Last week I came across a blog by best-selling author Marc Chernoff: “8 Ways You’re Driving Yourself Crazy.” Marc wrote, “I sat there in her living room staring at her through teary eyes. ‘I feel crazy,’ I said. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’ ‘Why do you feel crazy?’ she asked. ‘Because I’m neurotic and self-conscious and regretful, and so much more all at once,’ I said. ‘And you don’t think everyone feels like this at times?’ she asked. ‘Not like this,’ I replied under my breath.
“‘Well, you’re wrong,’ she said. ‘If you think you know someone who never feels a bit crazy and off-center, you just don’t know enough about them. Every one of us contains a measure of ‘crazy’ that moves us in strange, often perplexing ways.’ I sat silently for a moment. My eyes gazed from her eyes to the ground and back to her eyes again…. We shared another moment of silence, then my lips curled up slightly and I cracked a smile. ‘Thank you, Grandma,’ I said.”
If you sometimes feel neurotic, self-conscious and regretful—you’re not alone! In last week’s column, I shared some advice from God’s word about how to eliminate harmful battles in our relationships. But if we dig deeper, we find that the source of the battles in our relationships isn’t on the outside—it’s on the inside. We might point a finger at someone else and scream, “You’re driving me crazy!” But the truth is, we’re driving ourselves crazy. We were crazy before that “annoying” person ever came into our lives. That person is just a convenient scapegoat to keep us from taking a long, hard look in the mirror.
In James 4, James opens verse 1 with a question: “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” And in the second half of that verse, he answers with another question. “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” That word, “desires,” is a translation of the Greek word “Hedone,” which is where we get our English word “hedonism.” Hedone means “pleasure,” but it implies “sinful, self-indulgent pleasure.” Other Bible translations translate this word as “passions” (ESV), “cravings” (HCSB), and “lusts” (KJV).
So, verse 1 boils down to this: “When you’re battling with another person, the reason you give for why you’re fighting isn’t the real reason why you’re fighting. The other person isn’t the problem. YOU ARE. The other person isn’t the one who needs fixing. YOU ARE. You have selfish, evil cravings and desires that need to be confessed and dealt with. So, until you deal with that root sin in your own heart, you’ll never have true peace in your relationships.”
James continues, “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God” (v. 2). Notice these four words: “kill,” “covet,” “quarrel” and “fight.” Every one of these relationship-busting actions stems from our selfish pursuit of pleasure. Every one of us can be a selfish pleasure seeker. And that’s because we all have selfish, sinful desires that battle within us.
The Apostle Peter says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Peter reminds us that as followers of Jesus Christ, Planet Earth is not our home. Our true citizenship is in heaven. So our priorities should be heaven’s priorities, and our desires should be God’s desires. God has cleansed our souls by the blood of Christ, and He has given us a new nature that is godly and moral. The problem is, we’ve still got our old sinful nature living inside us with its selfish desires. Every day, you live with these two very different natures inside you, and they battle against each other. YOU decide which nature will win the battle for your soul.
Your old nature is selfish, arrogant, rebellious and lazy. It lives for pleasure—and there are far too many days in the month when you and I allow it to win. We argue at church because we’re selfish. We argue at home because we have sinful desires. We argue about politics on social media, not because of a deep love for God and country, but because we want to convince the world we’re right. And along the way, it causes a lot of collateral damage. When your old nature wins, you end up battling with people around you and battling with God in heaven. As a result, your relationships with God and people suffer. Ironically, you end up unhappy. Isn’t that a curious thing? If you want to be unhappy, just chase after pleasure.
Bible teacher and commentator Warren Wierbe put it this way: “People who are at war with themselves because of selfish desires are always unhappy people. They never enjoy life. Instead of being thankful for the blessings they do have, they complain about the blessings they don’t have. They cannot get along with other people because they are always envying others for what they have and do. They are always looking for that ‘magic something’ that will change their lives, when the real problem is within their own hearts.”
Remember those wise words. Selfish people are always unhappy people. If you want to be unhappy, just chase after pleasure. On the flipside, there are so many benefits to allowing your godly nature to win the battle for your soul. If you love and serve God and others, it will greatly improve your relationships at home, at church, at work, and in our community. But as an added bonus, living for God and others will bring you a whole lot of happiness. Selfish people are unhappy people … but selfless followers of Jesus Christ are blessed with both happiness and true joy.
Dane Davis is the Pastor
of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at
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