By CHRIS BATES
Real Answers for Personal Struggle
In early September, I got to spend most of a cool, crystal clear Colorado day trout fishing by myself just above 8,000 feet elevation on the Taylor River. There is something about connecting with nature that recharges my soul—and to have the time to reflect in solitude while doing so was a true gift.
It let me spend part of that time reflecting on a conversation that an acquaintance and I recently had about some bad decisions he regretted. If we are human, we are fallible. I am certainly not able to cast the first stone. We are asked to avoid indiscretions and sins as a joyful response to the gift of salvation.
That being said, our most basic human psychological nature leads us to want to pacify our feelings. So, one of the key questions to ask is where that appeasement leads us.
“I guess every form of refuge has its price,” (Eagles, Lyin’ Eyes, 1975). Don Henley and Glenn Frey were more correct than they probably even realized. When we seek to pacify ourselves, it is easy to turn to the quick earthly fixes. Those may be through dishonesty, thieving, chemical abuse, infidelity or countless others.
Some are major in human terms and some are so simple that they pass right under our own noses with hardly a notice. We can list countless examples of our own if we are honest:
“It was easy to inflate that invoice just a little bit; they will never know.”
“After working hard all day, a couple of extra drinks each evening are well deserved.”
“My spouse was just better off just not having to worry about that little money issue that wasn’t mentioned.”
Some of the ways that we pacify are single occasion events, and some are small straws piling on the camel’s back over time. Every habit, set of bad decisions, or pattern of choices is a refuge, but they all have a price.
So what is the cost? Its symptoms are guilt, remorse, regret, and lots of other instinctive emotions. God instilled those feelings within us to get our attention, to direct us, and teach us in response to our poor decisions and actions.
The results may come in being caught, losing a job, losing someone’s trust, or any number of other consequences. The effects that most often occur, though, are even quieter. We hurt our relationships with God, others, and ourselves, and it can cause us to lose faith in each of those three as well.
We’ve considered the price that is paid for our human nature and actions. Now, what can we do about it?
The answers can be categorized in two ways: 1) Things we are responsible to change; and 2) Things we cannot change without God’s help.
Our own willpower can be far weaker than we like to admit, so for our human behaviors we can change, we are surrounded by God-given resources—a spouse, families, church, books, support groups, behavioral health professionals, and much more. Often, we simply need to surrender to get the help we need, and for that, we are responsible.
Sometimes God leaves it up to us, but sometimes we can’t do it without His help.
We know this one describing the choice that He gives us in Romans 3:23-24: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
One of my favorite statements from Tim Keller is that “Grace is stunning!” Grace goes beyond any resource we can imagine. If we humbly go to Him seeking change, then follow the path that He lays out for us—no habit, addiction, or transgression is insurmountable.
Proverbs has come up several times in my life recently. Have you read the guidance in Proverbs 3 lately? If you are open to looking for answers to things you are doing to pacify, then take some time to read it all the way through. Carry verses 3 and 4 with you that say, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”
There is your answer for change.
Chris Bates is President & Founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website, and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy and their children live in Madison