The other morning as I walked along, one of those old “if-only” thoughts popped into my mind. I used to torment myself with those a lot. I’d whine, “If only I had gone God’s way instead of mine, then I wouldn’t have hurt so many people, and I would be enjoying ‘X’ benefit that I don’t enjoy now.” Possibly true, but I can’t change what I’ve done, and there’s no longer room in my life for “if-only.”
That kind of regret focuses on me, not on Jesus. It brings no honor to God. In fact, it hints that I have hindered His power to forgive and heal. It hisses that God is somehow limited by my failure. How ugly! I’m going to my thought closet right now to yank out every one of those if-only garments that the Holy Spirit will show me. That will make room for more praise and thanksgiving and additional attractive spiritual clothing (like humility and patience).
Hebrews 12:2a “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….”
2 Corinthians 5:15 “And [Jesus] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for [Him] who died for them and was raised again.”
Ephesians 4:17, 22-24 “…[You] must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. …You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
(All Scripture quotes NIV)
People who think they have to be perfect feel driven much of the time. I speak from experience. We, in trying to reach perfection, succeed mostly at making ourselves (and likely those around us) miserable. How did I end up in this trap? For me it probably started as a desire to feel good about myself that took root in a crevice of pride and grew into striving to avoid the emotional pain of being corrected. I didn’t understand that the ache of driving myself to be always right was worse and longer-lasting than the pain of correction. I also didn’t grasp the fact that part of that hurt was caused by “all or nothing” thinking—for example, if I’m not 100% right, I’m a total failure.
Now that I recognize the problem, I asked for God’s help to break free. And He is helping. I still sometimes find myself spending my thought time on every mistake I can remember and feeling guilty for every sin (even though I’ve confessed them and received forgiveness–1 John 1:9.) So instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), I end up focusing on past failures.
One idea that helps me get off the treadmill of perfectionism is to capture the memories of mistakes and forgiven sins before they bump the thought speed control up to “race.” Then I tell myself to think of those things as just reminders that I’m not God—never have been and never will be. And really, what a relief! I’m way too small to handle His job. Any human being is.
Psalm 46:10–“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”
Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols.
(Verses are New Living Translation.)
So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I [God] am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.” –Leviticus 18:3-5 New Living Translation
Dear Father, Don’t let me live by the flesh (pursuing what I want and feel as a human). That’s “where I used to live”–in the “old” me. And let me not act like (or be conformed to) the world where I’m now dwelling. Instead let me be transformed, walking in Your ways, by letting You change the way I think. (Romans 12:2). That’s how I’ll find real life. Please help me quickly yield to and obey You as You work in my life. Amen.
Both my old “not-renewed” mind and a mind which thinks like the world tend to face life with questions like, “How can I get out of this? Who’s at fault? What will make me feel better?”
As I let Christ change the way I think day by day, I ask more questions like, “Is there a lesson I can learn? How do I allow God to grow me through this? How can I honor God in it?”
Father, thank You for continuing to work in us your children little by little so that we begin to think more like you. Amen.
Why do I waste time and emotional energy upsetting myself over things I have no control over? Instead of letting myself get irritated, frustrated, or angry, I could be meditating on God’s Word. After all, I claim that’s where my delight is (Psalm 1:2). Or I could be singing some of the church hymns and gospel songs I grew up with and love.
It’s time I set my mind on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:2). I need to think on the good things of Philippians 4:8 (whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or if there is any virtue or anything praiseworthy).
“Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not yourself — it tends only to evildoing.” Psalm 37:8 (Amplified Bible)
God has allowed these moments and days for me on this earth, and I want to use them for His glory. I can do that better if I keep my focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). Each day, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to God, my Rock and Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
By Your grace, Lord, I’ll round up all my wild thoughts, which are like mustangs allowed to roam the plains for many years past. I’ll bring them to enclose within Your fences and to be branded with Your character. You, O Lord, are God alone, but my thoughts wander from You, the living God, so often that I’ll need to lasso them one by one. Otherwise, I could never get them into Your corral at all.
You keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on You because he/she trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3, paraphrase
As I said, so few of my thoughts are centered on God that I need to corral the whole batch somehow and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. I asked the Lord for some tips on how to keep my mind stayed on Him.
I thought about Prov. 3:6—Acknowledge God in all your ways, and He will direct your paths. So this might help: When I do anything, even a small thing, I can choose to do it as unto the Lord and acknowledge Him in it. Also, my ears tend to perk up when others are conversing, so I need God’s help to close my ears to things that are none of my business. I want to be very careful in my own conversations to say only what builds up and what is beneficial. In addition, it’s important, when I listen in a situation, that I let God tune my ears to consider what would please or displease Him, and think appropriately about those things.
Now, where is that lasso?