Chronically Critical

Since coming to understand the Gospel of the Kingdom a few years ago and realizing that, indeed, Jesus died not *just* to pay the penalty for our sin but even more, to enable us to live victoriously over it, I am thankful to see how the Holy Spirit has worked in my life  in areas where I have long struggled in the flesh. Depression and anger are two particular strongholds.

One thing I hadn’t quite figured out, though, and couldn’t manage to shake was my chronically critical nature. I’m one of those “glass half full” people, and my children bear the brunt of my weakness in that area. I’m quick to jump on them for perceived inadequacies, nag about jobs left half-done, and let myself get discouraged because I wonder if they’re ever going to “get it.” And although I’ve recognized it as sin, prayed over it, meditated on Scriptures, and so on…it was still there. And I hate it. I’ve gone around the proverbial mountain: sin and repent, sin and repent. Try to change and do good for a while and then, lose it over something really silly like the girls leaving clothes all over their bedroom floor.

This morning, however, I had an interesting mediation on 1 John 5:3-4:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

I affirmed to myself what I already knew: that obedience to Jesus is a necessary part of our love/faith relationship; and that through Jesus it was indeed possible to overcome sin. In fact, it’s not even “burdensome” to do so–it should not be all that difficult. Soooo…I asked myself, why do I still struggle with a chronically critical nature and allow this weakness in my flesh to cause me to sin? Why is it, indeed, such a burden–and why have I not been able to gain freedom? I’ve been through the Spiritual Inventory, which was an amazing exercise and a most helpful first step in being free from sin. I believe that my critical nature represents a stronghold and I’ve prayed over it accordingly, but still…no victory. And I as I meditated on these verses and my own persistent failures, I gained some insight that I want to share in the form of an analogy.

Since coming to Africa, we’ve struggled with all kinds of intestinal “bugs.” We’ve been thankful for the amoebicides that have helped with water-borne critters. Most recently it’s been giardia, which is difficult because the pesky little critters go through a cyst stage and “hibernate” in your intestinal tract, where they are resistant to medicinal treatment. Thus, when they emerge from the cyst stage, you have to be quick to recognize the symptoms and re-medicate. Our neighborhood chemist has been our friend as we have worked to eradicate these little guys, and “T-Zex” (the pill of choice) has become a household name.

So recently Marc was on-mission in Kimilili and recognized some of those symptoms. However, he also had a fever, which is unusual. The local hospital’s prognosis was an intestinal infection, so they have him T-Zex for the symptoms, and another series of pills which he assumed were antibiotics. He took them faithfully for several days with no relief. Finally he called our local chemist and asked about the medicine he was taking, and discovered that it was just a fever reducer and pain reliever. Apparently the doctors were unaware that in the event of infection, an antibiotic is necessary, to attack not just the symptoms but the root cause.

This series of recent events oddly came to my mind as I was meditating on 1 John 5. I realized that in the matter of my “chronically critical” nature, I’ve been attacking symptoms and trying to make the problem better (with some progress and change, to be sure). However, I was lacking a root cause analysis. And unless I determined the root cause, I really could not experience victory. As I prayed over it further, I realized that my critical nature (particularly with the children) was a result of unforgiveess. And THAT is what I needed to repent of, receive cleansing for, and gain freedom over. All possible through the power of Christ and what He has already accomplished!

You may ask, how does unforgiveness lead to a critical nature, which results in many temptations to sin? It’s simple, really. Children, it seems, are always doing something to offend. They find folly of all kinds, disobey, make messes when you’d rather they be clean, turn you into a servant when you just want to enjoy some free time, create noise when you have a throbbing headache or want to just make ONE phone call…and so on. Multiply that by our eight children and the imagined offenses just pile up. And instead of treating each “offense” individually and releasing it, my tendency is to hold on to it…to let things accumulate…so that eventually it’s all I can see. Instead of acknowledging the child’s love in bringing me flowers from the garden, I criticize them for leaving mud on the floor (because it seems all I do is clean up after everyone, and why is it that no one else notices the messes?) Instead of being pleased that she wants to help make juice to go with a meal, I get irritated that she’s spilled the concentrate–which is an ant fest, and of course I just washed the floor! I nag, remind, complain (then apologize/repent…and eventually repeat the cycle) because I carry the offenses in a spirit of unforgiveness. So of course, when another incident occurs (which it always does) I’m quick to view events through that critical lens and assume the worst rather than the best.

So in my quiet time this morning, I was able to identify the root cause that has been causing persistent problems in my spiritual walk and in my relationship with my children. I called sin, sin, and repented before the Lord–because ultimately, it is Him that I offend. I want to give Him my very best–not excuses for consistently falling short. And, through faith in Christ and in His finished work, I can trust that there is victory when satan is deprived of his authority in an area of stronghold.

I suppose I’d rather blog about stuff like this when I’ve experienced victory for more than one day…but, I thought it important to share while the meditations were still fresh in my mind. We all have areas where we struggle; we try and try and try and genuinely repent, but repeat the sin more times than we can count. But there IS the hope of victory, if we can simply recognize the true root cause of our failings and remove satan’s influence over those strongholds. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world!

If you have not read our free ebooks, We Still Sin, Right? and The Kingdom Expansion Series, I think you will find them a blessing as you seek to glorify God and grow in Him. You can get either one of those on our site here or at our East Africa missions site,