‘I really don’t know what’s wrong with me,’ said forty-two-year-old Tyrone to his counselor. ‘I’ve attained many of my personal and business goals. But I’m still breeding ulcers, trying to climb up the ladder. With all my success, I’m still bummed when someone else beats me to a big sale or a new account. I have a wonderful wife and two great kids, but I kind of feel like an outsider when I’m with them. I’m often around people and have lots of friends. But I don’t enjoy it, and I don’t think they’re really enjoying me. I’m afraid my dark moods are distancing me from the ones I love. But I don’t know what to do about it.’
Tyrone looks and acts like the American Dream personified. By all outward appearances he’s succeeded in the areas of life that really matter in our society: family, friends, career, and finance. But like so many men, Tyrone’s warm smile and confident exterior mask a deep sadness and uncertainty. He often wonders what’s really worthwhile in life. Despite all the trophies he’s accumulated indicating he’s a winner, he always feels defeated.
Can you relate to Tyrone? The pursuit of the American Dream has left many feeling alone and angry, because prosperity can’t be measured by money or even family. Who does the Bible teach is prosperous or blessed? Only when you seek to find joy in your Creator and not in His creation, will your soul begin to find significance and true happiness. Stop and assess where you seek your joy.
What sorts of things find their way into your heart and mind? If you’re exposing yourself to a constant barrage of ungodly words, music, or images, you’re not taking full responsibility for your life. On the other hand, you can fill your heart and mind with words, music and images not contrary to God’s Word. When you do this, you’ll create a natural defense against some of the evil messages the world so frequently sends your way.
The writer of Psalm 119 declared, ‘I have tried my best to find you’don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you’. Now, ‘hiding’ God’s Word in your heart essentially means memorizing and meditating on passages of Scripture. God uses his Word’the Bible’to speak to you and show you how to live.
You’ve been given the responsibility to guard your heart and to keep track of the things you hide inside it. So, what’s in your heart? Anger? Lust? Inappropriate images from the web? Are you harboring bitterness? Greed? Are you envious of others? If you’re struggling with these things maybe it’s because you have more of the world’s so-called wisdom in your heart than the true wisdom of God.
Are you having a hard time finding God and following his commands? Try hiding God’s word in your heart. It will help you guard against those things that hurt you and displease God.
Most Americans admire those who practice ‘rugged individualism.’ But in our emphasis on individual freedom, we often lose sight of our corporate responsibility. As Christians, we’re individuals but we’re also part of a people. We’re called to benefit from the work of others, to suffer with others, and to bear responsibility with others. This may not seem fair, but it’s a fact.
You see, our ties reach all the way back to Adam and Eve. We need to be saved because, as it says in the book of Romans, ‘Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone.’ But Roman’s goes on to say that this very principle of corporate connectedness makes salvation possible through our unity with Christ, for ‘Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life’.
When the Israelites returned from their exile, they realized how both they and their ancestors had failed God’s commands, and they were overcome with grief. In that repentant grief, however, they heard the good news of grace, and this revived and renewed their love for God and their desire to obey him.
Ask God to bring to mind any sins or wrongdoings you, or even your family, has committed so you may confess and let go of them. It’s a powerful exercise, but seeing God’s mercy over all your sin can be one of the most liberating experiences ever.