What’s Beneath the Surface?

Believe Again Devotional Part 4

Scripture 

Psalm 55:10 (NLT) 

“Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders, but the real danger is wickedness within the city.”

Galatians 1:13-24 (NIV)

“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[a] and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.”

Devotional Thought

When was the last time you had a headache or another type of pain in your body that prevented you from the normal activities of your life?  It is hard to think about anything else, until you experience relief. 

I have had headaches for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I could hear other kids playing outside in the middle of the day, while I remained under the covers of my bed. In college, they would flare up during exams. I made changes that decreased their frequency, but the migraines never completely went away.

As I gained more responsibilities in my church job, the regularity and intensity of my migraines increased. Sometimes in meetings, I would start to see flashes then spots. I would feel lightheaded and nauseous. When this happened, I would abruptly cut my day short and go home. Hours would go by, as I lay in a dark room in agony until I was finally able to come out of the pain. Can you relate to stress impacted your life in a similar way?

These headaches became such an issue that my doctor ordered a CAT scan. Soon, I was back in the doctor’s office looking at images of something beneath the sufance that no one could see from the outside. There was a mass resting between my brain and the tip of my spine. It was an arachnoid cyst. We didn’t know if this was causing my frequent headaches—or what it meant for our future.

The cyst had apparently been there most of my life. It had grown with me through my parent’s divorce, through rejection as a teenager, and even abuse. It was there when I first became a leader in my youth group, as well as when I eventually joined the church staff. 

Allowing myself to fall into a religious routine that created unhealthy amounts of stress in my life did not appear out of anywhere either. I started leading in my church because I loved God and loved what he loved—people. Fifteen years later, I had become a Pharisee, legalist, and avoider of grace. While I was once full of compassion and excitement, over time, I had become judgmental and overbearing. This negatively impacted not only my own life but also those around me. I had no grace for myself, and therefore, none to give anyone else.

There are many things in our lives that appear to be the problem but are really only symptoms of the real issue. My headaches were the symptoms of something going on underneath the surface. The same was true for my overly religious perspective that led to burnout. I had to address the root in my soul if I was going to change the fruit in my life.

Reflection

Have you experience the frustration of a health, emotional, or spiritual issue that you hoped would get better, but only got worse as time went on? What happened?

How does Psalm 55:10 reflect how we can sometimes fail to resolve the issues of our lives?

What issue is just beneath the surface of your daily life that needs to be addressed? This is most likely that one issue connected to fear, shame, or doubt that you will hope that will go away by avoiding it, but continues to resurface.

Can you do the right things for the wrong reasons? Is this something you have ever done? 

Do you sometimes find it hard to say, “No,” even if it is something that can conflict with your priorities? I find this to be especially true for me when it is a good thing that conflicts with the best things. What about you?

How would you know if you have begun to become proud and judgmental instead of humble and grace-filled? What are some warning signs you should be aware of that would point to the need to change?

In Paul’s testimony given to us in Galatians 1:13-24 we see how it was his zeal for God that lead him to do the wrong thing. He needed to believe again in order for God to redirect his passion for the wright thing. Have you had a “believe again” experience after coming to faith and realizing your faith needed a perspective shift? 

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