God designed men and women differently and I am grateful for that. And though I am not out to stereotype us guys, there are certain tendencies that I see in us that are generally true.
For example, I tend to see a problem and want to fix it. And I have had to learn some awkward lessons with my wife when she tells me something that is going on and I immediately jump in with three potential solutions, all of which will remedy the trouble at hand. The real issue, though, was that my wife just needed someone to listen to her. Oops. Read that one wrong. I have learned some helpful lessons from that.
Our culture has got it wrong
Our western mindset is constantly pushing us as guys to “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps.” What the heck does that even mean? As a guy, if there is a problem, I want to fix it. If some effort did not do the job, more effort should certainly do it. More strength, more effort, trying harder, doing better. You know, using my “tools.” I see this attitude in me and I see it in a lot of guys as well.
Unfortunately, I tend to apply this mindset to how I generate change in my life.
Snapping at my wife? “Sorry babe, I will do better next time.”
Lustful thought? “Apologies, God, I’ll try more to have pure thoughts.”
Passive attitude? “I just need a kick in the butt and do better.”
It is so ingrained in me at times that I do not even notice it until after the fact. But this mindset is the very reason we guys struggle with change – we utilize unbiblical solutions that simply do not work though we try them again and again and again.
Are you struggling with an area of change in your own life? Be careful, because too often our own poor view of God translates into poor responses and change can seem impossible. And so we start to get an attitude with God of disillusionment, anger, bitterness, despair, or simply not caring.
So what is the better way?
So can I offer you an insight that might be of help?
It all starts with understanding a metaphor Jesus gave to His disciples in John 15:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (verses 4-11)
The term to focus on is “abide.” John Piper defines abiding as living out all that God is for us in Jesus. And Jesus makes reference to this connectedness using love and joy. “Abide in my love,” Jesus commands in verse 9 and “abide in the fullness of my joy,” Jesus concludes in verse 11.
So how does this relate to the difficulty that I have related to change in my life? I can read the commands of Jesus and read His command to abide in His love. “Wow, tall task.” I think. And having the mindset of fixing problems by exerting more effort, I look in my “toolbox” and jump to the conclusion that my love is going to look like Jesus’ love by doing something with my love to make it look like Jesus. That by trying harder to produce better “Jesus love,” I am somehow going to end up being pleasing to God and see an authentic change in my life.
Two words come to mind from my own life: Epic. Fail.
Do you see, guys? This mentality is the problem and will continue to produce frustration and despair in your life.
The key is in the source
What Jesus is actually saying in John 15 is this:
“Antone, by staying connected to me as the vine, I am actually going to put my love within you, to love the very same things that I love, with the very same love I have. Not only that, I am also going to put my joy within you, to enjoy the very same things that I enjoy, with the very same joy I have.”
Do you get the difference? Because it is massive. God does not desire to change my love for my wife by having me be more focused on loving my wife or trying harder to love her well. No! Rather, He desires to change my love by channeling through me the very love of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. His. Very. Love.
This does not take more effort from me. It simply demands the great exchange. And what is that?
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
My love for His love. My joy for His joy. My peace for His peace. You get the picture.
This is why we struggle to change, guys. Satan wants us to believe that we will never change because we just do not have what it takes. And so we get defeated. But God has a better way to change me. And it has nothing to do with my efforts.
So what is holding you back from the change God desires for you?