I’d like to start this blog with some quotes from one of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. By themselves they contain true doctrines with many possible applications.

“Expectations is the place you go to before you get to where you’re going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not.”

“Help you! You must help yourself,” the Watch Dog replied, carefully winding himself with his left leg. “I suppose you know why you got stuck.”

“I guess I wasn’t thinking,” said Milo.

“PRECISELY,” shouted the dog as his alarm went off again. “Now you know what you must do.”

“I’m afraid I don’t,” admitted Milo, feeling quite stupid.

“Well,” continued the watchdog impatiently, “since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect, that in order to get out, you must start thinking,” And with that he hopped into the car.

“Now will you tell me where we are?” asked Tock [the Watch Dog] as he looked around the desolate island.

“To be sure,” said Canby; “you’re on the Island of Conclusions. Make yourself at home. You’re apt to be here for some time.”

“But how did we get here?” asked Milo, who was still a bit puzzled by being there at all.

“You jumped, of course,” explained Canby. “That’s the way most everyone gets here. It’s really quite simple: every time you decide something without having a good reason, you jump to Conclusions whether you like it or not. It’s such an easy trip to make that I’ve been here hundreds of times.”

“But this is such an unpleasant-looking place,” Milo remarked.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Canby; “it does look much better from a distance.”

“Well, I’m going to jump right back,” announced the Humbug, who took two or three practice bends, leaped as far as he could, and landed in a heap two feet away.

“That won’t do at all,” scolded Canby, helping him to his feet. “You can never jump away from Conclusions. Getting back is not so easy. That’s why we’re so terribly crowded here…. The only way back is to swim, and that’s a very long and a very hard way.”

I suppose the first question is what is IL-PONDERING. Well, turns out the word ponder doesn’t have any very good antonyms. They all are basically “not thinking,” but I think il-pondering is far more about thinking you are pondering, when really you are not.

The prefix IL means: not, opposite of, without

So the peril of il-pondering is that you are actually not pondering (though you may think you are), or that you are doing the opposite of pondering which is letting others think for you; or perhaps you ponder but invalidate the process for many various reasons.

So, before we can discuss how il-pondering happens, let’s talk about the proper way to ponder.

The following steps have been compiled from a combination of three scripture references: Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3, 9:7-9; Joseph Smith-History 1:8-13.

HOW TO PONDER

  1. Set aside your self-imposed, limited expectations for what God’s answer and guidance will be and open yourself up to consider not what you expect to learn, but what God has for you to learn and understand.
  2. Establish a firm, doctrinally-based question upon which you intend to act (For help with this concept see blog post Getting Answers to Prayers: EXPEDIENCY). God can tell you anything, but He’s much more likely to reveal those things to you which pertain to “you” and which will help “you” become more like Him.
  3. Pray for guidance and then while you are waiting for it, study, research, and reason. Then, pray again for understanding and to sort through the knowledge you’ve gleaned.
  4. Do not allow yourself to be overly awed or swayed by educational credentials, claimed associations, quotes and blurbs taken out of context, etc.
  5. Live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and invite Him to testify and guide you by being an active learner. You can do this by accessing those resources God has commanded us to use to get His answers: prophetic guidance, scripture study, prayer, and other appropriate and positive influences within our lives.
  6. When you receive advice from others, get the counsel confirmed by the Holy Ghost who will tell you in BOTH your mind and your hearts, if the advice is God’s will for you.

So, how do we il-ponder? Il-pondering is skipping, reversing, ignoring, skewing, or slothfully completing any of the above steps. But, here are some statements that may help.

Il-pondering will happen IF we limit our perspective for learning and receiving answers from God to our own limited and finite expectations. We think we can imagine what God will say, but we can’t (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, if we try to put God in our box (which can’t be done), then we will sit inside that tiny box, all alone—or with others who have climbed in—and never get the knowledge we need.

Many times we il-ponder when we focus on superficial questions to which God has an answer, but because of the lack of eternal importance of the answer, or our inability to comprehend the infinite expanse of the answer, we cannot receive it. For example: it’s not that understanding how the dinosaurs and Cro-Magnon man play into the creation of Adam and Eve aren’t interesting, but the reality is that the answer won’t affect our ability to keep God’s commandments and become like Him. We can do that without knowing those things. Plus, the answer would probably be beyond our ability to grasp.

We also il-ponder when our excessive emotions of disappointment, anger, resentment, vengeance, passion, and even dumfounded-confusion drive our search. This is because what we are looking for is an immediate fix for our emotional discomfort and not the ultimate truth—which is often not immediately comfortable.

Il-pondering can happen, and frequently does, when we allow others to do our thinking for us. This happens when we set out to research an issue, problem, question, or even a doubt. In our impatience and haste, we find that other people (often on the Internet) have already done some. Then, we sit down comfortably and listen to their pondering, eat their narrative meal, accept their biased viewpoint (which certainly sounds as if they are trying to be unbiased and fair), and completely ingest their answers. This meal is especially appetizing if it agrees with our emotional feelings or uneducated conclusions. We jump to their conclusions, never having fully pondered our own. When this happens, I know of few who actually take the time to take the easily ingested pondering (done by others) and vet it through an inquiry to the Lord. They simply think they’ve found the answer and then stop. They never seek a witness from the Holy Ghost. They put up an umbrella over their heads, blocking the further light and knowledge raining down that they would have found.

We il-ponder when we jump to conclusions before having all the information (and since when did anyone have all the information, except God?). We are so prideful and selfishly convinced of our own intelligent conclusion based on minimal evidence that we harden our hearts and become incapable of receiving any other information. Messages from the Holy Ghost bounce off of our armor because we’ve decided to only soften for certain kinds of information.

We il-ponder when we study minimally, research at a glance, reason only our limited viewpoint, and fail to pray before and after for inspiration, help, and guidance.

We il-ponder when we ask God for an answer and then turn to sources He has not instituted for His answer. We turn to men for guidance instead of God’s words and ordained mouthpieces (Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38).

We il-ponder when we accept the counsel and guidance of others in our lives without vetting their guidance with our Father in Heaven. No matter how wise and wonderful advice may seem; no matter how educated or experienced another is; none is more wise and educated and experienced than God. If we get good advice and He wants us to follow it, He will tell us IF we seek His opinion.

In the scriptures we see many people deceived by il-pondering.

  • Laman and Lemuel often sought explanations from Nephi. Nephi always preached true doctrine to them. So, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Laman and Lemuel never went to the Lord to get it verified. They never got their own witness.
  • The Zoramites were notorious for not pondering for themselves. They turned to Alma and his sons for information. Alma 32 is an entire chapter in The Book of Mormon of Alma counseling the Zoramites to ponder! Try it out, plant the seed and see what happens! Alma taught.
  • Alma’s son, Corianton, succumbed to temptation because he struggled with a few critical gospel doctrines. His emotions got in his way of taking the time to ponder and get the truth. His father finally set him straight, but Corianton still had to gain his own witness.
  • Alma the Younger was an il-ponderer until his soul was at stake. Then, as he was “racked with torment” and “harrowed up by the memory of his sins” he remembered his father taught about “one, Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world” (Alma 36:17). In his internal pondering he sifted through all that he had ever heard and found hope and a testimony in Jesus Christ.
  • Zeezrom tormented Alma and Amulek with his cursory knowledge of the gospel. He tried to cross them in their words. When they were inspired by the Holy Ghost to put Zeezrom in his place, he too was tormented until he pondered what they had actually taught about Jesus Christ (Alma 11 & 15).
  • The Pharisees were the blind guides upon whom so many were so often deceived. The Pharisees were accused by Jesus Christ of being blind guides and making converts to “their version” of His religion twofold more the children of hell than they, themselves, were (Matthew 23:15).

If we continually submit to others’ versions of truth, to others’ pondering, and not doing our own, we are allowing ourselves to be led by “blind guides” and we have no personal promptings or spiritual witnesses to fall back on. And, if we are not careful, we will become their converts and not Christ’s, we will preach their gospel and not Christ’s, and we will become twofold more the children of hell, than those whom we originally followed.

We cannot receive personal revelation and guidance from God if we let others do the asking, studying, and pondering for us. If we think God is not answering us, that His promises are not being fulfilled, it may be because we are not anxiously engaged in getting our own answers from Him (Doctrine & Covenants -58:26-33).

2 Nephi 32:1-7 says:

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?

Do ye not remember that I said unto that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ

And now, I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

I am one of those people that is inherently untrusting of others’ opinions, and even more so of their facts. If someone cites a reference in their research paper, blog, or other post, I look it up. And, I’m never shocked to find out that they’ve skewed the ideal, misunderstood the point, misquoted the facts, failed to read the whole reference themselves, and “jumped to conclusions” about its interpretation. Often they steal ideas because they don’t have their own!

I’m not shocked because those who preach the most vehemently are often il-ponderers themselves.

When I cite references in this blog, I fully expect (and hope) that you (my readers) will look them up. Why? Because if you read them, for yourself, the Spirit will be able to teach you far more than my little blog could ever do. If you read the references yourselves and ponder the right questions, the Holy Ghost will do wonderful things with your minds, hearts, and your lives.

So, hopefully, if you’re reading this and you’ve been an il-ponderer, you will get moving again by thinking on your own and seeking your own witness. Or, perhaps you will swim back from the Island of Conclusions—even though it’s a long swim. Or, hopefully, you will finally get past Expectations and to the destination that God intends for you.

BT

Doctrines in this blog:

  • There is no vicarious road to replace the individual effort required to ponder, study, reason, and receive individual answers and witnesses from God through the Holy Ghost.
  • If we let others ponder for us we are likely to end up converted to, and preaching, their version of the gospel, instead of God’s version… And their version cannot spiritually sustain us.

Listen to more thoughts about IL-Pondering and Problem-Solving on this week’s podcast! Click here!

I’m going to share something that is very hard for me to share. But, it illustrates my experience with this truth better than any other.

I started writing in the year 2000. I felt inspired to start writing. It hit me like a ton of bricks. And so, I began. Primarily with fiction. I started in 2000 what would eventually turn into a 4-book fantasy series. Before finishing that and while writing many other fiction stories, I attended writers conferences. I attended writing groups. I prayed for the gift to write powerfully. I submitted my manuscripts to contests. I pitched before agents. I fasted, I prayed, I researched, I looked for writing niches. I bought every version of The Writers Market that came out for several years. I followed all the advice. I honed and polished countless query letters—trying each time for something new, unique, more honest, more catchy, more blunt, more of whatever would get someone’s attention in the writing world. All, to no avail.

I loved writing. I still love it. But, one day, I came to the conclusion that either it wasn’t God’s will for me to write, or that His plan for me would take a different road than the one I was pursuing. I found this so confusing. Because I felt so strongly the calling to write. And prior to feeling that call to write, it’s important to note that it had never before crossed my mind to try to be an author.

As a kid, I had loved the Scholastic Book Fairs. I loved books that were fun to read. But high school reading and literature nearly killed every ounce of that. I’ve since discovered class literature that isn’t painful, but evidently my high school teachers didn’t know which ones those were. What remained of my love of books and reading was reignited after graduation after taking a job at Scholastic Books. I learned to love reading again, while working there. But that was where it ended…except that from time to time my love of escaping into those fiction worlds tugged at a little part of me. I wanted to have the same impact, somehow. To impact the lives of others the way those books impacted me. But to be an author myself?

So, I knew I had been called to write. But, after nearly 15 years when doors to publication were still being closed in my face no matter what back flips I did or how much I fasted and prayed, I began to wonder where mine and God’s signals had gotten crossed.

I loved writing. I had made it an integral part of my life for over a decade and half. I had even branched into writing religious commentary. But…nothing panned out.

I loved writing. But, one night on my knees, heartbroken (for at least the 1000th time), I told the Lord that I loved Him more. That I would quit writing for Him. That I would do anything else He asked. That I would forget writing forever. Or that I would do it some other way. But that I loved Him more than my writing and I loved His way more than my own.

I can’t explain how hard that was for me. But, in that moment I knew my love for God was more than my love for writing would ever be. My love for God changed my desires, and the application of my desires. My desire to please Him and do His will was far stronger than my desire to write and to be published, because even though I loved writing, I loved Him more.

I’m still not published, officially. I have at least 16 books sitting on my hard drive and some of those sit on my shelf, my own copies, you know. Sometimes I look at them with a little twinge in my heart and some bittersweet feelings. But, most certainly not regret. I don’t regret that I’m trying to do things His way, instead of mine. Because I love Him more and my love of Him has changed my desires. I’d rather do things His way, than mine…even if that means none of those words ever see the light of day.

In the spring of 2016 one of my sisters suggested that I start a blog. My answer? No. To me blogs were journals or recipe-sharing. Some of the blogs I had seen were controversial. I didn’t want any part of that, and I didn’t see how what I could write about would have any place in that world. Then in October of 2016, sitting in General Women’s Conference, I felt prompted to start a blog. My answer to God? What?!

But, here I am…because I love Him and His way more than myself, more than my writing, and more than my way.

What We Love Should Change Us and the Way We Live Our Lives

There is another person’s story that I wish to share to communicate the power of change that love should bring into our lives. And that man’s name is Abraham. Abraham descended from “the Fathers” meaning the patriarchal line of Adam (through Shem). But his own immediate father and grandfather had turned to idolatry. So, their gospel instruction was likely poor and their priesthood authority totally inactive.

Somehow the records which had been handed down from Adam came into Abraham’s hands, and he found out that “there was greater happiness and peace and rest” available to him through God’s highest ordinances and blessings (Abraham 1:1). Note: He was already awesome. But, he found out that God had more for him. That God loved him and, let me say it again, had more in store for him! It is clear that Abraham, through his study of these records developed a love for God that changed his desires. He says:

And finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations (i.e. to enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant, Doctrine & Covenants 131), a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

Abraham 1:1

Note how Abraham was already righteous and knowledgeable. But, his love for God made him desire to be more righteous and more knowledgeable, to be even like unto Melchizedek and others of “the fathers” before him. His love for God changed him because that love changed his desires. And because of his love for God and an increase, or a change, in his desires, he became more. He entered into those covenants and made himself worthy and became ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and became a High Priest.

There are so many things in our lives that we love. But, which of those loves are powerful enough to change our desires? Which of those loves are powerful enough to motivate us to sacrifice so that we can maintain and even strengthen that love, or pass it on to others?

People who are converted to Christ usually feel so much love for God and for their new faith that they feel the desire, and find the power, to give up education, career paths, fiancés, and more to serve missions or fulfill other calls from God. Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is so affected by the love shown to him by the priest that he desires to be more than he is. Thus, he dedicates his life to showing the same love to others and to become more than he was.

If the love we have felt or the love we have for something isn’t powerful enough to change us, then that means we still love something else more. Real love (shown to us, or that we feel toward someone or something) should change us for the better. If it doesn’t, then we have to ask ourselves, “What do I love more?”

It is Possible to Love Something A Lot, but Not Enough to Change Us

Love is often developed in stages. So, even if we love something, we may not yet love it enough that it has the power to change us. And that’s okay. As long as we know what it is that we love more. If we are struggling to accomplish something in our lives or to progress or to conquer something, and we are continuing to fail at it; it may simply be that we need to keep practicing and trying. But, it may also be that our motivation, our desires, aren’t fulling supporting us. It may be that we love something else more; so much so that loving that (whatever it is) prevents us from forward and upward progression.

Maybe we love French fries more than we love the idea of losing weight. Maybe we love maintaining the idea that we are always right more than we love doing what is right, or best. Maybe we want to stop cussing but we love the idea of looking cool around certain people more than we love being right before God. I could make a very long list, but the principle is the same no matter how it is applied.

Let me give you an example. I have often heard people say to me, “I really wish I could quote scripture like you do.” And, I think that in their minds the idea of being able to do that really appeals to them. But, they haven’t yet begun assimilating scripture into their lives because there are things they love more. I don’t know what those things are, and it’s not my place to judge. But, if they really wanted to be able to quote scripture, then they must first come to love the scriptures more than they love other things. Then the desire to read and study their scriptures (because of their love for them) would naturally result in the scriptures and the words of God becoming part of their daily thought, conversation, and vocabulary.

I certainly don’t claim to be able to quote scripture at every turn. But, I do love the scriptures, the word of God. It is the greatest treasure in my life. I LOVE to read and study the scriptures. I love to go to them to find answers. I love the Spirit I feel teach me when I’m immersed in them. If that results in me often using scriptures in my daily speech and conversation, then that doesn’t make me special. It makes me a lover of God’s word.

Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son through his first wife, Sariah. Isaac, you remember was a miracle baby, born to Sariah long after she should have been able to bear children. To complicate the request further, Abraham’s own father attempted to sacrifice Abraham to idols (Abraham 1). Certainly, Abraham had some emotional and psychological baggage tied to this request from God. First, he was doing very nearly what his own idolatrous father had done to him. Second, Isaac was his birthright son; the one God had promised him, and which who had come through miraculous means. And here God was asking him to basically start all over. Then, to even make the matter more complex, Isaac himself agreed to be the sacrifice (once Abraham filled him in on what God had asked).

The only explanation for any of this was for Abraham to learn, to really learn, just how much he loved God (“Abraham needed to learn about Abraham.” Hugh B. Brown). In the end, both he and Isaac proved that they loved God more by their willingness to sacrifice and to be sacrificed. Foreshadowing, of course, the eventual atonement of Jesus Christ, of whom Isaac was a type, and God, the Father, allowing it, of whom Abraham was a type.

God and Jesus Christ loved all of us more than each other or themselves. Thus, “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son…” (John 3:16). And Christ (John 10:18) gave His life freely. He was not forced. He loved us more than Himself. He loved God more than His own life. Their love for us was witnessed in their actions.

Had either God, Jesus, Abraham, or Isaac chosen otherwise than they did, it would have been because they loved something else more. If God had loved only one of His children more than all the rest, He wouldn’t have allowed Jesus to perform the atonement. If Jesus had loved Himself more, then He would have saved Himself rather than to accept the bitter cup. What implications His love had!

Thus, we can see that love, true love, should (and can) change us. It can give us power to be something or to do something we might otherwise not do. It has the power, through the grace of God, to change our inherent desires and to aid us in becoming more. And, if we can’t find the power to do something, it may be because we love something else more.

Conclusion

What can love do? What does love do? It changes us—for better or for worse. Better, if that which we love leads us to change our desires and our actions. Worse, if that which we love leads us to hold onto destructive desires and actions, or if it doesn’t lead us to make any progress at all.

What do you love? Who loves you? What change is it creating in you? If you want to create the power to change your desires and your ability to progress, you simply have to change what it is you love.

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BT

I’m not a fan of negative titles, but in this case it is the only way to give you an idea of the point of this blog post. I call myself the Doctrine Lady because I’m all about doctrine. And doctrine is fundamental unchanging truth. So, I could call myself “the Fundamental, Unchanging Truth Lady”, but Doctrine Lady seems to be a tad bit more concise, and if I do say so: catchy.

This week my co-host Tawnee Saunders and I did a podcast titled: The Stuff We Need To Do But Struggle To Do. And in the limited experience my life can claim, I have found that the primary inhibitor of personal progression is a false belief. A false belief may also be called a limiting belief or a false doctrine. But, the everyday term is simply: a lie.

If there is something, anything, in our life that we know we need to do, but struggle to do, it is nearly always going to be because we are inhibited by a false belief, or a lie. And false beliefs and lies create fear, justification, procrastination, and other symptoms that significantly and consistently inhibit our ability to do the stuff we know we need to do.

We Know What We Need To Do

It’s very important that you take note of an important part of this topic. We are talking about things “you know you need to do.” These are things you are already aware of. Now, there may be very many things you are unaware of that you also need to do, but since you are not yet aware of those things it would be counterproductive to fret over them until you have first succeeded in accomplishing those that you already know about.

What do you know you need to do? Well, that’s entirely personal. You may know you need to repent (make a significant course change in some aspect, or many aspects of your life or behavior). You may know you need to eat better. You may know that you need to learn to control your reactions to the actions of others. You may know that you need to learn to “hold your tongue” or learn to be less sarcastic or to learn to stop insulting others—out of habit. You may know that you need to change jobs, work on your marriage, read your scriptures, pray more, do a better job at focusing on and keeping your religious covenants (or making them to begin with). You may know you need to exercise more, spend more time with your family, gossip less. You may know you need to make heart-wrenching, severe, or bittersweet but eventually positive choices in your life. But that’s the key, isn’t it? YOU KNOW what you need to do.

But We Struggle To Do It

The real puzzle in any type of lasting and positive self-progression is in figuring out the lie(s) that is keeping you from doing what you need to do.

Since I’m a religious blogger I am going to use religious examples. But make no mistake, all of life is about God and His plan for you, and so even the things you need to do that you consider temporal, regular, or outside of religion really aren’t outside of religion at all. God doesn’t offer any blessings that aren’t ultimately about propelling us closer to Him and making us more like He is. Thus, my examples may be universally applied to whatever it is you are struggling to do.

Repentance—Or the lies people believe that keep them from repenting

The world repentance has a negative connotation, and who is surprised about that? Nobody likes to be told what to do, and for certain, nobody likes to find out that the person who has been trying to tell them what to do is ultimately right. And, oftentimes we become even more reticent about making changes in the course of our lives, even turning around completely, if it means succumbing to the fact that someone else figured out it was the best way before we did. We humans have a very bad habit about thinking that we can only change if it’s our idea first. We want ownership in the eternal patent of “choosing the right.” To give in to someone else’s idea, no matter how right it may be, always seems to be sort of a concession on our part. And, it is. What we have to learn to do is to simply be happy about the concession. We have to overcome the lie that giving way to the wisdom of others, or of God, (or being wrong, or having been wrong) is worse than repenting.

There is an extreme amount of power in owning up to the fact and even learning to love the fact that there are all sorts of people who know more than you and have figured it out before you. Power? Yes. Because the great thing about humility and meekness (a willingness to give up the idea of power residing solely in us) is that it exponentially increases our power to do—everything. How? When we finally give up on the idea that the only power we can rely on is ours (which is of course a limited amount of power), we suddenly open ourselves up to other sources of power. And, if the power source you choose to open yourself up to is that of God, then you get the beautiful grace equation: you + God = nearly unlimited power.

The other equation: you + you = you, rather falls short to all other equations for power. However, you must take note of the fact that even though God knows everything and has figured it all out before you, your concession does in fact make you part of the patent equation. You do get the credit you wanted, but you don’t get it in the way that you wanted originally (which was to get the credit by yourself). Your agency (or free will) gives you credit for choosing to repent, or to do what’s right, to make major course corrections in your life by putting you in an equation of power with someone who actually has the power to make your concession powerful enough to change you fundamentally…meaning long-term. You can’t ever get the credit solely by yourself. You can’t even breathe without the light of Christ (Mosiah 2:21, John 1:9). Any progression you make is by the grace of God. But, you can get credit by adding God in.

The thing about repentance is that we can’t do it without God. And, this is the first lie that most of us are inhibited by from a very young age, that repentance is separate from God and that we can’t come unto Him until we’ve repented first. We say things to ourselves like: “Well, I’ll repent, but not until I’ve completely figured out how to change my life on my own,” or “Once I’ve changed on my own, then I’ll go to God and get myself right with Him and others…” Little do we realize that true repentance isn’t possible without God’s help. Oh sure, we can make some few little changes on our own power (which isn’t very much, you remember). But, those changes often are not sufficiently significant to alter our life’s course. They often fail after a time because the power we’ve used to make them (our power) has proven insufficient, or it has run out—we have gotten tired of carrying the weight of the change all on our own. Thus, we continue to fail. It makes it very hard for us to want to start again.

C.S. Lewis says beautifully in Mere Christianity that, more or less, only a good man can repent. And since all of us fall short of goodness (since no one is good but God, Matthew 19:17), we can’t repent unless God helps us. His goodness enables us to repent. So the longer we think that we can’t change until we’ve already changed on our own we will continue to struggle to change in the ways we know we need to.

Another lie, or limiting belief, that keeps us from repenting is the idea that it’s harder to do things God’s way than it is to do them our way. Nothing could be further from the truth, unless you were to say that God’s way is harder initially than our own way. This statement is true. God’s way is often harder initially because it requires integrity, humility, self-restraint, self-discipline, charity, gratitude, meekness, and a multitude of other godly attributes to be assimilated into our character as fast as we are able. Such virtues demand personal sacrifice and a large portion of hope and trust in God’s promises. And yet, God’s way is easier in the long run, and, more importantly, it is sustainable. This is something many people can’t comprehend because they’ve always subsisted primarily on their own power, and it has often failed them. They have trouble imagining how God’s power, added to theirs, can actually make change real and eventually permanent.

Our way, which is often much easier in the initial moments and days, even weeks, of our lives is easier because it allows us to put off assimilating all those godly traits. However, in the long run our own way leads to a halt in personal progression and leads us to develop traits that do not—and will not ever—lead to sustainable happiness. These traits include: dishonesty (with self and others), pride, gluttony, excess and immodesty, hatred, entitlement, impertinence, etc.

These words are harsh to the modern mind who believes that there is still a right way to do something wrong; which of course, there is not. This is yet another false belief that inhibits successful repentance. There is simply no way to get around God’s way which is the right way. Anyone who believes they can hoodwink God’s system somehow will waste their energy in futility.

Another lie the unrepentant often believe is that God’s way robs us of happiness and so they struggle to repent because they can’t seem to give up the idea that adhering to God’s commandments and entering into His covenants and ordinances will somehow cause them to miss out on something wonderful. So, they procrastinate repenting to be sure they’ve checked out all other viable options for happiness. Or, until they learn that they’ve been believing something false. It’s the opposite that’s true. That procrastinating repentance is actually what is causing them to miss out on peace, joy, and true, sustainable, and lasting happiness.

Forgiving—or the lies that people believe that keep them from forgiving

Forgiveness. It’s something we need to do but struggle to do. But, you have to ask, “Why do I believe that it’s better to hold a grudge, or to enact revenge, than to forgive?” Because ultimately that is the primary lie that keeps people from forgiving. They really do believe that holding a grudge is going to make them happier, or that getting revenge is going to satiate their anger and hurt. Often, this belief takes years to be undone. And in those years, people try over and over again to be hateful, to hurt the person that hurt them, to hold onto that grudge and to get revenge. And only after continuous and repeated attempts that result in very temporary, or most likely failed satisfaction, do they begin to learn that forgiveness is the only option for happiness. Only then do they begin the journey to forgive.

Another lie people believe that prevents them from forgiving is this; they don’t trust the atonement of Jesus Christ and the justice of God to be applied accurately. So, they refuse to forgive in an attempt to help an all-knowing God do His job of justice and punishment correctly. It’s no mistake that the New Testament makes it very clear that Christ is the only one with the authority to forgive sin. To try to usurp that authority by holding a grudge or enacting revenge damages only us. No matter how justified our feelings we will never have the authority to forgive sin, and especially not to withhold forgiveness from anyone.

Sometimes we see it in the reverse, but it is actually the same lie. We feel we can’t forgive because to forgive seems to feel like we are condoning the hurt and offense that has been given. After all, if they can’t feel and see our hurt then they’ll never change, and we most certainly don’t want to be responsible for allowing them to stay as they are.

These perspectives on forgiveness are, of course, false. Forgiveness has never been condoning sin. When Christ spoke to the woman taken in adultery, He didn’t say, “What you did was ok.” He said, “Go and sin no more.” Holding a grudge also doesn’t help others see that they need to change. Using pity as a weapon is in some ways incredibly vicious. It is no more justifiable than the hurt which was originally given, and is a type of revenge.

Thus, the truth is that in order to forgive we must learn to believe the opposite of all these lies. We must come to believe the truth. Holding grudges and seeking revenge only make us like Satan—empty, unhappy, and spiritually sick. We must learn to trust that the Almighty has not only taken care of justice, but also forgiveness and repentance in a past tense. The atonement of Jesus Christ is past and done. And, it’s effects and grace spread backward and forward throughout history. God has got it in hand. Finally, we have to understand and come to believe that we are not responsible to force, coerce, shame, or guilt others into change. And to try to do so is simply a form of manipulation and unrighteous dominion.

We Don’t Have To Struggle Anymore

If you have tried a million times to do anything YOU KNOW you need to do but just can’t seem to do, then you have to sit down and think. It’s going to take time, thought, and reflection. Ask yourself questions like:

  1. Why don’t I start? Why do I keep putting this off?
  2. Why have I quit repeatedly—after beginning—in the past?
  3. What do I keep telling myself that makes me justify putting this off?
  4. What do I tell myself each time, just before I quit?
  5. What do I think about others who seem to have been able to do this?
  6. Have I made excuses for myself, or excuses for why others succeed, that are preventing me from accomplishing this, or even beginning?
  7. Have I asked for help and willingly accepted it? (from others, God)
  8. Have I been meek enough to accept the power offered to me by others and God? If not, why?

These questions, and others like it, will (if you’re sincere) help you to identify the false doctrines—or lies—that are holding you back from doing the things you need to do but struggle to do. It’s amazing how much more possible something becomes, and how much more positive life becomes, when you remove the barriers of false doctrines and limiting beliefs from in front of you. Truth is power. Truth gives power to act—and to succeed.

BT