Spiritual Transformation Part 4 – An Inward Look at What Must Change

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Spiritual Transformation Part 4 – An Inward Look at What Must Change

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  • The workaholic who can afford all the goodies of life but his wife and children feel like he is a stranger.
  • A depressed woman who spends her day wishing for a better life – or death.
  • The person with five maxed-out credit cards.
  • The guy who secretly watches pornographic materials on his computer.
  • A person who is always thinking about and reaching for food.
  • Someone who left her marriage for a married man.
  • The father who beats his children when he is angry.
  • A secret gambler deep in debt.
  • A bitter person who is unable to look her family in the face.
  • A man who floats from job to job, always complaining about the boss.
  • The child who habitually lies to his parents and teachers.

What do all these people have in common? Two things. The first is that they are all wounded people. The second is that each has decided to comfort the wound they carry with equally destructive choices. People are not made by God to be able to handle pain in their souls. So they seek to comfort themselves instead of asking God for healing. This is true of everyone you meet, including the face in the mirror. The symptoms of what you choose for comfort may not look like any of the ones mentioned in the list, but they are just as damaging and, worse still, are robbing you of becoming the person you were created to be by God. Even church leaders. And pastors and their wives. None of us are immune from the consequences of choosing comforting over healing. So where do we start the healing process?

If you are honestly looking for God to bring about deep change in you, the starting point is to ask Him to do a ruthless search in your life. (Psalm 139:23) Ruthless searching is saying to God that you are ready to hear truth about yourself, to open up yourself to having closed areas of your soul, on which you hung a “Keep Out!” sign, penetrated. ‘Closed’ as in not wanting to revisit the pain because you did not know what to do about it. ‘Closed’ because you thought time would heal or had healed the wounds. ‘Closed’ because you decided it was a waste of time. ‘Close’d because you wanted so badly to forget and get on with your life.

Some of you reading this are already shaking your heads and saying, “What’s there to find?” It’s time for you to face an inconvenient truth. You, too, are just as wounded as everyone you meet. I am not speaking about occasional hurt feelings that dissipate with time. Nor is this about the kind of wounds that discipline inflicts, the ‘this-will-hurt-for-a-time’ sort given by a parent or mentor that ultimately helps you grow more mature. These are the soul touching kinds of pain that not only do not fade, but continue to ache years after the wounding. Whether you are public or private about your pain, this kind of pain resides in all of us. You may no longer feel the immediacy of it, but the pain does more to shape you than you ever perceived. This woundedness is the root of your unfinished business. This may be the hardest issue for you to ever face. Why? Because it is here that you will have to look intentionally into areas of your soul with God, areas which you would rather leave alone.

If you want to know how to enter into this search with God, consider the promise of the first affirmation. God is in the process of conforming you to the image of His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:29). Here is the entry point for joining God in the search – where is your life not conforming to the image of Jesus? How do your life actions and attitudes line up with Jesus? This should not lead to an ‘I’m-not-perfect-like-Jesus’ moment; this is for a ruthlessly honest “Ah-Ha! I see that this area of my life is out of line with who I am created to be,” realization. You will know when you have gained real insight from God’s search because ruthless honesty also sparks humiliation and true guilt – a “Woe is me!” response similar to Isaiah’s in the temple when he saw the Lord.

All real journeys towards deep change sparked by God’s searching take place in the heart. The heart is the place where we make all our life choices, where our rational thoughts and emotions are weighed to determine what we will do or become. Our unfinished business directly affects the function of our heart. The wounds we have received by living in a world affected by the Fall have damaged our emotions. As a result, our damaged emotions will weigh more heavily in guiding our lives than our rational thinking. We will say, think, and do things that we would hate in others, but the pressure of damaged emotions drives our choices at a level we don’t even notice, or understand if we do.

What is more, sin lives in us, according to Paul (Romans 7:17, 20). He is not referring to sin as actions, but as an inner motivation that affects and controls how we live out life. Because sin resides in all of us, and because we are being guided by damaged emotions rather than truth, we choose sin to comfort our wounds instead of asking the Great Physician to heal us.

William Backus, founder of the Center for Christian Psychological Service, spoke in detail about this kind of choosing in his book, What Your Counselor Never Told You. He explained that most counseling invokes no long lasting change, nor promotes healing, simply because people are unaware that they are rejecting God’s remedy. Instead, most of people’s distresses can be traced back to one of seven traits, known as the Seven Deadly Sins – lust, anger, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth or pride – or more likely, a combination of these. All are attractive because all offer a temporary emotional release to our wounds. While we should know better as redeemed people, essentially we have been convinced by our emotions that we ‘need’ this sin, which produces different sin actions (i.e. symptoms) in us. However, we buy into the deception that the product is a comfort activity, which makes us ‘feel’ better. But it is a false hope, because in time, we become captive to the action the sin within us produces, and, ironically, suffer further wounding by this activity. This brings true addiction, needing the comfort activity more and more and hating the consequences of the activity, whether it be using alcohol, money, relationships, power, work, leisure, lies, laziness, violence, or what have you. In the end, we find that we are comforted to death.

There is hope. God offers a true healing, no matter how addicted you are. But it is a hard path for many of us to embrace. It takes us through the pain of our wounds, not away from it. Review the questions asked in  the last post. Do I feel safe enough to ask God to do a ruthless search in my life? (Psalm 139:23) Am I at a place where I trust Him enough to allow His mercy and grace to address my unfinished business?

 


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