There have only been two major “epiphany” moments in my life – two times when I have literally been stopped in my tracks and have had to re-evaluate the way I think and behave and the consequences of those thoughts and behavior.
An epiphany is “any moment of great or sudden revelation” and a while back I had my third epiphany moment!
I struggle with the concept of grace: ‘the free and unmerited favour of God shown towards man’. I also struggle with the concept of unconditional love. The fact that there is no limitation on God’s love for us and that there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more or less.
In the back of my mind I always have this little voice saying ‘who do you think you are to believe that God, the maker and ruler of the universe, would be interested in you?”
As I grow older and my relationship with God develops the little voice has grown fainter but every now and again when I lose self-control and allow the uglier side of my nature to emerge it shouts out “you are such a failure, so worthless!”
I identify so much with the sentiment expressed by Michel de Montaigne, a French philosopher who lived in the 16th century when he said:
“I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than myself”.
Well, my third epiphany occurred one morning when I read the following words:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (Psalm 43:5)
Is there ever any reason to be downcast? Actually, there are two reasons, but only two. If we were still unbelievers, we would have a reason to be downcast; or if we have been converted but continue to live in sin, we are downcast as a consequence.
Except for these two conditions, there is never a reason to be downcast, for everything else may be brought to God “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6). And through all our times of need, difficulty and trials, we may exercise faith in the power and love of God.”
(Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman)
The truth in these words struck me forcefully. It is when I feel like a sinner that my soul is downcast. When I know that I am thinking or behaving in a way that does not please God my spirit withers inside me. When I go against God’s dictate of “love one another” and insist on getting my own way or feel superior to someone or judge someone my soul becomes downcast.
During very difficult and trying times in my life I have known God’s peace and His comfort, the peace “which transcends all understanding” and my soul has not been downcast – my soul has been comforted by His words as I have prayed to Him.
My soul is only downcast when I sin. It is entirely my responsibility and my choice to have a downcast soul. As soon as we let go of that habit or behaviour which we know is wrong for us and hand it to God and put our hope in God we will find peace and joy again for our souls.
The problem with that, however, is the fact that it is just so much easier to carry on behaving the way we always have (never mind the consequences!). To change requires a lot of energy and effort but if we persevere we can be confident that “He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion”.
Good habits result from resisting temptation. —Ancient Proverb
The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. —Samuel Johnson