Thursday, June 23, 2011
Many confess that they are confused. They are confused about their feelings, their decisions, and especially their relationships, and they obsess on them, trying to find answers.
Why are they confused, and why can’t they see their way through the fog of their confusion? In other areas, we can see with almost perfect clarity. We can get into our car and make thousands of decisions – when to brake and turn – with perfection. What then happens to our minds? Scripture identifies sin as the culprit.
• But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:14-16; NKJV)
How does sin cause confusion? When we sin, our internal alarm system – the conscience – is activated. We then have only two choices to silence this disturbing alarm. We can confess our sins and receive complete cleansing and forgiveness (1 John 1:9), or more commonly, we handle the sin in our own way. We cover it, deny it, and finally defend it (Genesis 3). However, in doing this, we have to harden our hearts and close our ears to the alarm bells.
Consequently, a mind that had once been at peace is now a mind battling against itself, attempting to deny and suppress the obvious. It’s like trying to look through a telescope as someone is shaking it violently. Perhaps more illuminating, when we observe a pond at rest, we observe how perfectly it reflects the rocks and the trees on the other side. However, when the winds blow and the pond is no longer at rest, it can no longer reflect the world around it. This is also the case with our minds. When they are not at rest – when they are embattled by denial and suppression – they cannot mirror or take in the surrounding reality. Consequently, there is too much mental turbulence to allow us to understand ourselves, let alone our relationships.
Apart from sin, wisdom comes easily. It’s all around us and is there for the taking (in the same way that our eyes can see the traffic around us):
• Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entrance of the doors: "To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. (Proverbs 8:1-4)
The problem isn’t the unavailability of wisdom, but rather our unwillingness to receive it:
• The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Why would we – and we were all once fools – reject something that is so beneficial? It sounds so unlikely. This is because, in the short run at least, wisdom is painful. It must begin its work by revealing to us the truth about ourselves, the truth we’ve long denied:
• The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:33)
To have wisdom is first to be humbled by the spectacle of who we really are. We are the lens through which we see the rest of the world. If this lens continues to be distorted by our internal battles to suppress sin, we cannot see anything else with clarity. Therefore, Jesus had reasoned that before we could correct anyone else, we must first correct ourselves. Otherwise, we cannot see clearly enough to operate on the other person (Matthew 7:1-5). However, honestly examining ourselves is the very thing that we are unwilling to do:
• Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. (Proverbs 1:29-31)
Wisdom carries a sharp personal “rebuke,” in fact, many of them. These rebukes are so uncomfortable that we generally rely on the strategies of darkness to rationalize away our sins, and consequently to reap their negative fruits.
The Bible gives us a poignant illustration of the deceptive power of sin. Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect peace, both with themselves and God. They even felt completely comfortable with their nakedness. However, after they succumbed to temptation and ate the forbidden fruit, all of this changed. Instead of enjoying the presence of God, they hid from Him and foolishly covered themselves with fig leaves. Instead of confessing their sins and trusting in His mercies, they resorted to their own means to handle their exploding guilt and shame.
Today, we resort to other fig leaves – achievement, money, power, popularity – in a vain attempt to polish over our sins. However, this feverish cognitive cover-up leaves us in confusion, and we resort to endless defensive strategies to insure that we remain covered. Adam and Eve could no longer tolerate the light of God or even His presence. The first couple resorted to half-truths and blame-shifting instead of true repentance. One lie begot the next. The initial sin was eventually covered by so many layers of subsequent defensive sins, confusion was guaranteed.
Similarly, the Apostle Paul confessed, “For sin…deceived me, and…killed me” (Romans 7:11). We too have been deceived and devastated by many years and layers of sin. Extricating ourselves is no longer a possibility. Insight therapies will not work, since we don’t want insight, but instead, insulation from discomfort. We need something far more potent. We need to be born-again and to grow into born-again truth:
• Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)
Only in time will the confusion give way to clarity and wisdom. The cross-purposes of our confused sin-ridden minds will eventually be revealed, but it’s a process. Meanwhile, we have to commit our entire life to Him, abiding in His word and trusting in His love. In our blindness and confusion, we have to leave the driving exclusively to Him.