03/07/2019 - John 4:4 ‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’
This Insight will make more sense after reading the previous one on 'Freedom' based on Galatians 5:1.
So, you’ve made the decision that enough is enough, you have done an internal reset and are choosing to believe that you do not have to live in all the negatives of anxiety, guilt or self-doubt. The experience of the clean, clear air has whetted your appetite to make that place your permanent home – and then along comes a situation, or a thought, that threatens to drag you back over the line and into the murky depths. How do we ensure that we really do establish ourselves in that new place of freedom? Let’s start with a question I was recently asked: ‘How do I know the difference between my emotions that I should be looking at and ones that I should leave the other side of that line?'
Knowing the difference When we are in the murky depths, it is so difficult to know whether the next lorry-load of guilt is something we should be unloading or whether it is an intrusion. Choosing to disconnect from those negative parts of our emotional life leads to greater clarity in deciding whether what we feel is telling us something we need to hear, or whether we should uncouple ourselves from them. If we try and make that distinction while we are living in that negative place, then everything that we feel about ourselves feeds in to trying to decipher the present situation and distorts our perspective. So, work on the basis that you are fine as you seek that understanding. When we do get things wrong, there will normally be a simplicity about it, and we can quickly hold our hands up and move on. Over time, we learn to know ourselves and to make the distinction between our negative distortions and the clear voice of the Lord through our conscience.
We must not be surprised at the sheer power of the old emotions. Our nature can produce very strong emotions in its own right. If nurture resonates with the negative side of our nature that produces a powerful mix that threatens to overwhelm. It is rather like a small piece of metal getting caught in a powerful magnetic field. It tries to escape, only to be dragged back when the electric current around the magnet increases. You just think you have broken free - and back you go.
Start by accepting that those negative emotions can be excruciatingly powerful and all-pervasive. Don’t be surprised, otherwise the ‘no smoke without fire’ thought will quickly drag you over the wrong side of the line. Remember, that negative place has been your home for years. Strangely, you feel ‘safe’ there – even though it is a horrible place to be – simply because it is so familiar. That is why it is such an instinctive reaction to go back there. Try and create a moment’s gap between the situation and the immediate plunging into guilt, and then keep widening the gap.
Remind not reprimand
You will fall flat on your face – the wrong side of the line. Now you have every reason to feel despondent. You have experienced a better way, and here you are – back to square one. In rushes guilt with his anxious and doubting cronies. ‘You’re not much of a Christian, you can’t stay five minutes in a good place’, and soon everything negative that you ever felt about yourself has taken up residence again. This self-condemnation is dangerous. This is a growth process. Better to pick yourself up a hundred times a day, taking a few wobbly steps each time, rather than spending the day on the floor!
The One who has won
Do you watch the recording of your football team on the telly when you know the result of the game? I do if I know we have won, but I wouldn’t waste my time if we lost. I don’t want to see how we lost but am more than happy to see how we won. Our verse tells us that, because we have been born of God, we have won. We are just working out what that looks like in practice. That takes the pressure off. You will sometimes get it wrong, put in a wrong tackle, even let a goal in, but you will win. He picked you to be in his team, knowing that victory is assured. You are not going to be substituted.
You might not always be enjoying the game when the going gets tough, but it is all in the context of assured victory. When the negative elements of nature and nurture conspire to drag you down to the depths, remind yourself that you always have that power of choice. And because that power of choice combines with the resurrection power of Jesus, you become unstoppable. Always remember that ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ when you come to make those daily decisions to stay the right side of the line. Then the power of a victory already won combines with your will – and the victory is played out in the detail of everyday life.