-9) Thomas poking holes in Jesus’ side (John 20:24-25). I don’t know that they had pogo sticks back then, but if they did, they played under the table for too long. Hard-boiled? These egg-heads were always in hot water. Whenever they had a brainwave heaven ducked for cover. Of course, Solomon had a good head on his shoulders – a cute brunette one night, a redhead the next. I think he ended up counting his wives and kissing his money.

    Jesus hand-picked the quiet, intelligent type. When they were quiet, they were intelligent. They spent the rest of their time turning howlers into an art form. Their business cards must have read Bloopers for Every Occasion. There were the sons of blunder, James and John, armed with tongues programmed to shoot first and ask questions at the inquest. Those thunder-heads even thought the Prince of Peace was into star wars (Luke 9:54). Then there was Peter, whose mouth went into spasms whenever his brain died. He always spoke with his mouth full, and still found room for the other foot. (Any normal sized mouth would have had corns.) You were sure to find this crying shame somewhere between boo-boo and boo-hoo. And while our silver-tongued, lead brained hero was doing what came naturally, everyone else was scrambling to prove they had the IQ of a doughnut hole. Who could forget that ridiculous prayer-meeting when the maid left Peter locked out in the cold, the pray-ers thought the maid had gone around the twist for being so stupid as to think their prayers had been answered, and they finally made the brilliant deduction that the guy, who looks and sounds like Peter bashing on the door, must be Peter’s angel (Acts 12:12-16)? They believed in keeping their brains in ‘as new’ condition. Remember the dozer with the window seat who fell three floors to sleep during Paul’s sermon (Acts 20:9)? They make that drop-out look like a genius. Paul wasn’t kidding when he said that by normal standards few of the Corinthian Christians were wise (1 Corinthians 2:26-27). If they were anything like the rest, you could pool their intellects and not have enough to power a headache.

    I could put my feet up with folks like that. And what fires me is that these scatter-brains are God’s sort of people – the type through whom he changes the world.

    Christians squabble over whether tongues have ceased, but no one doubts that signs and blunders are with us still. The centuries have made Christians no brighter, nor any less treasured by heaven. My favorite is Dwight Moody. He hated his first name, pronounced Jerusalem in two syllables, and wrote without a speck of punctuation. Can you guess the words he was attempting to spell in the following: sucksead, beleave, shure, clurks, bead, hav, don, bimb bi, peter? (Succeed, believe, sure, clerks, bed, have, done, ‘by ‘n by’, better.) “I am getting over the difficulty,” said middle-aged Moody about his spelling, “I am always sure of the first letter and the last . . . ” Such shortcomings are endearing. To scorn them is to act like a thirteen-year-old despising childish behavior in his little sister – behavior that more mature people find adorable. Had we a massive intellect and love approaching that of our great King, we would not only discern the frailty of even the greatest earthly minds, we would probably feel as warmly about their foibles as we do about those of the cutest child.

Yep, that’s what I wrote. And did I take it to heart? Nope.

In the above, I had amassed an impressive stockpile of powerful ammunition for us not-quite-geniuses. Unused weapons, however, will keep no one safe. I might, for a while, have used these truths to fight the inferiority and inadequacy that plagues me, but instead of relentlessly persisting, I gradually let them drift from my consciousness.

Let me explain my error so that I can spare you years of having things gnaw at you.

When God’s people entered the Promised Land, do you recall how critical it was that they remove not just most of the enemy but every trace of them, and how not doing so brought enormous problems upon themselves? Should they compromise on totally obliterating the enemy, here’s what the Lord declared would happen:

    Joshua 23:13 know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no longer drive these nations from out of your sight; but they shall be a snare and a trap to you, a scourge in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.

Like eradicating cancer, no matter how great an achievement it might seem to remove 99% of the enemy from our lives, it is not enough. The little that is left is deadly. Give us an inch and we’ll take a mile is virtually our enemies’ manifesto.

Any thinking that does not line up with how God sees us is a treacherous foe that must be continually fought until it is utterly defeated and permanently evicted. Instead of ruthlessly eradicating wrong thinking from my life, however, I learned to live with it. Rather than live victoriously, I came up with workarounds that made the affliction more tolerable. Letting wrong thinking harass me had become so much a part of me that I was barely aware of how needlessly crippled I really was.

I certainly didn’t thrive, but I survived the attacks that haunted me, by cramming my little mind with so much that there was seldom any room left for all the things queuing up to bite me yet again. I inevitably wake up several times in the night. Most days, I’m working on a webpage, and so as soon as I wake, my mind immediately drifts to my latest writing project. Before long, I would find myself jotting down new thoughts, instead of my mind slumping to sources of torment from my past.

When I was up, I avoided mindless tasks like exercise or housework (“Very convenient,” you say) or I would soon be squirming over something embarrassingly idiotic I did ten or twenty or thirty or more years ago, or lamenting my frustratingly many limitations or all my hopes and dreams that have not materialized. I tried to devote every waking moment to ministry. I not only wanted to give the Lord my utmost, it kept me distracted from thoughts that dragged me down.

Being alone with my thoughts was so torturous, however, that when my mind was too weary to engage in more ministry, I felt forced to waste my time watching mindless television to keep the memories and depressing thoughts at bay.

Lately, however, I’ve been having significant problems sleeping; leaving me too exhausted, even when I’m out of bed, to keep pesky thoughts at bay by burying myself in perpetual ministry. Adding to my self-doubt was that although I once used to receive a stream of encouraging e-mails from people saying how much they were helped by my webpages, it has now virtually dried up, exposing fertile soil in which to sow dark thoughts. Actually this is such an appalling source of agony that I recoil from going near it, least I slide into a bottomless hole of depression. I have been pouring my life into publishing webpages on the Internet for over twenty years and for years before that devoted every moment I could scrounge preparing for it. Expressing my love for God this way is all I have lived for. I’ve removed none of them but kept faithfully adding still more. Whereas once God powerfully used them to touch needy hearts, however, readership has been seriously declining for years, leaving me reeling in bewilderment.

All these afflictions might be labelled an attack of the enemy – and on one level it was – but it has proved itself a precious gift of God because it prevented me from resorting to my old ways of tolerating, rather than defeating, my negative thoughts.

I personally know very many precious people who suffer horrific battles with memories of past trauma, such as rape, physical torture, and so on. I can understand that. My heart goes out to them. But who would have thought someone could be tormented for decades over social slip-ups that everyone but him has most likely forgotten? Is this as pathetic as it sounds?

With exhaustion stripping me of my usual coping mechanisms, it became undeniable that if someone wanted to torture me, he could forget the cattle prod, waterboarding, and so on. All it would take is to put me in solitary confinement and let me torture myself with my own memories and putdowns. It’s ridiculous, but I would be in agony within an hour. I recall Jesus in the wilderness, Moses alone in the desert tending his father-in-law’s sheep (Exodus 3:1), David’s countless hours as a shepherd boy (1 Samuel 17:34), and so on. Being alone with my thoughts, like they must have been, would be horrific for me. Something must be very wrong with me to react this way. It cannot be natural, nor consistent with God’s wishes for me.

The Lord had to let things become almost intolerable before I finally came to my senses and realized that this is so contrary to God that it must be an attack of the enemy. Still more disturbing is that I had been agreeing with the enemy – telling myself yes, I’m stupid; yes, I’m a social reject; yes, I have atrocious limitations – instead of refusing to entertain these accusations, and going on the attack when these thoughts come.

I know as well as you that God’s Word says resist the devil, and he will flee (James 4:7). But instead of resisting his lies, making him feel like an unwanted intruder, here was I agreeing with the enemy. A chill swept through me when I realized how agreeing with him was not only siding with the Evil One, but making him feel welcome. In fact, although I’m ashamed to put it this way, I was virtually falling at the Devil’s feet and worshipping him as a source of truth.

Jesus – the one I’m meant to model my life on – fought the devil’s lies; citing Scripture’s truths over and over when tempted in the wilderness. “It is written . . . it is written . . .it is written . . .” was his response (Matthew 4:4, 6, 10). And finally, “Get behind me, Satan!”

It hit me that instead of trying to avoid the accusations by frantically cramming my mind with other things, I needed to face this lifelong problem head-on. I needed to stop being bullied by monstrous thoughts and reverencing them as truth. I needed to rise up in my Christ-bought authority and defeat this foe. Anything less is an insult to the One who paid such a horrendous price so I could live in victory.

We know how Scripture says we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against dark spiritual powers (Ephesians 6:12). You might also recall how it calls the devil the Christians’ accuser (Revelation 12:10). It took me far too long to realize that what seem like self-accusations must surely be spiritually powered by the Evil One and his cohorts. They love to camouflage themselves and hide in the shadows, but just as evil lurks behind temptation and condemnation, so it is with beating ourselves up over our limitations, goof-ups and so on.

I’m not referring to demon possession or anything kinky. I was no more possessed than the Spirit-filled apostle, who was tormented by an angel/messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7), or the holy Son of God, who in the wilderness was needled by Satan himself (Matthew 4:1).

Nevertheless, just as good exists, so does evil. The ultimate source of good is God, who not only has supernatural power and intelligence, but also works through various lesser intelligences (angels and people) as well as impersonal agencies in nature. Likewise, behind evil is the Devil, a supernatural being who employs various intelligences and impersonal forces to execute his plans. If modern nations at war try to demoralize their enemies by what is sometimes called psychological warfare – and even the Bible cites instances of it being used to try to weaken God’s people and incite them to surrender (Examples) – surely evil spiritual powers will try similar attacks on God’s people today.

Want it or not, realize it or not, this means every person on earth is in a spiritual war zone. Rather than being hapless victims of a battle between spiritual superpowers, however, everyone who is united to Christ is not only on the winning side, but a powerful combatant in this war.

For every Christian, battling a demon is like confronting an armed intruder. As menacing as he seems, he is no match for you because no matter how armed to the hilt he seems, all his guns are empty, and yours are loaded. Just squeeze the trigger and he is doomed. The one thing keeping the outcome from being a foregone conclusion is that, from a distance, loaded and unloaded guns look the same. Your enemy has the audacity to pretend to have the upper hand, in the hope of fooling you into thinking the situation is reversed – that his guns are loaded and yours are empty. For as long as his bluff works, he can relax and bully you as much as he likes, but the moment he realizes that someone knows the real situation, even the most powerful demon is terrified of the weakest Christian.

The Devil is the deceiver. He beguiles. But that is all he can do. He is powerless to change spiritual reality. He cannot undo Christ’s stupendous victory on the cross that defeated evil powers, secured our forgiveness and enabled God to pour out all his blessings upon us. The Evil One cannot stop God from believing in us, loving us with all he has, and wanting the best for us. All he can do is to try to dupe us. He is amazingly skilled at it, however. He longs to mess with our heads; enticing us to feel useless, to feel hard done by and resent God and other people. If we believe his lies, we will end up as confused as a painfully thin anorexic hounded by the lie that she is fat.

We all know that anorexia is not just torturous but life-threatening. Likewise, the enemy of our souls and his minions want not just to afflict us, but disable us and even, if they possibly can, reduce us to being physically or spiritually suicidal.

I’m not at all aggressive, but when my eyes were finally opened to the tricks those slimy con artists had been playing at my expense, I was peeved enough to want to confront them. It would probably have been appropriate for me to be even more angry at them, but I was annoyed enough to relish the thought of them daring to attack me yet again so that I could inflict a stinging rebuke on the sleazy liars behind these attacks. Astonishingly, however, the attacks immediately ceased. Those cowardly fiends were nowhere to be found. To provide examples for this webpage, I have tried recalling embarrassing events that used to hound me, and to my bewilderment, I cannot even recall most of them, and the few I can recall no longer sting.

I was taken aback, and even disappointed, because I was itching for a fight. Apparently, they sensed their cover had been blown and that I was ready to go on the offensive and so they backed off. I had expected it would take a prolonged battle to send them fleeing but I was determined to keep resisting them for however long it took to thoroughly whip them.

I confess to being a novice in spiritual warfare. My every other battle has been protracted and I expect that this is the norm, at least until we become experienced and confident in sending demons skedaddling. If they sense they might be able to bluff their way into staying, they will try their hardest to hang around, in the hope that we give up and let them stay.

In a tiny area of my life, those scammers had managed to make me their plaything by concealing their identity, but now that they had been unmasked it seems they feared a front-on attack. Another possibility is that the Lord graciously gave me a taste of what it is like to be free from accusations I had been foolishly accepting as truth, and this taste of freedom has made me more determined than ever to never again let myself engage in self-condemnation.

Whatever the reason, though somewhat mystified by this remarkably easy transformation, I know enough about spiritual warfare to understand that demons loathe losing their chumps/victims. In fact, they hate losing, period. Even with the undefeated Son of God, Satan tried not one, not two, but three different attacks in the wilderness and even then, left him only “until another time” (Luke 4:13).

Since the cross has rendered every evil power a defeated foe, and the weakest Christian who realizes this can whip their hide, they quake in terror. However, our spiritual enemies have had more than enough experience with humans to know that if they have fooled us in the past, there’s a good chance we will eventually lose sight of our new revelation and we will slide back into letting them fool us again:

    Luke 11:24-26 The unclean spirit, when he has gone out of the man, passes through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none, he says, ‘I will turn back to my house from which I came out.’ When he returns, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes, and takes seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter in and dwell there. The last state of that man becomes worse than the first.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter if the demon returns with an entire battalion of reinforcements, they are still demons that Christ has utterly defeated, and Christ is in every Christian. The only concern is whether we let them bluff us into not using our Christ-bought authority.

Since they are already conquered, demons have no option but be cunning. They love sneak attacks when we least expect them; when we are most vulnerable and least prepared. They are therefore likely to attack when I’m half asleep or below par. To leave everything until then to work out how to send them fleeing would be foolish. So I resolved to fully prepare myself for the next battle by building myself up right now and planning my counterattack ahead of time.

I recalled this Scripture:

    Revelation 12:10-12 I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “. . . the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. They overcame him because of the Lamb’s blood, and because of the word of their testimony. . . .Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has gone down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time.”

The great news is that the devil has no divine authority for his accusations. Heaven has shut its ears. In fact, it has thrown him out. That does not mean he has stopped slandering us – actually, we can expect him to redouble his efforts because “he has but a short time” – but if heaven refuses to accept what he says about us, why should we? In fact, how dare we? Dare we exalt “the father of lies” (John 8:44, many translations) as a source of truth, in defiance of our Lord who is truth?

Instead of tolerating his accusations, we must go on the offensive and keep attacking him until he eventually flees. But how do we do this? I believe we need a three-pronged attack.

    1.  Preemptive Prayer

    By this, I mean making the most of any lull in the battle by prayerfully looking to God to build ourselves up spiritually and obtain from our Lord his strategy for victory. We see this hinted at in such Scriptures as:

      Luke 21:34-36 So be careful, or your hearts will be loaded down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly. For it will come like a snare on all those who dwell on the surface of all the earth. Therefore be watchful all the time, praying that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.

      Luke 22:40, 44-46 When he was at the place, he said to them, “Pray that you don’t enter into temptation.” . . . Being in agony he prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he rose up from his prayer, he came to the disciples, and found them sleeping because of grief, and said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

      1 Peter 5:8 Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

    Sometimes we are caught so unaware that we find ourselves in the heat of the battle without having prepared ourselves in this way. At such times, we can still pray quick, urgent prayers, but the ideal is to spiritually prepare ourselves ahead of time.

    2.  Direct Attack

    Directly rebuking the enemy – seeing him as a trespasser who has no right to con us into believing his lies, and keep authoritatively commanding him to leave in Jesus’ name until he obeys. For more on this see the Spiritual Warfare: Turning Spiritual Attack into Victory link at the end of this page.

    3.  Praise

      Psalm 149:6-9 May the high praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hand; To execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment. All his saints have this honor. . . .

    The final prong of our attack is to keep praising our Lord until we actually rejoice and delight in the very things that used to make us cringe. At first thought, this seems not only ludicrous but almost impossible. So I must explain how I reached this conclusion.

    I remembered the apostle Paul’s divinely-given strategy when he was tormented (the word used in many translations) by “a messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7). The Lord told the apostle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Here’s Paul’s response to this staggering revelation:

      2 Corinthians 12:9-10  . . . Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV).

    The mighty apostle was taught of God to glory in his weaknesses and to view them as sources of strength. His weaknesses, and the insults, hardships, opposition, and difficulties he suffered – the very things in his circumstances that he and his observers were tempted to despise – were windows that let the grace of God shine into his life, flooding him with divine blessing and empowering.

    His weaknesses were his greatest assets? He should exult in his sources of shame? And that applies to us as well? That’s so mind-boggling as to initially send us staggering in disbelief. So let’s walk through this together.

    I recalled Paul’s previous letter to the Corinthians, where he wrote:

      1 Corinthians 1:26-28 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are (NIV).

    The Word of God authoritatively pronounces that the things that caused most of its readers to be despised by others were indeed things to celebrate. They are, in fact, the very things that caused them to be divinely chosen. Again we read:

      Matthew 11:25-26  . . . Jesus answered, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight. . . .”

    Who would want to join the ranks of “the wise and understanding” who miss out on divine revelation?

    Here’s yet another indication how status, even in the eyes of the apparently godly, can be a significant spiritual disadvantage:

      Luke 4:25-27 But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, except Naaman, the Syrian.”

    In both cases, it was Gentiles – people God’s chosen thought of as rejects – who received miracles, not those everyone considered more worthy.

    Yet another time, Jesus said:

      Luke 6:26 Woe to you when all people speak well of you . . . (NET Bible and several other versions)

    In fact, he went so far as to say:

      Luke 16:15  . . . For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

    Earlier I provided a long list of hare-brained acts of Bible saints. Let’s also remember that the Almighty has an exceptionally long history of choosing no-bodies. Consider, for example:

      * Moses, the stutterer, who felt so useless he almost rejected his calling (Exodus 4:10) . More about this.

      * Gideon, who upon being called a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12) told the angel of the Lord, “. . . how shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). In fact, his greatest obstacle was not that the army he eventually mustered was hopelessly outnumbered, but that it was not pathetic enough (Judges 7:2) and had to whittled down from twenty-two thousand (Judges 7:3) to a mere three hundred (Judges 7:7).

      * Saul, who likewise told the God who was calling him, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? . . .” (1 Samuel 9:21). He was so shy when he was about to be proclaimed king that no one could find him, until the Lord told them he was hiding among the baggage (1 Samuel 10:22). That’s an act that would have haunted me for the rest of my life.

      * Isaiah, overwhelmed by his “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

      * Jeremiah who, upon his calling, replied, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I don’t know how to speak; for I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:6).

      * Amos, who declared, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was a herdsman, and a farmer of sycamore figs . . .” (Amos 7:14).

      * Peter, who commenced his discipleship with the words, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.” (Luke 5:8).

      * Paul, whose first position in the church was chief persecutor.

      * For still more on this strong biblical theme, see God’s Favorite People.

    As explained in the God Isn’t Fair? link at the end of this webpage, whatever causes us to feel inferior, or perhaps envious of other people, can be the very thing that keeps us from falling into pride and compels us to cling so tightly to our Lord that we soar to greater spiritual heights than those who seem to have all the natural advantages, and even seem to have greater spiritual blessings.

    When praise lifts us from the earthly to the heavenly, we begin to see things from God’s vantage point. And since God is truth, this is a profoundly important perspective. As I continued to let praise take me higher, I looked down on what I was leaving behind and was appalled to see something insidious that, until now, I had been disturbingly blind to. My thinking had been so distorted that, without even realizing it, I had allowed envy and self-pity to fester. Oozing from that ugliness was possibly even a trace of resentment towards my flawless Lord. This Scripture came to mind:

      Isaiah 45:9 Woe to him who strives with his Maker – a clay pot among the clay pots of the earth! Shall the clay ask him who fashions it, ‘What are you making?’ . . .

    Remember me saying how the other guy always has the best grass? Dare I give another example of how my warped thinking has fallen for this illusion? Please don’t be offended. I raise this matter only to highlight how wrong my thinking has been, not to say anything sensible about gender.

    Many women talk about gender inequality and feel hard done by, and maybe they are, but most of my life I have been envious of women and felt the odds are stacked in their favor. There might be less female CEOs but I’d never get anywhere close to being a CEO, no matter what my gender. Many women might earn less than the average man but my salary has always been way below that of the average male and I think the same was true of my father. In fact, I’ve spent my life in jobs where women were given preferential treatment. Moreover, women have significantly longer life expectancies, significantly fewer are incarcerated, they have a lower suicide rate, are much less likely to be loners, and on and on I could go.

    I raise this only to emphasize that I’m wrong to be envious of others. It’s ridiculously easy to fall into self-pity and slump into despair and resentment and even envy.

    The truth that praise reveals is that even if you or I were born into the most discriminated-against people-group on the planet – purple-skinned, three-legged giants with iridescent acne, or whatever – the Lord would still treasure us as much as anyone else, and would turn all the negatives around for good until they end up blessing us for all eternity.

    As, from my new vantage point, I looked upon the ugly tangle of envy, self-pity and a smattering of ill-feeling towards the Perfect One, I realized I had been regularly lopping off this growth’s more obvious tentacles but I had never killed it. More disturbing still: I was no longer dealing with matters that are not sin.

    I looked to the Holy One, not only for forgiveness but for divine empowering to break through my jadedness to see how hideously wrong I had been. This was not so I could keep sloshing around in the mud of self-condemnation but so I could honor my Lord and shine with his beauty by identifying and eagerly jettisoning everything that needed to go.

    As I kept looking to God to open my eyes, still more divine insights rose from within – revelations I had recorded decades ago but somehow, through the ravages of time, had faded from my consciousness. They were like polish that removes the grime of lies, enabling the truth to gleam. Those despicable lies must be removed, not only because they slander us but because they slander our Maker, and goad us to think ill of the One whose love, goodness and wisdom are heart-stopping in their perfection.

    For some of these truths, see More Encouragement.


Now, I’m ready for an attack. I’m going on the offensive. When those thoughts come I’m going to rebuke them in the name of Jesus and I’m going to praise God that he loves me and accepts me regardless; that it’s when I’m weak I am strong and that he singles out for special callings those who have inadequacies and seem to have reason for despising themselves.

Links

God Loves You Means You are God’s Favorite

Spiritual Warfare: Turning Spiritual Attack into Victory

More Help With Demons

God Isn’t Fair? Why those who seem to be despised and have all the bad ‘luck’ are especially blessed

Help in Changing Your Self-Image

Feeling Useless & Hopeless

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2019. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.

 

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