“What’s really going on here?!” Maybe you’ve wondered that when your child was bawling or clamming up, and you couldn’t get anything out of them; or your even keeled co-worker was unusually touchy; or your supervisor was more subdued than normal, but when you asked them what’s wrong you only got “It’s just a Monday”; or you were surprised to see your neighbor (who is an exceptionally friendly hostess at a local restaurant) snap at another customer for no clear reason.
The reaction was disproportional to what most people would expect in that situation. There was something deeper going on, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it. And the other person (or you) didn’t seem to want to go there.
One of the first things my instructors and mentors in counseling taught me was that whatever seems to be the problem on the surface is rarely the core problem.
Proverbs 20:5 teaches us that “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a person of understanding will draw it.”
This verse reminds me of similar statements in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”, Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked. Who can know it?”, Galatians 6:3 “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”, 2 Timothy 3:13 “while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” and other passages that remind us of how cloudy our souls can be.
The shame of our own failures keeps us from knowing ourselves accurately. The pain of others’ sins against us keep us from revisiting the scars in our souls. And any pride that we could possibly be awesome and self-sufficient keeps us from admitting there could be anything but great stuff inside. It’s no wonder so many of us have such deep, spreading cancers in our spirit: we chose to cover them instead of reveal them for God to heal them in the Body of Christ.
The deepest and most dangerous spiritual cancers are distortions in our personal core beliefs (how we think the world is) and values (how we feel that the world ought to be). Major areas in our souls simply don’t align with what God has said is True and Good because of Jesus.
Imagine the tunnel vision that can come from any of the following examples:
“Real love is impossible. If anyone knew everything about another person, they would abandon them”
“It won’t get done right unless I do it myself”
“If we do things right, God will make life easier for us…like…NOW”
“All of us are hopeless cogs in a machine of time and chance.”
“All of us are basically good and can build a wonderful world if we just try.”
When each of us can identify our most prominent core beliefs and values (and help others identify theirs), we will better understand those internal alarm systems that trigger our individual emotions of anxiety, sadness, anger and joy, and our reactions of fight or flight, freeze up or shut down, etc.. The more importantly, we will be better able to compare them to what Jesus has said and secured.
The fictional character G.I. Joe is fond of saying, “knowing is half the battle.” But God’s Word graciously reminds us that trusting and following Jesus is the whole battle. He has already won the war. But we still need His wisdom, love and strength to dig down in our souls and scoop out the false beliefs and values that don’t belong.
If He pulled the saints of Scripture out of their muck and mire, He can do the same for His people today.