As a pastor and counselor, I often notice and think about the patterns in our behaviors and relationships that sabotage our efforts to live the abundant life that God has for us. A few years back, I began reflecting on what I continually saw people going through. There seemed to be three big “epidemics” raging through our personal lives, our relationships, the church as a whole, and the surrounding culture—and they’re still going strong today.
What are the three epidemics?
- An Epidemic of Heart Disease
- An Epidemic of Renegade Emotions
- An Epidemic of Victimization
1. An Epidemic of Heart Disease
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. ~ Proverbs 13:12
When I say it is an epidemic of heart disease, I’m talking about emotionally, not physically, even though that’s probably true, too. Hope affects our physical heart, but here I’m referring to your “heart” as the center of your feelings and emotions. When we expect something from someone, or from a situation, and it doesn’t happen, we are disappointed. When a promise, real or perceived, doesn’t come through for us, we are hurt. If this happens often enough, we lose hope and stop expecting the fulfillment of our dreams and desires. Our “heart,” the place from which life flows, becomes “sick.” We stop hoping. We stop dreaming. We stop wanting things that put a bounce in our step and give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
This is a good time to reflect on the blessings in our lives. Look to see how God has been there in the past and can be relied on for the future.
2. An Epidemic of Renegade Emotions
Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. ~ Proverbs 25:28
We’re living in a time when life is more complicated than ever before. We are caught in the middle of cultural, financial, and relational challenges on every front. This has created an environment of emotional fatigue and swings of emotion that seem uncontrollable. For some that may be true. It can be harder for some than for others. There are factors that affect our ability to manage our emotions, such as physiological, brain chemistry issues, early-life experiences, and trauma. But we can all learn to monitor and manage our emotions better than we are.
“My point is that we need to accept the responsibility God has given us. Otherwise we’re giving away the authority and power, too—whether we mean to or not.”
We need to remember that God has given us the responsibility, the authority, and the power to successfully carry out the assignment of managing our emotions.
My point is that we need to accept the responsibility God has given us. Otherwise we’re giving away the authority and power, too—whether we mean to or not. The first step for many of us is recognizing that no one else can manage our emotions for us and that we need to learn how to do it for ourselves.
3. An Epidemic of Victimization
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ~ Romans 12:2
Are there times when we are victims? Yes. Are there times when we are hurt, assaulted, or betrayed by other people? Absolutely. But victimization is situational. I may be a victim in a particular situation, harmed in a particular sequence of events. That doesn’t mean “victim” is my identity. It was a temporary experience—not my permanent reality.
Why is that important? It’s important because people with a victim identity or mindset believe their problem is outside of themselves. And if we believe the source of our problem(s) is outside of ourselves, then we will feel powerless to do anything about it.
The antidote to victimization is stewardship—receiving and accepting the power that God has given us. We can’t control other people and how they act toward us, but we can manage how we respond to their treatment of us. Choice is power. In almost any situation, we have choices. Sometimes we don’t have good choices, but we always have choices, and God is there to help us make them. Are you asking for his guidance?
Learning to recognize these epidemics that can so easily cause us to get stuck and lead us to sabotage ourselves is a big step in helping us break free. Accept the responsibility, authority, and power God has given you. Grab life and steer it, drive it, pedal it, and push it toward what God wants for you.