How Can We Actually Change Ourselves?
The following is a transcript of the video above, edited for readability.
The first thing we have to ask when we're going through a particular struggle is why am I feeling the way I'm feeling about this? Let's take the idea of anger. We often want to think about our behaviors like anger or frustration or depression, and we want to apply "all right, what do I do to get out of this?" What principles can I apply, and what process can I apply, to stop being angry, or feel better about myself? And really what you're doing there is you're only dealing with a surface issue, and so to really get to why we're struggling with something or why we're angry or why we're frustrated is to keep asking the question why?
What is it that I'm desiring that I'm not getting, that's causing me to be angry? What is it that I really need to be fulfilled that I'm not getting that's causing me to be depressed? What really is the root of my desires, and that'll usually take you to, how can you really change, because we're ultimately driven by what we want and what we desire.
And that will translate ultimately in what we do, but you can't really deal with it on the what we do level, you have to deal with it at the level of what do we really desire. And so where the gospel begins to change us is it changes what we want because then God has presented to us as something so much more desirable, so much better for us than whatever we're off chasing on the side.
So typically anger and frustration come up when that desire, that idol, that we're really after stops serving us the way we want it to, or we can't get it. And so what we find in the gospel is that God is completely satisfying. He never lets us down, and so we end up desiring him more than whatever we're chasing, and so that can eliminate frustration, that can eliminate depression. If that's really grasped, that will really eliminate a lot of anger that we experience.
Probably one of the most direct texts that help us deal with the root of our issues, the root of our anger, the root of our quarrels, and the root of our struggles, is really the first verse in chapter four of James. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and you do not have so you murder, you covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. So there we see that the reason why we struggle and why our kind of the emotional points of life, the negative emotions happen, ultimately it's not because of the things themselves that we're struggling with, it's because we're driven by what we want, by what we need, where we think we need.
And so the gospel begins to change us by changing us at the level of our desires, and the level of what we think we really need to survive. And so when the gospel really makes sense in a person's heart God becomes satisfying. When we become reconciled to the God of the universe, the one who created us to enjoy him instead of enjoying his creation so much, when we really return to who God is and his goodness for us, our desires for other things tend to diminish, and so then our quarrels tend to diminish because often we're desiring as it says here, and we cannot have. And so it's those passions and those desires for things that are not God. When those change, we change.
(Article first published April 8, 2013)
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Photo Credit: Getty Images/Bulat Silvia