The following is a prefacing poem which depicts the wrestling of the double mind with our daily interruptions to which we are far too accustomed. This is an implicit as well as explicit challenge to set down our distractions and rest in the grace-filled resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we have been redeemed and made new, yet still reside in a broken body navigating a broken planet
As a licensed counselor, my role is to join with individuals to aid in tending to their presenting issues (relational distress, anxiety, depression, abuse, trauma). The ultimate goal is for them to recover themselves (2 Tim 2:26) from their current stuck-ness, finding freedom from bondage. The world we live in is fallen, unstable, and a place of disorder. Therefore, the world propagates this to its inhabitants: us. A fallen creation, created in God's image, designed to be in right relationship with him, but immersed in disorder. As Christians, we have been redeemed and made new, yet still reside in a broken body navigating a broken planet.
This conflict is observed throughout scripture, but recently I have been drawn to the book of James, an epistle designed to reprove Christians for their moral decay both in their beliefs and actions. In chapter four, the letter culminates in what is, to me, the crux of the Christian dilemma, the same matter that I am faced with in my counseling office every day.
It is the Double Mind (James 4:8).
A deep longing and desire raging against our hope for righteousness. A civil war for our flesh (Romans 7). This spectrum ranges from the daily distractions of the interweb epidemic and “smart living” to mental states of dissociation, completely detached from reality, ourselves, others, and a God who loves us. In this mortal fight we oppose ourselves (2Ti 2:25), generating an incongruence that wages in all of us, corrupting us emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically (Romans 6:23). Ultimately, this robs us of the clarity of God's call.
James 4 begins with a question. Where does all this conflict come from? It then gives the answer: all war originates in the heart (James 4:1). Continuing, the scripture describes how this warring leads to defeat due to our fleshly solutions and motives (4:2-3). To understand the depths of this issue, let’s look back to the previous chapter.
In chapter three, James gives us insight into how we can identify this incongruence within us. He describes the power of a small member: the tongue. He likens it to a ship's rudder, a tiny part of the ship which turns the vessel and directs it in the way it will go (James 3:4). Likewise, he compares the tongue to a small fire, even a spark, that can set a whole forest ablaze (3:5). This member can praise God and then curse men, whom God made in his image (3:9). In wonder, James compares this to how absurd it would be if a fig tree could bear olives, or if fresh water and salt water could come from the same spring (3:12). How could this be?
The ability to house these contradictions comes from consistent adherence to the world, carving neural pathways of lying against the truth (James 3:14), cultivating strife in our hearts (3:14), resulting in confusion (3:16). When we are friends with the world (4:4) we immediately turn to earthly order (3:15) and hope-filled yet evil-worked (James 3:16) mantras.
"To build(ed) is to be more. And to be more is essential.”
“To rest is to disengage, and to disengage is critical.”
These beliefs only perpetuate our disarray and defeat, building negative hate-filled perceptions which act as border walls to keep the perceived evil out. We kill and desire, yet cannot obtain (James 4:2). We cry out to God, but we ask amiss (4:3), being consumed by our false pretenses: that we are worthless, that others are dangerous, and that God doesn’t care. So we turn to the world (4:4), to illegitimate solutions to meet our legitimate needs. At this point it is an effortless push, like a mom maintaining the momentum of her kids’ merry-go-round (as she scrolls her Instagram feed).
But God gives more Grace (James 4:6). And it is in this Grace-woven haven provided by the One who gave it all that our striving is blotted out. Here in his presence we are refreshed (Acts 3:19). James 3:13 gives us insight into how we can overcome this tumultuous cycle. It says that when we are wise, endued with knowledge – that is to say, when we have understanding – our actions and the overflow of our life will be gentle and full of wisdom.
So how do we get here?
We need people around us that will help us stay honest
First, we need to be honest with ourselves by taking a sober look at what is happening within us.
Don’t lie to yourself about your stuff.
[Jam 3:14] But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
Have you ever seen those horrific American Idol moments when somehow this poor individual made it this far to stand in front of a panel of famous individuals and all of America, only to find out that they sound like a dying animal attempting to self-resuscitate? Why didn’t their family and friends warn them?
We need people around us that will help us stay honest. In the book of Galatians, Paul addresses this interpersonal interaction. He instructs us to bear each other's burdens (Gal 6:2). He gives specific instructions on how this should look. When looking for counsel, we go to one we can trust and be transparent with. This counselor is commissioned to consider themselves, meaning that this individual recognizes they are no different than you. With this posture, they fulfill the law of Christ. Matthew Henry says it best in his commentary on this passage:
"Jesus bears with us under our weaknesses and follies, he is touched with a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; and therefore there is good reason why we should maintain the same temper towards one another.”
A counselor’s posture of empathy, authenticity, and truth aids you to speak out loud the incongruence in your heart, allowing the stuff to come to the surface. Do you have bitterness towards others? Are you comparing yourself with those around you, thereby destroying your joy and gratitude? Do you have strife in your heart? Is your mind continually consumed with selfish ambition? Do you have someone who can ask you these questions and to whom you will respond honestly?
The TRUTH is that we are Justified and no longer have to prove anything.
Second, we need to acknowledge and challenge that which we find against that which we know to be true.
This stuff that we find deep in our heart is not from God.
James 3:15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
As we speak the stuff out loud, shedding light on what has been hidden (Eph 5:13), we start to see how it opposes God’s truth and comes from either the world, our flesh, or the devil. Adhering to these deceptions causes us to oppose ourselves (2 Tim 2:25) since Christ is alive in us. These incongruences produce the symptoms that we often feel: confusion and stuck-ness. We then apply our earthly solutions in an attempt to fix it.
James 3:16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
The confusion we feel manifests itself as relational distress, anxiety, depression and the largest weapon of the enemy, SHAME, which all result in a continuation of abuse and trauma. When we find this stuff, a biblical response is to feel sorrow leading to repentance, but shame leads to confusion and every evil work.
Do you feel confused?
“What am I supposed to do with my life? Who am I supposed to be with? Where am I supposed to go?”
Is your response to try to fix your stuff by striving to do better, working harder? Or do you run from it, hide, numb out? Evil works don’t always look evil (Dr. Evil voice). When we make these attempts, we are lying against the truth (James 3:14). The TRUTH is that we are Justified and no longer have to prove anything.
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4. And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are rescued. We stand and rejoice in his Grace. We can be sure that we are safe. That word tribulation means oppression, affliction, distress. So we can be okay, even rejoice, no matter what is happening in us, to us, or around us. In fact, God uses it to refine us, to work in us patience and experience so we can be even more sure of Him and like Him. This extracts ALL SHAME, and backfills our hearts with GOD’S LOVE!
Here we can daily wash our hands and cleanse our hearts
Third, we apply what we know to be true.
Replace your stuff with God’s stuff.
James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
God’s wisdom is true and brings peace. It meets us right where we are and is easy to obey because it is full of mercy and brings about healing, and ultimately a different result! It brings about Good fruit, a direction that is life-bringing, shattering the idea that we are worthless. Here we feel loved, known, rescued. It restores unity in our relationships and fortifies our belief that we are held together by a God who immensely loves us. Thus, his wisdom renders our strivings, our stuff, useless.
It is here in this clarity that we can lay down our pride, and submit ourselves humbly before God (James 4:6). When in this place of love and belonging, our natural response is to resist the devil and draw nigh to God (4:7,8). Here we can daily wash our hands and cleanse our hearts (4:8).
It is here that we can remain Single Minded.