We continue the conversation about those who occasionally think about what their lives might have been like had they made different choices. It’s true that if we had decided to make other choices, our lives would be different, but what most people fail to consider is that we would be the same person. A painful reality is that the reason people are not satisfied is because they are not happy with themselves. We might like the idea of changing everything around us, but what about the need to be personally transformed by the renewing of our minds? If we sincerely prayed and asked God to change who we are, we would not be fantasizing about how great things would be if we could do it all over again. We have all made mistakes, but it’s God who helps us become the person He died for us to be. If we do not have His peace and contentment in the life we have now, we would not have it in any life we could dream of.
We mentioned Solomon and his negative view of life. Vanity, in its basic sense, is considered a form of self-idolatry in which a person begins to see themselves as someone who deserves praise for the sake of their own abilities and accomplishments. If this lofty and calloused attitude is not eliminated, it can cause a delusion so powerful that it can prevent the divine grace of God from being acknowledged and accepted. Psalm 2:2-4 says, “In his arrogance, the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts about the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. In his pride, the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
Have you noticed the wealthy and wondered how they became that way and thought that if we had made wiser decisions, we would be like them? We all have. Our emotions can run wild with envy, and the enemy can whisper his condemning accusations about how we are losers and that being a failure is our own fault. We are not robots, and it’s common for all of us to dwell on missed opportunities while wondering what the future holds for us. Our nature is competitive, and we have a tendency to judge and measure what we are doing and compare it to others. These thoughts can become planted deeply within us and, if left unattended, can even change our personalities. When I say unattended, I mean they must be uprooted and not allowed to conform us into pessimists.
Envy and jealousy are usually secret sins—hostile but subtle emotions that are like parasites that quietly drain the joy out of our souls. For example, if we have dreams of being successful, but things have not turned out as we planned, this can cause a painful infection of bitterness in our souls. Especially when we see others living the abundant life we wish we had. We can wear a smile, but within our conscience, we are weighed down with depression and the seldom-acknowledged reality of unforgiveness toward ourselves.
It’s very easy to fall into the snare trap of measuring our popularity, wealth, talent, awards, education, material possessions, and family with others who already have all these things. The bottom line: we believe all these blessings will give us the respect we desperately seek. Seeing ourselves as someone who has missed the window of opportunity to achieve these dreams causes wounds and bruises in our self-confidence. Low self-esteem causes us to be apprehensive and can keep us in the shadows of frustration and sadness.
What can we do? We must realize we are being deceived by wrong thinking and not by what is going on around us. Remember, we are the caretakers of our own garden of thoughts. You are a unique individual who must take control of your emotions, or they will surely take control of you. Resist the temptation to compare who you are with what others have, or you will never break free from the agonizing prison of feeling worthless. Being excited to play with the cards you have and trusting God to transform you from the inside out is a huge first step toward being satisfied, joyful, confident, and filled with His peace. We cannot go back and change our decisions, but we can press forward and make excellent choices like this.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky, where he is an ordained Christian minister, community chaplain, and author. Read more about the Christian life and his new book about miracles, “Receiving Our Healing,” at billyhollandministries.com or email him at [email protected].