Dealing With Failure- Galatians 6:1

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

COMMENTARY

If a man be overtaken in a fault, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness
I spoke yesterday of how self-correction can be an act of love and protection, where I endeavor to preserve my delicate and spiritual nature from the more callous and worldly part of me. However I have also learned that rushing to the defense of the spiritual does not mean that I must become harsh with the flesh. When one shouts at oneself, one tends to shout at all of oneself, both the offender and the offended.
Yes, the flesh does need to be subdued and bridled. And yes, when I stand between it and the spirit, I must be firm and direct. But as this verse suggests, I can also have a spirit of meekness and compassion during that stance.
This might seem like a contradiction of terms, but it makes sense when I remember the times I have corrected my own children from a healthy, grounded state. A good parent will firmly enforce rules and boundaries to a child, but in the same moment will hold them, express love, and patiently explain the reasons for the rule.
Because in the end, my worldly, misbehaving self often feels like a small child himself. A young, naïve boy who is trying to get what he wants by misguided means. He is a manipulative boy, even a bully of a boy, but rather than be hated for it, he just needs someone to instruct and correct him. Firmly and directly, but also compassionately.

Dealing With Failure- Psalm 82:3-4, Matthew 18:10

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

COMMENTARY

Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones
Obviously these verses have an obvious literal interpretation, to protect and defend the helpless and the young. But also, as I considered the topic of this study, I thought of a figurative interpretation for them also.
The fact is, when I do something that I know is wrong, something that causes harm to my heart, I have a sense like that of a child crying inside. There is a youthful and needy soul within me, delicate and sensitive, and it has to be protected.
Indeed, every wrong action is an act of self-harm in some way, for we are fundamentally composed of a divine spirit, that cannot help but be wounded at the presence of vice. Self-correction, therefore, ought to be considered act of self-protecting love.

Dealing With Failure- Mosiah 4:27, Isaiah 28:10

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

COMMENTARY

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order
It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength
Line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little
I greatly appreciate the pragmatism in these verses. There is sincerely committing to improving ourselves one step at a time, and there is overextending ourselves with unrealistic promises.
When we start to feel the reality of God manifesting in us it is a very exciting experience, and we can easily get carried away with all the good things we intend to do. In a moment of rapture we might very well promise God everything. We will be His perfect, faithful child now, never to stray again. And in that moment we fully believe we can deliver on such a promise. To be fair, if we were to maintain that same state of rapture forever, we probably really could keep that promise, too!
But we don’t…and we don’t.
No, after each spiritual awakening there follows an awakening back to the old us. And it is that old us that needs to be changed. And that change is not accomplished by demanding perfection at once, but by line upon line. Yes, demand change of yourself, but also be practical about it!

Dealing With Failure- Psalm 51:1-3, 6-7, 1 Peter 5:6

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

COMMENTARY

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions
I am continuing to examine the need to surrender my shame and burdens to God. Rather than always trying to make myself be better, I ought to let Him make me better.
But how do I do that? What are the steps to surrendering? What are the words that I must say to better invite God into my life?
I started asking myself these questions before I realized that I was making the exact same mistake as before! I was looking for some specific quota to fill that would bring God into my life. I wanted to be told “say these special words, pray this many times, help this many people.” And at its core this was all about having my healing be in my own power again. God will save me, just as soon as I earn His saving.
And as before, that’s just not how it works. As the psalm quoted above explains, it is according to His lovingkindness, and it is according to His mercies. It has to be His way, done on His own terms, and in His own due time. His will, not ours.

Humble yourselves under the hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time
The only formula that I should maintain is to try my genuine best, keep an open heart, hold out hope, trust that He will come, invite Him with sincerity, and be totally honest with Him and myself.
After all that, at what point along that journey will He show up? I have no clue.
When will He decide that I’m ready for His grace? Totally up to Him.
How and when will He heal my heart? Not for me to say.
I just trust that in His own time, in His own way, and by His own criteria…He will be there.

Dealing With Failure- Daniel 9:4-6, 10-11

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

COMMENTARY

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession
I have just considered how I can respond to my daily failures by surrendering to God and inviting His strength instead of relying on my own. And like Daniel I have found that one of the first steps to doing that is to make a full and honest confession to Him.
Yes, He already knows everything that has transpired. He know perfectly well how I have failed and let myself down. But still taking the time to recall it has had a very purifying effect on me. It feels like taking it out and laying it all on the altar before Him. Anything I’m not ready to put out there He isn’t going to be able to heal.

We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled
Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets
Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws
Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law

And now consider the wonderful example of specificity in Daniel’s prayer. He does not merely say “we sinned, forgive us,” he calls out that they rebelled against God…and did not listen to his prophets…and broke Gods laws. Israel needs reconciliation for all of these parts, not just one, and so he elaborates them all.
And so I have tried to be very thorough in my confession to God as well. And honestly, sometimes that has meant saying “this is what I did God…and to tell you the truth, I don’t feel as heartbroken about it as I think I should. I’m sorry, I just don’t….So could you help me to feel more? I think that’s what I really need right now.” A prayer as honest as that is far more likely to be answered!

Dealing With Failure- Isaiah 53:10, Psalm 55:22

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved

COMMENTARY

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed
If you’re like me, you struggled to accept the notion of God’s forgiveness being free. I wanted to pay Him back for the things I had done wrong, overcome my addictions by my own pure grit, and earn my place in salvation. After I failed to do this many times over, I finally humbled myself, and let Him win the victory for me. At long last I felt clean again.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee
And if you’re like me, once you were washed clean you went straight back to believing it was only up to you to keep yourself clean. I had accepted that I had to rely on God for the “big” stuff (forgiving serious sins and healing very deep wounds), but I was still on the hook for the “smaller” stuff (day-to-day obedience and managing stress).
But this verse in Psalms simply says to “cast thy burdens upon the Lord,” with no qualifier for only the ones of a sufficient size. Slowly I’ve been realizing that God wants me to surrender the “small” stuff too.
And I need to. Because when I rely on myself I fail at the “small” stuff all the time. I try to grip tighter and tighter, but still slip, and wonder why I can’t make myself do it right. And you know what? I don’t think that’s a question I really have to answer right now. I think right now I just need to accept the fact of it and surrender it to God.
I need to say “I really can’t make myself do it right. Simple as it seems…it’s beyond me. So I’ll stop trying to do it alone, and open up my heart to you, God, instead. Will You please come inside and win this battle for me? I will let it be Your victory now, not mine.”

Dealing With Failure- Personal Example #3

I am sure Satan is pleased when I do not commit to improve myself and instead accept complacency. But I also believe that he is pleased when I do make promises, but they are ones I cannot keep.

So many times I have tried to commit myself to perfection–“I will never do this thing again”–and so many times I have failed. Then I have said to myself “okay, so apparently last time wasn’t the last time…but this one has to be! So this time I’ll just have to screw up more moral resolve than before. I just have to grit my teeth and draw up more spiritual energy than last time to make this the most excellent commitment I can, one that would carry through forever!”

But then…I have slipped again. And what did I think then? Well, clearly I had to somehow find another great well of spiritual resolve within me, one even greater than the “even greater” last on…or else I obviously wouldn’t have a chance of succeeding this time either.

Over and over this pattern continued until I was all dried up. I simply could not find any more “even greater” wells of spiritual resolve. I couldn’t keep outperforming myself endlessly. So I became disheartened. I didn’t believe myself and the promises I made. It seemed that the best pledge I could come up with was meaningless, and I began to believe that I simply couldn’t improve. Other people could, but I couldn’t. I was stuck.

And I remained stuck until I was until I realized there was a better way. God interrupted my spiral to show me there was an “even greatest” well that I could be making use of. One that wouldn’t ever fail me.

Personal Commitment: Month 6

October’s Review

My goal for this last month was to address my physical health and to rebuild my approach towards food. Specifically I committed to:

  1. Be open with others about my efforts to change
  2. Examine why I cope with stress through unhealthy eating
  3. Define what behaviors ought to be considered a “slip” in my recovery
  4. Strive to eat consciously and healthily, according to what my body genuinely needs

How I did with each of these is a mixed bag.

For #1 I spoke to my wife about my efforts…and that’s about it.

For #2 I didn’t really do anything. I guess I’ve at least I paid attention to myself, and am now fully convinced that I really do use eating as a coping mechanism! I was able to call out multiple moments where I was doing just that. I am therefore certain that this habit is primarily emotionally driven, but as for how and why I began this pattern remains a mystery.

#3 I actually did very well on. I accomplished this step early in the month, and the list that came out of it has been a real help for evaluating each day.

As for #4…well…I began each day with good intentions, but I finished many with “never mind about today, I’ll try again tomorrow.”

One of the main issues I see here is that I am not devastated about my slip-ups until some time after they occur. When that extra slice of cake is calling to me I find it very easy to say “so what? This may not be healthy, but it doesn’t hurt anybody.” Only later, when I look myself in the mirror, do I confess that yes, it actually does.

November’s Commitment)

I have one other takeaway from October’s efforts. I felt very distinctly that the addict-self was tightening his hold. He felt his domain challenged, and there followed a rush of rebellion within me, an insistence that I must not surrender a behavior that has long been a security blanket.

From prior addiction recovery I understand that the way forward is not to get mean and go to war with that scared part. That part of me is undoubtedly misguided, but probably has very good reasons for believing what it believes. That part therefore requires guidance, not harshness.

And so November’s commitment is twofold.

First, I will dedicate my next topic of study to “how a Christian disciple is meant to reason with and persuade the wayward soul.” Whether that wanderer be a family member, a stranger, or a part of the inner heart, we all need to know the Christ-like way to help a lost sheep.

And secondly, I commit to carrying out the lesson from that study with my food-addict self. I will dedicate some time each week to getting to know him, understanding his story, validating his concerns, gaining his trust, and gently guiding him back to the light. Basically a more enhanced version of step #2 from last month’s commitments.

I really don’t know what I will learn from that part of me, nor do I know what I will say in response to his concerns. But I take comfort in the knowledge that I don’t have to know now. For now I just need to listen, and then let Him direct me accordingly.

Thank you.

Dealing With Failure- Proverbs 3:5, 1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 2:5

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

COMMENTARY

Lean not unto thine own understanding
The weakness of God is stronger than men
Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God
I have previously spoken of how I have sometimes been too hard on myself when I slip, and as I’ve considered that negative self-talk, I’ve realized that it is a misguided attempt to control my behavior through fear. I am trying to force myself to be better via the tools of shame and embarrassment.
And this is me relying on my own strength, trying to control things according to my own power. In this effort I am utilizing the same forms of coercion that mankind has relied on through all of history to get what they want. Fear and shame are techniques that we continue to fall back on even though they are hugely ineffective. Techniques that we use as a substitute for genuine power and confidence.
But as these verses suggest, there is a better way. There is another source of strength that each of us has access to, one that is greater than any mortal strength. So now the question is, how do we stop relying on our own power to improve ourselves, and utilize God’s instead?

Dealing With Failure- Matthew 26:41

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

COMMENTARY

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
If you’re like me, then this verse alone can describe the majority of your self-disappointments. It isn’t a question of not knowing what is right , or not wanting to do what is right, or not striving to do what is right. It’s simply that while part of me yearns for what is right, another part would rather be lazy, or sensually satisfied, or just revert back to what it already knows.
And I feel it is important to understand and acknowledge both sides of this. When I went to addiction recovery, I already hated my sinful cravings and I didn’t need to be taught to just hate them more. What I did need was to appreciate that I was already fundamentally good in my core desires, and now needed to learn to master the flesh.
And this was why my recovery program stressed the importance of making–and keeping–daily commitments. Even little things that were entirely unrelated to the addiction, such as brushing my teeth for a full two minutes or being to work on time. Because little by little I had to teach myself how to follow through and just do the things I already wanted to do. At last my flesh wasn’t overrunning my naturally good soul.