Do you get disturbing things from others that lead you to feel attacked? I mean an unexpeded critical letter, phone call or personal encounter.
A number of these kinds of messages have come my way. I don’t know how you react but my tendency is to dwell a lot on what I could have done to bring about such a negative response.
Thoughts come to me such as:
"What is wrong with me?"
"Why didn’t I see this coming?"
"Why don’t I understand people better?"
"How could I have better known ahead of time how they would take this?"
"Why didn’t I make myself clearer?"
Up to a point, these questions may have some value because everything that has happened to me is part of the "all things" that God works together for good in conforming me to the image of Christ, (Romans 8:28-29). So the negative reactions of people and the tension, anxiety, and regrets that I experience can contribute to my spiritual growth and experience of Christ as my life.
But my problem is that I tend to get stuck in this self examination. Do you as well? If so, you may be relieved to know that only twice does the Bible tell us to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28, 2 Corinthians 13:5). As Hannah Whithall Smith points out in The God of All Comfort*, in nether of these passages are we exhorted to indulge in the morbid introspection that I am tempted to get into.
The biggest problem with this is its focus. Notice the reoccurring personal pronouns in the thoughts listed above: "I" and "me". The center of attention is myself, which is just what the enemy wants: to get my attention off the Lord and onto myself, even if it is for self examination. The enemy is using the indwelling power of sin to serve up these thoughts to me which sound like my sincere efforts to correct course. But in reality when they go beyond my confession of my wrong into an absorption that takes most of my spare thinking moments, then they have become a diversion tactic. Hannah says:
"It is a fact that we see what we look at, and cannot see what we look away from; and we cannot look unto Jesus while we are looking at ourselves. The power for victory and the power for endurance are to come from looking unto Jesus and considering Him, not from looking unto and considering ourselves, or our circumstances, or our sins, or our temptations."**
Since looking at ourselves is so futile and counterproductive and since looking to Jesus is so worthwhile and productive, a good attitude to adopt would be: For every one look at self, take ten looks at Christ.
"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:2 NASB
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." - Colossians 3:1-3 NASB