Years ago a couple with two small children moved in across the street from us. I went over one day to welcome them to the neighborhood and discovered the wife was a Christian. Soon after she and her children began attending church with us.
Her husband was an alcoholic and consequently their marriage and family had suffered a good deal throughout the years. I began to share with her about standing for her marriage and she quickly embraced the fact that all was not hopeless.
Over the next year she stood faithfully and God moved powerfully. Long story short, her husband received the Lord, began attending AA meetings, went for counseling, and became a changed man. Our entire church rejoiced as we welcomed him and were so blessed to see a marriage restored. Three months later she divorced him and moved out of state with their children. He also moved away and we lost track of both of them. None of us were prepared for that outcome.
I began to realize that while her husband was trapped in alcoholism with all of its subsequent behaviors, she had looked good by contrast. Even though she, no doubt, had things the Lord wanted to work on, they were not that apparent to most people. As soon as her husband began looking and acting better, though, she needed to begin examining her own heart. Who knows what her decision-making process was, but ultimately she chose to leave the marriage and the circumstances behind.
I remember when I first began standing for our marriage. I couldn’t wait for God to begin working on my husband. Instead, the Lord made it clear to me that He was starting with me. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t in adultery. I wasn’t a liar. I wasn’t an alcoholic. Why did God want to work with me first? He quickly helped me to understand: 1) He works first with the one who is willing, 2) He wanted to deal with my self-righteousness, and 3) I had not yet learned to own my own stuff.
When we are in difficult circumstances, it is easy to blame others. Through the years we have met many perpetual victims, always blaming their circumstances on what others are doing or have done. Unfortunately it is sometimes easier to be a “blameless” victim than to face our own part in relationships and take responsibility for change.
No one particularly likes to look within and own things that are not pleasant about us. Yet there are many powerful benefits to doing so.
- It takes away condemnation. Once we have accepted what God has shown us and have admitted it is true, what can the enemy bring against us?
“When you are wrong, it is better that you agree with your adversary and settle your dispute before you have to go before a judge.” [Luke 12:58a TPT]
- It removes defensiveness and opens our heart to hearing from God. When we are no longer justifying and defending, God can freely show us how to begin healing. “God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.” [Psalm 139:23 TPT]
- It gives us compassion for the one who opposes us. When we are not preoccupied with protecting our own heart, God is free to pour His compassion through us. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” [Luke 10:33 NKJV]
- It helps us change behaviors and ways of thinking that are detrimental to our walk with the Lord. No one wants to journey through each day carrying excess baggage or dragging heavy burdens behind us. It is wearying and makes it easy to lose heart. Recognizing and letting go of those things draws us closer to the Lord. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:29-39 NKJV]
- It is a hallmark of maturity. Far too many believers who love and serve the Lord have never reached maturity because they refuse to take responsibility for their own lives. Owning our own stuff and repenting for the things that need to change in our life are important steps to maturity. “For you should already be professors instructing others by now; but instead, you need to be taught from the beginning the basics of God’s prophetic oracles! You’re like children still needing milk and not yet ready to digest solid food.” [Hebrews 5:12 TPT]
It is easy to see the other person’s problems. It is harder to look at our own. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” [Matthew 7:3 NKJV] It is especially hard to do that when we are hurting and have been treated poorly. Yet, healing and growth are rooted in taking responsibility for what is within us.
God longs to show you what is in your heart, not to hurt you more, but to free you from the hold those things have on you. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to take that journey with Him. You can trust Him to help you own your own stuff and then to show you how to change from within.