From Being a Self-Saboteur to a Sentinel

We can be our own worst enemies. We are often the saboteur of our own lives and it ends up affecting the ones we love, too.

So often, we are self-saboteurs. We want peace in our homes but snap at everyone around us. We desire close friendship but are easily offended. We want our husbands to love us, but we walk around with a contemptuous spirit.

Our mouths speak out of the abundance of the heart (Luke 6:45), as does our body language. Yet we often lack awareness of what our hearts are overflowing with until it comes tumbling out. These situations serve as opportunities to receive the Lord’s conviction of sin, offering hope for change.

What’s Inside Will Come Out

What happens when you squeeze a bottle of ketchup? Well, of course, ketchup oozes out, not coffee or perfume. We’re not surprised when ketchup comes out of the squeezed bottle.

Similarly, when circumstances squeeze us, something comes out. 

What happens when home life is chaotic because of the activity and noise? 

What comes out when a friend is slow to return your text or spends less time with you than you’d like?

What is your general attitude toward your husband? 

Whatever comes out is not from an alien or an out-of-body experience; it’s what’s inside of you

Our responses to people or circumstances aren’t anyone else’s fault. Yes, somebody may provoke us or sin against us, but James tells us,

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.”
James 1:14-15

Inordinate Desires

So often, we desire good things! We want healthy, god-fearing kids, a clean home, good friendships, and a strong marriage. Problems arise when desires are disordered or grow to excessive proportions or when we have unconfessed sin. Our heart moves from quiet to tumultuous, which doesn’t stay inside.

We allow our longings for our kids to reach a point where we feel the need to begin manipulating circumstances, or we knee-jerk react out of fear when they sin. Does the Lord desire the same things we do for our kids? Maybe, but at this point, our desires for our kids have grown more significant than our desire for God.

We allow discontentment toward our husbands to fester. We desire him to lead the home differently or more, and we wish he’d spend his time differently. It all spills out in a general attitude of contempt. Does the Lord desire these things?

While we may desire good things, we also desire sinful things. The sinful desires are often subtle, but the lusts of our flesh are strong.

If these behaviors emerge, we must learn to stop and ask, “Lord, what’s going on inside?” These moments, though sinful, are also full of God’s grace toward us because He’s revealing what’s hidden inside. He is at work!

Maybe you’ve found yourself at times, like me, groaning with Paul, “Wretched [woman] that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)

If so, I want to offer you hope.

From Saboteur to Sentinel

I love the Psalms. David was a man after God’s heart (1 Sam 13:14), but he wrestled deeply with sin. 

In Psalm 73, we get to peer in as David talks with God about his wrestle through envy and bitterness and even describes himself as “brutish and ignorant toward [God].”

Listen to one of his prayers to the Lord as he finishes recounting the wrestle:

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:24-26

I commend the entire Psalm to you because it’s a great case study regarding indwelling sin. Kris Lundgaard explains indwelling sin this way,

“The law of sin doesn’t work on us from the outside. We carry it in us. It’s not a written law, simply directing us by decree. It is inbred–working, compelling, and urging us from the shadows of our hearts. Paul calls it ‘sin living in me’ (Rom 7:17), the evil that ‘is right there with me’ (v 21), ‘another law at work in the members of my body, and ‘the law of sin at work within my members’ (v23). In verse 18 he says, ‘I know that nothing good lives within me, that is in my sinful nature.’ The law of sin is in some sense Paul.”

Just as there is no neutrality in ideas or worldviews, there is no neutrality in our desires! David had to deal with challenging circumstances and his responses to them. But He turned to the Lord and wrestled to respond rightly.

When the Lord brings to our attention the reality that our desires have gone wrong, we can, with His help, redirect, reorient, and resize them. We’re not passive or idle when we react sinfully; we have failed to employ our mind in its rightful duty of guarding. We have dwelt on the wrong things and give in when temptation arises. 

But starting now, when the Lord brings conviction, we can turn. Turn to Him. We can resolve to take every thought captive, holding it up to the light, and make it obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). It’s not an easy job, and certainly one we can’t do on our own. We need the Lord’s help! 

The next time you experience the temptation to respond sinfully to someone or something, slow down. Take inventory with the Lord. Ask Him what you want at that moment, and repent for allowing the desire to grow to an inordinate measure. Ask Him to help you to obey Him right then. 

And then move forward with gratitude and joy that His Spirit guarded you and helped you to obey right away! And then, do it again. As you do, you’re cultivating a habit of obedience that yields a harvest of righteousness and peace. You’ll find that your self-sabotaging tendencies dissipate, and the seeds of faithfulness will begin to bear fruit.  


Kelly Tarr

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