Category: Knowing God & Knowing Self

Emotions and Attitudes: Boredom

I’ve blogged this week about emotions and attitudes and how they are warning signs to us that there is something buried deep within us of which we need to repent. I wrote about Anger and Anxiety on Tuesday and yesterday’s blog on Pride received some interesting comments particularly on Facebook. Today I want to blog about boredom.

Kids and teenagers often complain of boredom to their parents who indignantly resist any responsibility to provide non-stop entertainment for their offspring. But don’t adults suffer from boredom too?  Boredom is a passive spiritual condition which consists of a sad, restless and ungrateful weariness in the midst of the goodness of God, His Work and His Creation. When I’m bored, deep down my heart is saying, “God, you’re nice but I need more of this other exciting thing too if you want me to engage with you and your world and be satisfied.”

In his book, “What is Sin? What is Virture? Robert McCracken wrote about slothfulness, which is clustered with boredom and indifference,

A slothful person believes in nothing, enjoys nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and only remains alive because there is nothing he would die for. 

Bored people are joyless, loveless and hopeless. Boredom looks at any opportunity as not worth the effort, robs us of meaningful activity, and makes our rest unrestful.

Pray:  Passionate Father, help me to see your love for me as bold and your pursuit of me as unrelenting. Help me to see that you have designed me in Christ Jesus to do good works which you have prepared for me so that I might bring glory to You.  God of hope,  fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of your Spirit I may abound in hope.  Amen.

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Emotions and Attitudes: Pride

Pride is the excessive belief in one’s own abilities which interferes with our ability to see our need for and thus experience the grace of God. Our hearts creep into pride when we estimate a high or inordinate opinion of our own dignity, importance, merit or superiority. It comes with a self-imagined importance that in the heart says to God and others, “I don’t need you but you need me.” Prideful people are usually quite competent in some area of life or work that platforms them as the one who is NEEDED in a given situation, they become the solution to the problem and therefore rarely show their own needs while cloaking their self-importance in the pretended humility of service or the special vocabulary (lingo) of the community to which they belong.

In my pride, my heart rages against God’s unmerited favor (grace) and undeserved generosity (mercy). My heart becomes self-important when I believe that I have this ability that makes me Great and it lashes out in anger when others don’t play along and join me in appreciating my importance. My prideful heart says, “God, people need your grace, mercy and unconditional love but because of this need that I meet, role that I play or ability that I possess I don’t need you like others do.”

Pray: Tender, loving God, help bring me today to a place of genuine humility that is based on a realistic self-appraisal and healthy feeling of self-worth that doesn’t need to be continually reinforced by others. My deepest need is to be unconditionally loved and only you can do that in the way that will heal my prideful heart. Let me rejoice in the truth that “You are with me and You are mighty to save me. Thank You that You take great delight in me, now quiet my restless heart with your love and help me to hear your voice rejoicing over me with singing.” Through Christ my Lord. Amen.

Emotions and Attitudes: Anxiety & Anger

In the past I ignored the warning lights on the dashboard of my car when I should have been checking under the hood to see what was wrong. Sometimes we ignore our emotions and heart attitudes when we should treat them as warning lights that something deep down inside of us is wrong. So what do our emotions and attitudes tell us about what is going on inside of us?

When I am anxious or angry, in my heart I am saying, “God, I can handle this situation better that you.” In my anxiety and anger, my heart rages against God’s providence, His holy, wise and powerful governing of all of my life circumstances. My heart gets anxious or angry because I am not receiving the outcome that I must have. If that goal isn’t reached, I am finished, broken, dead or worthless. Our anxiety and anger says, “God, your Fatherly kindness and protection are nice, but I also need this other thing to feel safe and secure.”

Pray: Sovereign Lord, help me today to be content with what you have generously provided for me. Help me to remember your promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” I want to trust you as my Helper and knowing that you are on my side, I can face life courageously with an open heart to Your Will. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Emotions as Warning Signs – Part I

Most Christians won’t be surprised to hear that our hearts are not inclined to easily and naturally trust in God. In recent years, I have been much more aware of the anti-faith protective posture of my heart which leads me away from trusting in God but instead relying on my own independent resources. When I pay attention to my heart attitudes and emotions and realize that they are SIGNS that there is something going on deep inside of me, I can confess, repent and trust God.

An event that triggered me to pay more attention was when a helpful old friend reported back to me after asking to borrow my car that every warning light was on glowing on my dashboard. I had grown accustomed and even comfortable with these warning lights and over time I had even forgotten about them. My friend being forced to drive MY car was not accustomed to these warning lights and was quite alarmed by them. Like a good pastor, I thought, “there’s an illustration here.”  I had often thought that our emotions and heart attitudes are signs or warning lights that show that there is something going on “under the hood” so to speak. But like with my car, I chose to ignore the warning lights in my own life and kept pressing on.

Tomorrow I will begin to unpack some common heart attitudes and emotions like anger, anxiety, boredom, laziness, indifference, cynicism, despondency, and discouragement. The goal is to reveal what these attitudes and emotions can tell us about what’s going on deep down under the hood.

Take a Look at Yourself

We must take a deep look at ourselves. When we contemplate our own hearts in the context of prayer and Scripture we will see ourselves lacking and  immediately look to God for his infinite benefits. When we look specifically at our sin and misery and rebellion, we are compelled to look upward for forgiveness, mercy and hope. His greatness produces great humility in us.
But we don’t aspire to want God and know God until we become displeased with ourselves. Are you pleased with yourself? Those pleased with themselves don’t want to know god.

Calvin comments, “For what man in all the world would not gladly remain as he is–what man does not remain as he is–so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery? Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find Him.”

We must spend our time looking at God then looking at self then looking at God again then looking at self. Looking only at God leads to external religion and a false sense of self, living the lie of a pretend self that never exposes the reality of our inner self to God and others. Looking only at Self leads to neurosis and self-fixation. We want/need personal, experiential knowledge of God and self. The real knowledge that transforms.

Fooling Yourself

The Christian life involves a transformation of the self that occurs only when God and self are both deeply known. Today in the Evangelical church, we have focused on knowing God and serving God while we tending to ignore knowing ourselves. When we do this, the True Self never engages God. We then live out of a false image of Self in relationships that we begin to believe is the True Self. This produces a well- crafted external Religion along with an internal spiritual poverty because our True Self, the self that God knows, never engages Him. The consequences are great: broken homes, divorces, shipwrecked ministries, burnout, hurt and pain. Our self-ignorance has crated a gap between appearance and reality. We have become so good at faking it, we have even fooled ourselves!

Knowing God and Knowing Self

There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.” – Thomas Merton

Look at who would agree with the above quote. In his introduction to The Institutes, Calvin claims,  “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.”

Moreover, Augustine writes, “I desire to know God and the soul. Nothing more? Nothing whatever.” He prays: “Let me know myself, let me know thee.”

So if the goal of the Christian Life is transformation, then transformation begins with Knowing the Self that God knows. True Knowing of  self demands that we know our self as known by God, and true knowing of God demands that we know God not just as an abstraction or as objective data but in and through our lived experience. Knowledge puffs up, but Experiential Knowledge of God and Self brings Humility. The Christian life involves a transformation of the self that occurs only when God and self are both deeply known.

The Most Important Thing

What is the most important thing for your existence?  In seeking to answer such a question, most Christians would say …. “Finding God, Knowing God, Loving God, or Serving God.” Others might give an answer about connecting to Christ‘s body, the Church or mention relationship with others. But very few would make any reference to Self or Knowing Self.

We are taught to deny self, to forget Self, even to put self last. Many, including myself, have taught that if you want J-O-Y, you must live a life with the following priorities in this order: Jesus first, Others second and You last. To say that we need to Know Self sounds liberal, new age or like pop psychology. But the ignoring of Knowing Self has cost us dearly.

I confess that in my years in the ministry of helping people grow spiritually, I have focused almost exclusively on helping people Know God and have spent little time helping them Know Self.  But I have discovered that there is a strong interconnectedness and an interdependence between the Knowing of God and the Knowing of Self. (Knowing Self in God).

Thomas Merton (d.1968),  a trappist monk from the Abbey of Gethsami in Kentucky who has been widely read by evangelicals answers the question from above, “What is the most important thing for our existence?” He says:

There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.”