There are times that my weakness makes itself all too evident in my life. I feel as though everything I do is taking me the wrong direction and leaving me in the middle of nothing but pain and heartache. My failure looms over me like a giant monster that threatens to smack me back down to the ground if I try to get back up. My confidence is shaken and my hope is overtaken by my hopelessness. The pain emanates from my mind and spirit into my body and I feel as if I am falling apart.
But that failure that seems so huge and seems to be trying to keep me down is merely a shadow, like the old cartoon trick where the sinister shadow turns out to be a tiny mouse when the lights come on. Its size and stature are merely illusions caused by the angle we are seeing it from. It is a perception that hides the truth from us.
My failure is no match for my hope. Being afraid of my failure is like being afraid of my shadow. I must see it for what it really is, not the illusion of what I think I see.
Bad circumstances rarely have the power that I believe them to have. Most of the power they have over me is what I give them. Usually, when something bad comes along that threatens to knock me down and keep me there, I have invited it into my life in some way, shape or form.
When things go bad at work, I usually have performed some act of selfishness. When money problems come along, I usually have exhibited some bad spending habits. When my body is screaming at me in pain, quite often it is because I have not taken very good care of it in the past. When my marriage is strained, you can bet that I have applied undue pressure to it. Not everything is my fault but in almost everything there is some fault for me. That’s the nature of a sinful man.
I used to go to God and pray, “God, please take away my problems. Fix my money problems, heal my body, heal my marriage, fix my car, take away my emotional pain.” It never seemed to happen. If it did happen, the old problem seemed to make its way back into my life. This is why it is important to be in God’s Word. I’m learning that there are ways to make my prayers more effective.
Psalm 66:18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
If I continue on blissfully thinking that I am somehow not at all at fault in my hardships and trials and place blame everywhere but on myself, I turn the volume down very low on my prayer. When things are going tough and life is very hard, it is not a time to look at what’s wrong with my wife, friends, church, acquaintances, the government or anybody else in the world. Spending my time in that pursuit has never ever done anything to change them or make my life one iota better. It is time to look at myself. It is time to look at who I am and put that up against who God wants me to be. It is time to own who I am and see what I am keeping away from God and keeping for myself.
I must confess my sin. I must own my wrong. I need to hold it in my own two hands and then hand it over to God in prayer. That will turn up the volume. That will get God’s attention.
For the Psalmist, it made all the difference in the world.
Psalm 66:19 But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
It seems funny to me that many times I would much rather continue on with my sin and bad habits and keep trying to coerce God into doing something that really can’t be done unless I change. A lot of the rough times that come into my life are not there as punishment and tribulation or to test my faith. They come to refine me and make me better and more righteous. I often pass on the opportunity and choose to remain the same as I complain about how tough God is allowing my life to be. I need to just give up and confess already. That is the first step in making changes that improve me and my life.
There are vast rewards for looking honestly inward and speaking out about what I see. This isn’t an exercise in humiliation. This is an exercise in walking toward holiness. I am not bound for glory by sitting in a chair and waiting to be changed all at once when I hit the doors of heaven. The change can begin here and now. It has begun. It has been an amazing journey so far.
Psalm 66:16 Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.