I love to praise the gallantry of “putting things in the pot” whenever we see some unChristlike thought or attitude try to spring into action through us (see previous post). Denying self means practicing “containment” of the flesh when it tries to rise up and take over. We have to stand guard to wrestle our wrong reactions into submission, usually at a moment’s notice. But you can’t leave it there!
Think of your interior like a pressure cooker: Even with the best set of clamps (your will power and the motivation to use it) and relief valves (friends to talk things over with) you can’t just keep stuffing things down inside you that happen to you! Stuff’s sure to explode on someone down the line if you do.
For peace of mind and freedom of spirit we have to learn God’s way of pulling things out of “the pot” (where we have stuffed them) and give them fully and finally to Him. This takes time and effort, but it is well worth it!
I used to make quick prayers of forgiveness when somebody hurt my feelings, but then a day later wonder why my spirit was so low. The Lord would say, “Don’t you remember what happened? You need to forgive that person.” I thought I did. “You did, but not fully enough to get free.” Oh... Episodes like this happened pretty frequently until I began investing the time and effort up front to make sure that when I prayed to release a situation, I fully released it.
It’s time to take the lid off the pot and deal with what’s in there. One of the key abilities of the grace-filled life is learning how to get to your places of “containment” before they get to you! No amount of will power, good intentions, denial of true feelings, or talking with others can keep you and me from “spilling the beans” by eventually dumping them on the person(s) who have aggravated, annoyed or offended us–or dumping those feelings on our self in discouragement and depression. The truth we try to suppress will ultimately come out!
This means that we need to not only master the art of acting like a Christian (by crucifying my flesh and responding to each affront or disappointment as Jesus would want us to, rather than how hurt feelings would dictate), we also have to get really good at praying like a Christian (by fully, freely and finally releasing every cause of hurt or concern to Jesus), so that we can get on with the joyful business of living like a Christian (in childlike trust and simplicity of spirit). That’s a tall order! Learning how to do it will mean that we will grow up into Christ, who is already doing these things.
For me the first step comes when I check to see the interior results of my own prayers. Let’s say that I prayed when the incident first happened to forgive an individual. I need to ask myself: Since I made those prayers, have I been living with the interior reality of a heart set free? Did those prayers I made fully release my heart? If not, I’ve got more praying to do! Can you relate to this? Essentially, I “put it in the pot” (of contained emotional response) and talked it over with God, but didn’t empty the pot!
As I take the lid off to see what’s really in there, I have to let the Holy Spirit stir me on the inside to get the job done—so that I can get my peace and joy back. This is hard work! I have learned that I simply cannot pray over things lightly and get the deep gunk out of my pot. It takes a lot of spiritual “elbow grease”—and the scouring power of God’s ultimate cleanser: His Words of truth. Then, by carrying captive to Christ the stuff in me that didn’t come from Him, He sets me free.
That freedom is always worth the effort!
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV
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