by Gene Bulmer
As I work with individuals and groups within the Christian community, particularly Church Men’s Groups & Bible Studies, I inevitably run into the notion that we’re a broken people. I meet men who wallow in their brokenness; who think that their brokenness is unique to them, who think that brokenness is simply a part of the Christian walk that must be endured…however painful or who don’t experience Jesus Christ as a real, flesh & blood Savior and friend who not only can, but WANTS to heal them from their afflictions both real & imagined. The notion that Jesus is simply a biblical concept/construct is not a useful or accurate notion when it comes to our spiritual walk.
And, while the brokenness of mankind is certainly true: meaning we’re all fallen, sinful and the owners of “desperately wicked” hearts (Jer. 17:9) – there’s a difference between remaining broken and choosing a path of mental, emotional & spiritual repair & renewal, so that you may strengthen & gird yourself against not only the arrows of the enemy, but from your own self-defeating & limiting Self-Talk.
As a quick caveat – while this renewal process is certainly possible working with the Holy Spirit alone, it is highly advisable to tackle it with either a mentor or an accountability program where the process of iron sharpening iron can occur. Since it’s our minds that create the myriads of problems, false beliefs and self-limiting fears that can so easily entangle us; relying solely upon your own mind (which is frequently the very source of the problem) to deliver you into a better place, isn’t the best strategy.
So where do we begin? – with Self-Talk. What’s that, you ask? It’s the conscious & unconscious messages you repeat, over & over again in your mind. And, while I can’t cover the waterfront on the topic of Self-Talk in a single blog-entry – I can sketch out the beginning of a solution, as well as a path by which you can begin to unravel incongruous, defeating thought-patterns & begin to realize that you’re a magnificent creation made in God’s image and destined to achieve great things for the Kingdom!
Two books which delve deeper in this subject are Vince Poscente’s The Ant & the Elephant (conscious vs. subconscious brain partnership) and Tommy Newberry’s The 4:8 Principle (an exposition on Philippians 4:8 & what we should fill our minds with).
Belief & Trust
So now, the BIG question. If you profess and follow Jesus Christ…do you believe and trust Him? You probably believe that He died for your sins – but what about life on earth? Do you believe what He said about that?
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2.
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Does that sound like Jesus is describing one who is eternally broken…or wallowing in self-pity & negative self-talk? It sure doesn’t sound like that to me!
Brokenness as Training Regimen
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
A great cloud of witnesses: could that be taken to mean other believers, who also labor under the same circumstances, limitations, temptations & distractions as ourselves? That’s certainly something to consider. If circumstances affected us all in the same manner, then we all would either be winners…or hapless losers sinking in the mire of this world. But we’re not. So what’s the difference? Discipline? Better genes? Personality? God’s Grace? A closer walk?
First Corinthians tells us that
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
So we all have similar initial reactions to the “sin that so easily ensnares” (Hebrews). But where do we take it from there? God has provided a way of escape (1 Cor), but isn’t going to magically free us from the chains. We, as professors of faith in Christ, must also exercise a bit of determination to “lay aside every weight…AND the sin”.
Lay it aside. As in cast it off. As in ignore it; shield our eyes from it. Or develop an accountability system to enable us to gather together & support one another in not doing the things we ought not do (and, conversely DO the things we ought be doing).
It can be likened to a training regimen. We’d like to lose weight; or shed a few pounds. We enter into an exercise program and begin to workout. Yet our sedentary lifestyle attempts to call us back. Back to bed, back to the bad habits that led to our out-of-shape-ness, back to the couch & the remote – back to (fill in the blank).
But God’s built us for something better:
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:7
If we have the power of God within us…and believe it, then we should be able to develop some discipline and leverage it towards the dreams which God has instilled within us in order to attain those dreams & goals…to the glory of God.
If God’s Word is truth, it should apply to every area of our life. We should use it in much the same way as one would use a pair of eyeglasses…to see. A sort of lens by which we see the world as well as our place in it. C.S. Lewis said; “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Suppose we start there: by applying the truth of God’s Word to every area of our lives…especially the portions that seem bent?
Seeing our bent, battered and sometimes broken lives through the lens of God’s Word or through the eyes of our brother & friend Jesus Christ, might we acknowledge God as the narrator of our lives? We certainly have free will to accept or reject that notion. But if we, for the moment, accept it, would we believe that God, in His love for us, would want us to overcome the obstacle (or the sin) that seems to so easily ensnare us?
God, as narrator, would certainly write a better ending to our life’s story than we would…or could. We certainly have to play our part, including all the struggles –but we must trust God as the narrator:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight
Proverbs 3: 5-6
Straight…as in no longer bent!
Can we trust that God has only the best intentions for us?
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jerimiah 29: 11-13
Thus, part of the discipline we must exercise is to trust God and search for Him. Searching, in part, means turning over ALL areas of our lives to His sovereignty; ALL areas! Even the ones in which we think He cannot intercede: areas of unbelief:
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9: 15-24
Often; correction, almost ALWAYS, our areas of greatest struggle are our areas of unbelief. We must ask ourselves if we truly trust God…fully…to help us, as an accountability partner to help us overcome those areas of unbelief.
Ah, but do we have the mental capacity to achieve that? Let’s see what God’s Word says about that:
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Tim 1:7
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
- We’ve been given “sound minds” – so there’s no excuse, and
- It’s our job to consistently renew those sound minds – sort of a spiritual PDCA (a Plan, Do, Check & Adjust methodology), with an emphasis on the ‘adjust’ part: adjust/renew/repeat, adjust/renew/repeat, etc.
The idea of sound minds implies intelligence & logic. However we’re primarily emotional beings. Enter emotional intelligence. And, while there’s not enough room in a single blog-post to delve into the depths of that topic, emotional intelligence is primarily the exercise of logic over emotion: overriding our reaction to generate a measured response. In other words, the ability to think through your supposed “broken” or “bent” nature and realizing that God has provided all the tools necessary for you to trust Him; allowing Him to straighten those bent habitual paths & emotional bi-ways.
In literature. the narrative mode (also known as the mode of narration or narrator mode) is the set of methods the author of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical story uses to convey the plot to the audience.
A friend of mine has a 12 year old daughter who recently relayed to us the story of being trapped in a type of Alice-In-Wonderland dream – where she was being chased & couldn’t find a way out of her impending predicament. She told us she ran & ran & tried to hide…all to no avail. Then, when she thought all hope was lost, she told us that she realized she was in a dream and was actually the one in control of her immediate choices & circumstances. At that point, she said, she switched to ‘Narrator Mode’, wrote a happy ending and got out safely!
I told her that was brilliant! Not only as a method of dream escape – but as a strategy for the circumstances of our lives. Life will knock you down. But it’s up to you as to whether or not you get back up. Remaining down feeds into a broken mindset; getting back up acknowledges the bruise & bent-ness…but says “this is part of God’s training process for my life and, through a process of belief and trust in Him…I WILL prevail!” Ultimate success in life is a function of how quickly we can cycle through this process of frustration & defeat to move onto our destiny and the plans God has for our lives.
So, employing emotional intelligence & some discipline, switch to narrative mode and write the ending you’d prefer. And, with that in mind, I wish you “happy editing” – please let me know how that begins to work out for you!
The following is a poem I first heard on the radio & was narrated by Ravi Zacharias. Ravi did not write it, nor did he know the author. It’s chalked up to “anonymous” & captures the essence of the purposes for which we are built.
On Molding Clay
When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.