All of us have some things about ourselves that we would change if we could. A facial feature, a body type, a personality trait, personal history: there are just some things about ourselves that we don’t like. At one level these personal dislikes are a good thing. When we don’t like something and we have some power to change it, we are motivated to be better and do better. Our weaknesses need to be strengthened, our sins need to be corrected, and our immaturity needs to morph into maturity. There is such a thing as a healthy dislike and discontentment with where we are.
But we are sinners. Because we are sinners, the holy discontentment that we have can become unholy before we know it. Sin always takes what is good and perverts it. Sin twists a righteous attitude to the point that it is almost unnoticeable. Almost. The tricky thing about sin is that it is a perversion. There are some noticeable remnants of righteousness in it. If you confront a Christian over his frustrations with these things that he wishes he could change but can’t, he has just enough righteousness in the motivation to justify his attitudes. “You think I should be satisfied with the way things are? I am striving to be more holy. I am working at being more mature?” On and on he can go telling you why his attitudes are justified. Pretty soon you may even be convicted that you aren’t eaten up with such anger with yourself. Surely this is a sign of heightened spirituality.
It isn’t. I can’t tell you exactly where the line is, but there is a point at which our dislike of ourselves and/or our situation becomes sinful. When we become obsessed with things that we can’t change, seething in anger, at that point, wherever the line was, we crossed it. This isn’t holy or innocent discontentment. This is all out anger with God.
“Wait a minute. I said I’m angry with myself. I said nothing about being angry with God.” Who made you the way that you are? Who has, in his sovereignty, brought you through various life situations? Who has said he has forgiven you but you won’t accept it? Yes, you are angry with God. No matter how you cover it up with facades of caring about righteousness, your seething discontentment and anger reveal a hatred for God himself. He has not done for you what you think he ought to have done. You ought not have these body and personality features. He shouldn’t have let that happen to you. You ought to be way past this whole sin problem. You direct your anger at yourself because that’s the closest thing to God that you know. You are in his image. If you can’t get hold of him and vent your anger, then you will do the next best thing: try to destroy his image. This is nothing but taking your anger out on God.
What is the answer to this in our lives? How do we stop this cycle of hatred toward God that manifests itself in this unhealthy self-loathing? The answer is faith. This is not a trite, pre-packaged, blow-you-off answer. Really, it is the answer. You have to believe what God has said about you in Christ Jesus, accepting his judgment of you as forgiven and righteous. To remain angry with yourself all the time is, at its root, unbelief. It is saying that your standard of righteousness is higher than God’s. Even more than that, it is denying that God’s wrath has been appeased toward you and that in Christ you are forgiven and righteous. Continuing to beat yourself up or live being controlled by anger over uncontrollable situations or forgiven sin is nothing less than idolatry. The answer to idolatry is repentance and faith.
From the beginning of our creation, God defined who we were. He created us and told us who we were. Faith accepts that definition and lives within it. Idolatry is letting another god tell you who you are. That other god can be yourself, another person who did something to you, or a myriad of other things. When you accept that definition as opposed to the one true and living God’s definition, you are an idolater. As an idolater you will experience death in many forms; your attitudes, your relationships, your health, et al.
What God has promised in Christ is life, abundant life. But in order to have it, you must trust what he says about you; that what is says about you is who you are. These other people and situations don’t define you. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are righteous. You are free. These people and situations don’t determine your mental state or how you relate to others. Your way of thinking and living is shaped by what God says about you.
If your loving heavenly Father has brought you through some rough waters in your life, you can trust him that it is for your good and the good of his church. Because you can rest in that, you don’t have to live life with constant regrets, envy of others, and anger. You are who God wants you to be at this time. Now, accept what he says about you in Christ and know the joy of being accepted by him.