anxiety and kindness

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

At first glance, the teaching of this Proverb seems over simple and it’s easy (for me, maybe not others) to say, “Well, of course. This is more self evident than gravity.”

If I can humble myself to get down off my high horse, I’ll dig a little deeper. Here’s the next step:

When I’m with an anxious person, speak kind words, don’t add to it.
When I am the anxious person, seek out people with kind words, not those who will add to it.

Anytime I read a scripture and my first response is, “oh yea, I’ve got that one,” I see this as a sure sign that I need to dig deeper. I don’t want to invent complexities and split hairs–this is fruitless–but neither do I want to miss out on an important truth the Spirit is teaching.

 

wisdom in the eye of the beholder

Do not be wise in your own eyes” (Proverbs 3:7)

What a perfect picture of pride. We need this picture because it is the struggle of every growing Christian.

This command can be difficult for the wise to follow–should a wise person not see themselves accurately?

Perhaps is means, “Do not see yourself as wise enough.” This would fit with the context, (Trust in the Lord, lean not on your understanding…fear the Lord).

How can we maintain this humility? What does it mean to ask of ourselves, “Am I too wise in my own eyes?” Here is what it has meant for me:

  • We can remember our mistakes, foolishness, and sin. Seeking God’s forgiveness keeps us humble.
  • We can keep learning, which I wrote about here: (Why the pursuit of wisdom never stops).
  • We can think about the mysteries of God, exploring the limits of our understanding leads to humility.

 

 

 

shooting yourself in the foot

“Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.” Proverbs 1:19


There will always be people who look for ways to take an unfair advantage over the innocent. We often ambush the ignorant under a deception which weakly justifies our actions. We may say something like:

  • “It’s just business.”
  • “What they don’t know can’t hurt them.”
  • “I technically didn’t lie . . . I just didn’t tell the whole story”
  • “OK, so I lied, but it was a white lie.”

Someone once said to me, “When it benefits all the parties involved, I can see why it’s ok to tell a little lie.” This came from a leader in the church, one with significant authority. We were friends, so I did little to hold back my shock and compassion. (To actually believe such a thing! I wonder what twisted his thinking. . .I wonder where my thinking is twisted.)

Life is not about gain and any cost. When we do this, we hurts ourselves. The Bible actually says it takes away our life when we pursue ill-gotten gain.

When we take advantage of others, the lack of integrity forms a small fracture in our hearts. Left unchecked and unguarded, the crack grows. It becomes easier to do evil. We become blind to fresh inspiration from God and it becomes more difficult to hear his voice. We try to take delight in what we’ve gained, but we come up empty.

On this side of eternity, we have needs, legitimate ones. How we meet those needs is important. For now (who knows what it will be like in eternity), it’s all about the journey—following the course God has set before us.

Avoiding ill-gotten gain is actually selfish, it’s the best thing for our souls. Foolish selfishness takes every unfair advantage. “Spiritual selfishness” lives in obedience to God’s will because he has our best interests at heart.


So then, what is the difference between legitimate opportunity and ill-gotten gain?

Why the pursuit of wisdom never stops

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5)

When it comes to wisdom, there is never a moment when a person has “arrived” and can take easy and stop learning. Here are a few reasons why:

  • We are great at forgetting stuff. We need to keep learning because what we really need is to relearn the important things we’ve forgotten due to carelessness.
  • We haven’t seen it all. Every situation is like a snowflake. Although they may be similar on a superficial level, in the details, each one is unique and calls for a nuanced discernment. When our responses become automatic, we run the risk of a hardened heart. Vibrant habit becomes meaningless ritual. Brillant insight spirals downward into blind assumption.
  • We are different. Our personalities may change very little over the years, but our priorities don’t. If we are growing spiritually, they become more focused and less selfish.
  • God is infinite. We can never learn everything about the heart of God.

I’m sure there are many other reasons why we must keep up the pursuit of wisdom, but one thing is clear: even the wise are to keep adding to their learning.

Silent service is the difference between shutting up and speaking up

Perfect Storm Factor #1: I have a ton of ideas and opinions about nearly every subject.

I’m constantly thinking about things that I don’t understand–which is all the time because the world is a confusing place. I am constantly making mistakes and work to correct them. Some people call me quick witted–but I’m just sharing what I’ve already been thinking about. In school, some people are natural geniuses other people do a lot of homework. I’m in the second group. I’m not smart, I just think a lot.

This leads to deep convictions. I know I’m not always right, but I’m typically more confident than most that what I’m talking about is correct.

Sounds arrogant. I know. That’s not my heart. When I’m unsure of stuff, I try to give it an appropriate “I could be wrong…” but I don’t do a great job of this. #WorkingOnIt

Perfect Storm Factor #2: To make communication matters worse, I get real comfortable really quick. I somehow lost the basic human social skill that says, “take your time to get to know people.*”  No one has ever accused me of being a diplomat.

As an aside: I love diplomats. Some of my best friends are diplomats. I envy their patience and self-control and have learned to follow their example. (Although, based on this post, it may not sound like it! HA!!).

Perfect Storm Factor #3: The final factor of this relational conflict causing “perfect storm” is that I really like to be understood by others–especially people I respect. When I feel like I’m misunderstood, I typically (over?) confidently (over?) share. I never wonder why my closest friends get worn out sometimes.

Anyhow, I could have cut everything before this sentence and had a perfectly good teaching. Such is (my) life.

The discernment of when to speak and when to keep quiet is a difficult for just about everyone. From what I’ve observed**, most of us speak too much or too little. Thankfully, we have God’s Word to guide us:

Proverbs 26:4-5
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

For many years, I saw little practical wisdom in this scripture beyond, “Sometimes you need to speak up, sometimes you don’t.” I was fine with that, and it did little to slow down my speaking up.

Years later I discovered / received from God a*** clue for discernment: do not speak up when you will be like the fool, speak up when you can show the fool his (or her) foolishness.

Since then, I’ve been a lot more quiet. Many fools are confidently convinced of their own wisdom…and if I try to do anything about it, I’ll be a fool myself. In these situations, it’s my job to work harder to earn the right to be heard.

So here is my prayer:

Lord, Help me to correct every fool who will listen, to be a silent servant of those who won’t.

Lord, Help me not be wise in my own eyes so that I can hear the answers to my own foolishness.

 

*Originally, this line was, “work hard for people to like you” … but that sounds so dismissive/condescending of people whom I’d label diplomats.

**This is one of those phrases I use to try and soften the “strength” of my opinion / conviction…did it work? Did this footnote kill that?

***typically, I’d write “the clue” rather than “a clue” … because for me personally, it was a definitive clue.

THIRST, day 30

Scripture: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Prayer: Lord, although there are many worthless things in this world that fight for my attention, you are the one true God, help me to love you with every ounce of who I am.

Reflection: Loving God above all other things is the only way to discover the life that he has created us to live. Watch closely for the things that battle for our attention and affection.


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THIRST, day 29

Scripture: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Prayer: God, thank you for your blessings, help me to love you more than your gifts.

Reflection: A measure of spiritual maturity is rightly ordered priorities. Often, we don’t love the wrong things, we simply love the right things too much.


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THIRST, day 28

Scripture: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank for the many times you have been faithful to me in the past. Help me to see the new things you are doing in my life.

Reflection: Let us not be so caught up in the moment or hung up on the past that we are not ready for the new things God is doing in our lives.


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THIRST, day 27

Scripture: It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. (Proverbs 19:2)

Prayer: God, increase my passion for you, deepen my understanding. Forgive me for the times I go my own way because I haven’t taken the time to seek your wisdom.

Reflection: It is a great thing to be excited about God! Over everything else, we ought to be most excited about him. There is no substitute for wisdom, excitement isn’t enough to life the Christian life. We need to add discernment to our good intentions or we will miss the way that God has set before us.


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