Your Problems Aren’t That Special

One subtle form of pride is the belief that our problems, or even our sins, are somehow a special case. C.S. Lewis points out the pride is essentially competitive:  “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” It is easy to see this kind of competition at work things like money, social status, and ability, but a more subtle competitiveness can take place in the kinds of stories we tell about our hardships. There can be a temptation to dramatize and amplify our afflictions so that we feel superior to others who supposedly have it so good. In a perverse way, our ego wants to “win” in the game of who’s-got-it-worse.

One problem with this is that once we form an identity out of our hardships, we don’t want to let them go. We wouldn’t know who we were anymore if we weren’t fighting some battle. Instead of transcending the world, and taking up the “light” and “easy” burden of Christ, we want to play the part of martyr, carrying the heavy load while, we imagine, the privileged masses go about their happy lives. We have all known–or maybe even been–that person who just wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t complaining about something.

Another problem with believing our problems are a special case is that we can resist reaching out and asking for help. Other people might have their little peccadillos, we say, but our sins are the real deal. They are too bad to involve others and get help.   

In reality, no one gets through life without their share of pain and temptation. Maybe it comes in different forms and in different life stages, but it is there. Speaking to this notion of special sinfulness or special hardships, the apostle Paul said “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”(1 Cor. 10:13). Rather than create an identity and life story out of these hardships, we can do the harder work of change, repentance, and faithful endurance.

 

Sheldon Lawrence is an award winning essayist and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life,” available here

 

I Went to Talk with God

” And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40

I said, “God, I’m going into that room to be alone with you.”

And he said “I will meet you there.”

But my wife was already there, tapping away at the laptop, a distraction I could overcome with a little concentration. Maybe recite a verse. I stretched on the plush carpet and settled in.

Our Father who art…

Then my daughter entered and chatted idly with her mother. It was about the school day. Who likes who. Who doesn’t know it yet. She doesn’t really like anyone, it turns out. I mean, she’s friends with boys and everything but nothing like a “boyfriend.”

Our father who art in heaven…

What about so and so, says Mom. He’s a cutey. Mom! She says. He’s your crush not mine! They laugh. Laughing is a hard distraction to overcome. But concentrate. Rest.

Hallowed be thy name… She’s growing up, this girl of mine. This girl of Thine. She’s a young woman now.

Then my oldest son comes in. Now it’s Grand Central Station. Talk of homework. Driver’s Ed is coming up. And now my daughter is irritated with his interruption. And Mom says sorry, I have a million things going on now. The room is all noise and need.

There will be no talking with you today, God, not here, not now. This family you’ve given me. You see how it is. Sometimes it’s just impossible.

 

Sheldon Lawrence is an award winning essayist and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life,” available here