"What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrongyou want only what will give you pleasure." (James 4:1-3) NLT
Have you ever wondered why things happen the way they do? Many people walk around frustrated about the fact that this world is so unfair. This one seems to have everything going their way while this other one can't seem to get a break. For some people, it seems that everyone is out to get them (including the IRS). It's easy to blame people around us or find twenty reasons for our mess that have nothing to do with us. Circumstances can be complex and there are often several contributing factors. This one should and that one didn't and I wish they would have. But, how much time do we spend actually looking at ourselves?
If you've been through a divorce or a breakup in the last few years, in what ways did you contribute to the demise of that relationship? You might be drawing a blank. Most of us could talk at length about the ways in which the other party helped steer us toward the cliff relationally. In fact maybe in your mind that person is completely at fault. This mindset is very easy to understand in cases of abuse, infidelity, neglect, etc. They crossed the line, you didn't; case closed. And while that may make us feel better about ourselves right now, we actually hurt ourselves long term going down that path. This doesn't just apply to romantic relationships. This same principle applies to struggles wiith friendships, relationships at work, etc.
In this passage, James is asking us to take a good hard look at the underlying reason for our circumstances and how we've contributed to it (even in a small way). In fact, he actually wants us to look deep within and understand what core issue within us causes us to act the way we act. It doesn't help us to live as if we bear no responsibility. Whatever Fred's failures were in his past relationship, he is doomed to repeat them in the next one if he doesn't look honestly and see them for what they are. Denial gets in the way of God's agenda to make you the person he desires you to be.
"So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world." (James 4:7-8) NLT
James says we need to humble ourselves before God. Another way of saying "lack of humility" is "pride", and we know pride is a sin that keeps us stuck. Pride needs repentance so we can "purify our hearts" before God. God loves us and wants us to grow, but we can't do that as long as we refuse to acknowledge our failures and our faults. When we see them for what they are, then we can take them to God and He will bring healing for our hearts. Long before Michael Jackson showed up, James asked us to start with the "man in the mirror." If you can't see clearly, go to a few people you trust and ask for wise counsel. Let them be your mirror. If you seek healing and growth rather than guilt and self condemnation then you will be on the right path. And God will come close to you as you draw near to Him.
Mike Shoemake is a former worship leader and youth minister who grew up as the son of an Army chaplain. He lives in Alpharetta, GA with his wife and son.
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