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Stop Beating Yourself Up

If you ever beat yourself up with condemnation, join the club.

Sometimes I find it much easier to forgive others their trespasses than to forgive my own. I carry a big stick, one the likes that Negan has never seen. (If you missed the reference, that’s okay.) The only difference is that I pummel myself with it far more than anyone else. Maybe that’s a good thing, but any kind of pummeling is far from the call of Christ.

Revelation 12:10 pictures the great dragon as satan—Hebrew for “the accuser”—who accuses us before God day and night. My problem is that I don’t need any help; I accuse myself plenty before God.

Before you think I’m just down on myself, I’m not. I’m just aware of the many times I have been down on myself, and I want to change. Maybe you do, too. Here are few thoughts to help guide us:

First, the way God sees us is far more important than the way we see ourselves. In fact, we need to start changing the way we see ourselves from down below to up above. The Bible teaches that God delights in us (Psalm 41:11). He longs to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18). He desires that we turn our hearts from evil and come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). Too often, our eyesight doesn’t capture the vision of God. We see ourselves through our sin; He sees us through the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Second, God’s memory is far more important than our memory. If God “remembers [our] sins no more” (Isaiah 43:23), why do we? Why do we keep playing the same clip over and over and over in our minds? This is where we need to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Obedience to Christ includes letting go of the past and moving forward in grace. Whether that applies to your own sin or the sin of someone else, “do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18), and move on with your life.

Third, how God forgives us is far more important than how we forgive ourselves. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God is the Judge, not us. If He chooses to forgive us (which He does), why can’t we forgive ourselves? Are we greater than God that we should hold onto the past with a grip mightier than that of God’s grace? Do we not trust God’s forgiveness or His power to cast our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)?

The next time you think of yourself as “such a worm as I,” remember that in Christ you are a son or daughter of the King. When your memory exceeds the memory of God, let it go and move on. And when you beat yourself up over past mistakes, put your club down and receive God’s forgiveness. Following Jesus requires us to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15) and that includes forgiving ourselves.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

What We Can Learn from Zebras about Stress

Laura (my wife) and I were having a conversation the other day about stress, worry and anxiety. I know—sounds exciting, doesn’t it? We were trying to get to the root issue as to why people, ourselves included at times, struggle under the weight of pressure.

Why do we toss and turn at night worrying about that meeting or our finances or the safety of our kids? Why do we allow fear to grip us when we think of all the tasks we have to get done today, and we don’t even know where to begin? Why does our throat tighten and our heart rate quicken when we know we’re about to step into a difficult conversation?

Robert Sapolsky is a neuroendocrinologist and primatologist at Stanford University where he studies how stress affects animals and humans. He wrote a fascinating book called, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.

His premise is that zebras don’t get ulcers because even though they have very real threats, the stress-response episode is here and gone in seconds. But we humans self-induce stress-response episodes that go on for minutes and even hours because of our imagination.

What we share with zebras (and other mammals) is a physiological response to threats. Our bodies are flooded with hormones, especially adrenaline and cortisol. Our heart rate increases, as does our blood pressure in order to shoot more energy into our body. Thanks to the influx of cortisol, more sugar flows into our bloodstream that helps our brains think under pressure. When we feel threatened, our bodies also shut down other functions temporarily such as our digestive and reproductive systems. All of this happens so that in a moment of real threat, our bodies are “in the zone,” focused and ready for a fight-or-flight response.

But unlike zebras, our minds have a hard time distinguishing between real threats and imagined threats. Zebras don’t lie awake at night imagining a lion attacking tomorrow morning. Their brains and bodies relax and move into a normal range of function. But then when a real threat does occur—a lion jumps out from behind a bush—zebras immediately shift into a stress response. Once the threat is over (and assuming they weren’t eaten by the lion), they just as quickly shift back into normal-function mode.

We’re the only creatures on God’s green earth who are capable of feeling threated all the time. We can imagine a threat, and just based on our imagination, our brains and bodies can jump into a stress-response mode leading to panic attacks, increased heart rate, and even irrational behavior.

If you’ve ever “been-there-done-that,” here are few suggestions. First, understand what is happening. Is the threat real or imagined? If a car is coming toward you in your lane, the threat is real, and you need to react. But if you are only imagining a car coming toward you in your lane, the current threat is not real, and you can let your brain and body relax.

Second, for that to occur, however, you need to be able to stop, count to ten, and pray. Develop disciplines or practices that help you “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Third, don’t try to go through this alone. Jesus teaches us not to worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25), but sometimes we need others to help us learn how. Seek out Christian community and counseling to give you the support and tools needed.

Isn’t it amazing how God created zebras to react with urgency to real threats but not to stay in perpetual fight-or-flight mode? Jesus says we can take our lessons from the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26). Maybe we can learn from zebras as well.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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