Next Steps

“I didn’t do it!” A little white lie, a little deflection, a small choice to blame someone else. Not a big deal, right? We all blame, whether it’s the dog that ate our homework or the sibling that broke mom’s lamp, we grow up learning to blame. But blame doesn’t stop when we grow up. We blame our unhappiness on circumstances outside our control, our broken marriage on our ex-spouse (obviously), and our general failure as adults on our less than ideal childhood. We blame. So why is it a big deal? Here are three reasons why blame is so destructive in your life:

1. Blame destroys relationships with other people. When you blame you don’t just blame bad luck, you blame a person. How do you feel when someone blames you for their issues? Do you feel closer to them? Do you say, “Man, I’d be more than happy to take responsibility for your screw ups.”? No, we say, “grow up and take responsibility for your life.”

And by the way, when you blame others, who sees through it? Everyone. No one says, “Wow, maybe it really was all my fault.” When someone blames others, everyone sees right through it. When you blame others, you’re not fooling anyone. All you’re doing is destroying good relationships around you.

2. When you blame, you stay the same. Let’s say today you’re in town and while walking through a parking lot you trip over the curb. It’s a hard fall, cuts and scrapes and bruises all over the place. In a day or two, what’s going to form over those cuts and scrapes? Scabs. Disgusting to look at, but they serve a very important purpose. They form a protective shell over the injured area, giving your body the time it needs to heal.

Now, how many of you have picked your scabs off before you were supposed to? How many of you heard from your parents or have told your kids, “Don’t pick off the scabs!”? Why? Because unless it scabs, it will never heal. As ugly as a scab is to look at, it’s necessary for the healing process.

Our mistakes, our sin, our poor choices, they’re the cuts and scrapes and bruises in your life. And the guilt, the remorse, the shame, those are the scabs, the part that exposes your inner ugliness but gives you the necessary motivation needed to repent, to change, to make things right.

So when you constantly blame others for your actions, you’re constantly shifting responsibility. You’re constantly picking off the scab before you have a chance to heal. If you constantly blame, you’ll stay the same. You’ll never get better, you’ll never fully heal. When you blame others, the person you’re ultimately hurting is yourself.

3. Blame props open the door and allows Satan free access to your life. This is why blame isn’t innocent, it’s incredibly dangerous. When you blame others, you’re lying to yourself, you’re lying to others, and you’re lying to God. When you blame you’re lying. And lying is Satan’s native language.

We all have a native language, and I’m not just talking about English. For some of you, if I started talking about video games, you would light up. Video games are your native language. If I talked about college football or sports, hunting, your kids, the Kardashians. We all have native languages. Here’s what Jesus said about Satan’s native language:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

Do you know what happens when you consistently speak Satan’s native language and allow him free access to your life? I’ll put it this way: nothing good. We’ve all seen the end result, an older adult, broken and bitter, no close relationships left, sad and alone, and they still won’t change because nothing is ever their fault. That’s the outcome when you blame.

So how do you stop the blame game? That’s the subject of my next post later this week. Stay tuned!

Please don’t waste another day falling victim to the lie that your happiness and contentment are dependent on things outside of your control. Don’t hand the keys to your happiness over to people and forces that have no business controlling you. I’m not saying that what happened to you wasn’t tragic; I’m simply saying that allowing past events and present circumstances to dictate your attitude gives them a control over you that they don’t deserve.

Happiness starts with a choice. Look at the prophet Jeremiah and the Old Testament book of Lamentations. An oft-overlooked book, Lamentations is simply a heart cry of pain by the prophet Jeremiah over the destruction of his beloved city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. In the midst of this lament, Jeremiah wears his heart on his sleeve,

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long. He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink. Lamentations 3:1-5, 13-15

That’s just a snapshot. There’s five chapters of that, five chapters of Jeremiah bringing his lament of his tragic life to God. But in the middle of the book, Jeremiah makes a key pivot, and it’s the key to happiness in the midst of overwhelming circumstances.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19-24

In the midst of his tragic circumstances, Jeremiah chose to dwell on the goodness of God. When the lies of the enemy flooded his mind with the thought that all was lost, he literally spoke the truth of God’s goodness to himself. Jeremiah had every right to be downcast, but he chose hope. He chose happiness.

No matter what situation you’re walking through, it probably doesn’t compare to the destruction of your nation and the genocide of your people. In the midst of that cataclysm, Jeremiah chose to hope in God. If he can do it, so can you. Your happiness today is a choice.

Anorexia nervosa was first diagnosed in the late 1800s as a new type of disease, one which did not lodge itself in the blood or bones but in the hidden recesses of the mind. Anorexia an eating disorder characterized by low weight, fear of gaining weight, and a strong desire to be thin, resulting in food restriction. The myth is that anorexics look in the mirror and see someone fat or overweight. Typically that’s not the case. Anorexics look in the mirror and see someone who could be just a little bit thinner. The irony is that anorexics have already attained what they’re working so hard to achieve. They’re great at losing weight, they’re just horrible about knowing when to stop.

I would make the argument today that the majority of Americans (including Christians) suffer from financial anorexia. We spend our lives trying to get rich when in reality we’re already rich. We don’t think we’re rich because we’re not a millionaire or billionaire. Our uncle is rich, our grandfather is rich, but we’re not rich (at least that’s what we think). But if you make $37,000 a year or more (which is not an eye-popping amount), you’re in the top 4% of wage earners in the entire world. That means out of the 7.6 billion people currently walking this planet, if you make more than $37,000 a year, you’re richer than 7.3 billion of them. If you’re richer than 7.3 billion other people, that makes you rich.

But we don’t see it. Other people are rich, but we don’t see ourselves as rich. Instead, like an anorexic, we look in the mirror and think “If I could just have a little more money.” We look at our perfectly good home and say, “If I could just have a little bigger home.” We look at our perfectly functional car and say, “If I could just have a little newer car.” We look at our brand new iPhone 7 and say, “If I could just have an iPhone 8.”

We suffer from financial anorexia. We’re constantly surrounded by the trappings of wealth, and yet we don’t feel wealthy. We crossed over into wealth tens of thousands of dollars ago yet we don’t feel rich. We stare at all we have and instead of being content, we say, “If I could just have a little bit more.” We suffer from financial anorexia.

Have you ever ordered something from a restaurant and they messed up the order? How did you react when you didn’t get what you expected? Did you roll over and take it or did you send it back? Are there restaurants you won’t go back to because they didn’t live up to your expectations? When our expectations aren’t met, there are real consequences.

So what do you expect out of marriage? How you answer that will go a long way to defining your success in marriage. Too often we fall victim to a cultural expectation of marriage that far exceeds anything God ever created it to be. We look to marriage to be the end all of happiness and purpose in life. We expect our spouse to be ‘the One,’ to be completely perfect, put together, to completely submit their needs and wants to ours, to assist us in the achievement of our goals, all the while filling us with the love, purpose, and fulfillment we have yet to be able to find. We expect our spouses to give us what only Christ himself can give us.

The myth about marriage is that it’s all about happiness. And if you’re not happy, if your expectations aren’t being met, if your marriage isn’t what you signed up for, then there will be an incredible temptation to hit the return button and try again with someone else.

But when you read Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:21-27, you’ll discover that Paul talks a lot more about holiness than he does about happiness. That’s because when God designed marriage, he designed it to be a lot more about holiness than happiness. If you pursue the myth that marriage is designed to make you happy, you’ll be sorely disappointed, because only Jesus can give you the deep-seated joy that you crave. And your spouse isn’t Jesus.

When you pursue marriage as a way to become holy, to learn how to submit, to sacrifice, to respect, to depend on God, you’ll gain not only a successful marriage, but along the way you’ll discover the joy and fulfillment you’ve been searching for all along.