“I can’t help the way I am.”
“It’s purely chemical.”
“It’s the way I was raised.”
“It’s my family history.”
“It’s not my fault.”
We’re often asked the question, “When life hurts, where do you turn?”
It’s a good question, and it challenges us to learn to turn to Christ in the hard moments of life.
But I want to pose a slightly different question to you today.
“When life hurts, who do you blame?”
Our first response when trouble comes is to find someone or something to blame, which is an effort to protect ourselves and our image, and to avoid the pain and humiliation of admitting our wrong.
We see this back in the Garden of Eden, when God came to hold Adam and Eve accountable for their sin. When God asked Adam what he had done, Adam, instead of admitting his own choices, pointed out Eve’s sin. When God turned to Eve, she, in turn, blamed the serpent.
Aren’t we the same way? When we begin to suffer from our choices and God begins dealing with us, we try to put the spotlight on someone or something else. But I’ve learned something about God: He never comes to us for our opinion or report on someone else. God is looking for us to own up to our own sin, because it’s only then that we can be forgiven, restored, and overcome.
Freedom is not found in avoiding personal responsibility, but in accepting and welcoming the opportunity to own up to our own choices, knowing that it’s only through personal responsibility that we can change.
The painful truth we are going to learn today is that no one else can make us sin.
the impact of RESPONSIBILITY
For nearly ten years I had the privilege of working directly with women in crisis as a counselor and Bible teacher. Over the course of my time in ministry, I encountered hundreds of women who struggled with addictions, homelessness, abusive relationships, and various mental health issues. But while they struggled in different ways, had different backgrounds, and different “reasons” for their struggles, all of these women fit into one of only two categories when I met them: those who took responsibility for their choices that worsened their situations and led them to a place of brokenness which led them to need a rehabilitation program, and those who consistently blamed their family, their friends, and their circumstances for their present situation.
Another pattern quickly emerged: those who took personal responsibility generally made it through the 6-12 month program and graduated, but those who did not take responsibility generally lasted less than 30 days before returning to their destructive lifestyle.
Why am I talking about this?
Because, while most of us aren’t struggling with life-dominating problems, we still struggle with personal responsibility. And while it may seem that our daily struggle is “small” comparatively speaking, the consequences to our failure to take responsibility are just as dangerous – and in many cases, even more dangerous, as we are blind to the significance of our choices. The result of this blindness is that we continue the cycle of our wrong behavior until we are in bondage and find ourselves unable to break free when consequences begin to crash in upon us.
Our willingness to take personal responsibility for the choices we make (and the subsequent consequences of those choices, for better or for worse) is the number one determining factor in our success or failure, our freedom or bondage.
"IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT"
Becoming a victim always leaves us suffering and in bondage. When we're told nothing is our fault, it can have damaging consequences. For some, it becomes fuel for their destructive choices, and for others, it leads to hopelessness.
Sadly, there people who are looking for reasons to continue in their harmful behaviors. As a result, they jump at any opportunity to blame someone or something else, so that they are justified in their wrong choices, whether blaming a stressful day on their decision to over eat, blaming their spouse for their own angry outburst, or blaming their family history on their own all-consuming addiction.
But there are others who want to break free of the bondage they're experiencing in life. For some, it’s bondage to what people think of them. For some, it’s food. For some, it’s anxiety. For some, it’s a substance. Regardless, they know they are stuck. But they’ve been told they can’t help it. They’ve been told it’s okay, even healthy. They’ve been told it’s natural. They’ve been told it’s hereditary. They’ve been told it’s just circumstantial; it’ll go away eventually. Except that it doesn’t. And instead of getting better, they get worse. By blaming their situations on other people or things, these people are even worse off because now they not only are caught in a cycle they can’t break free of, but they’ve been told there is no hope.
The lie that began as a way of offering comfort and hope has instead left countless men and women hopeless.
Initially, we feel comforted by blaming others for our choices. But eventually, our behavior catches up to us and the pain sets in. When we decide to change, we struggle because we keep going back to, “but it’s not my fault.”
Many believe that changing people, places, and things is what will bring them freedom from bondage. But it doesn’t work. And the reason is that the problem is in us, and we can’t escape ourselves. Our problems can’t be solved by switching jobs, switching neighborhoods, or switching boyfriends. Our problems can only be solved by taking personal responsibility before God so that He can begin to change us and set us free from ourselves.
The truth is that while we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we respond.
The truth is that until we take responsibility for our own choices that led us to where we are, we will never find freedom in life.
The truth is that I can’t change someone else. I can’t change my circumstances. I can’t change my family history. And if I’m honest, I can’t even change me.
The reason that personal responsibility is so important is not that we, ourselves, have the power to change, but that God does. However, the first step in experiencing the freedom God offers us is personal responsibility. God cannot forgive us for someone else’s sin. He can only for give us for our own.
Does this justify the things that have happened to us? Absolutely not. But neither do the things that have happened to us justify our own sinful responses in our attempt to cope with our pain.
Our struggle with eating may be passed off as comfort after a stressful situation, but that doesn’t justify our excessive indulgence.
Our struggle with lying may be traced back to a painful event when telling the truth hurt us unjustly, but that doesn’t justify our deceptions.
Our struggle with addiction may be worsened by a family history of addictive behavior, but that doesn’t justify our own indulges.
Our struggle with mental health disorders may be worsened by physical matters and family histories, but that doesn’t justify our isolation, anger, and bitterness which spirals us further into the darkness.
The world says we are justified in our sinful responses to life because we are merely victims of those around us. But God says we are more than a product of our circumstances. As we read scripture, we learn that there are no victims in heaven; only those who repent of their sin can find freedom. And that is when we cross from death to life.
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?
In a word: passionate.