I Trouble

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Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. –Romans 12:3 NIV

“I can see!” I emailed several friends after I got new eyeglasses. “No more lugging around a magnifying glass from room to room.”

I hadn’t realized how bad my eyes had gotten since my eye doctor appointment a year earlier. I should have recognized the symptoms—at 58, I’d been down that road before. First I complain the letters on everything from ibuprofen bottles to coupons to nutrition labels are too small.

“How do they expect people to read such tiny letters?” I grumble. Over time, I gradually realize the problem is not with “them,” but with me.

But still I was amazed when I got my new eyeglasses how clearer the letters were in my daily devotional booklet, on my computer screen, and even my own handwriting. Ever try to write with a pen in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other? I don’t know how many emails I sent with misspellings and typos because I couldn’t see them. I honestly hadn’t realized how bad my eyes really were.

Now I know.

I’m the same way with sin. First I deny I have a problem. I haven’t murdered anyone or cheated on my income taxes. One time I even went back into the grocery store when I realized the checkout person didn’t charge me for a package of lunchmeat. I was pretty proud of myself that day. Almost broke my arm patting myself on the back.

But sin is subtle, sneaky. Like the envy I thought I didn’t have until God revealed it to me. Like the pride He opens my eyes to see.

“I can’t be proud, Lord,” I protest.

I remind Him of how I’ve stopped fishing for compliments and how well I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut or add “Lord willing” or “praise God” to anything that sounds like I might be boasting. I jog His memory (like it needs jogging) about how I do things for others more and expect them to do things for me less.

“Look how far I’ve come, Lord,” I say once I’ve bored Him with my goody two-shoes list.

But look how far you have to go.

And then it’s His turn to remind me—of the times I say, “Don’t those idiots know they’re supposed to turn on their headlights when it’s snowing/raining/foggy?” Or when I complain about drivers who don’t use turn signals, abuse the right-turn-on-red law, run red lights, don’t come to a complete stop at stop signs, don’t stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the street (especially if I’m the pedestrian), or blast me with their high beams. It’s like I’m a good Christian everywhere but behind the wheel.

Lurking in me is a critical spirit that shows itself when I judge others. They might be wrong, but, like the Good Book says, I’ve got to take the log out of my own eye first.

There’s a fine line, I’ve learned, between pride and humility. Not a gulf, not a chasm, as we so often think. But a sneaky, subtle, sometimes invisible line only the magnifying glass of God’s Word and the updated eyeglasses of His Holy Spirit can reveal.

Not all pride is sinful. It’s OK to have pride of country, of accomplishment, or family—note national pride during the Olympics. It’s OK to break out the pictures of your kids and grandkids, to plaster a cling-on to your vehicle displaying the name of your little All-Star.

My mother never bragged about me. Maybe that’s why I have such a problem with pride. With being tempted to think of myself more highly than I ought. With denying that I have a problem with pride.

Where does pride cross the line from being honorable to sinful?

When pride focuses on self and becomes self-serving and blossoms into conceit, egotism, judgmentalism, and selfish ambition. It’s eye-opening to look up the synonyms of these words.

But, when we’re ready, God works in and with us to pluck out the root of pride so we won’t have so much “I” trouble.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything You find in me that makes You sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Create in me a new, clean heart, filled with clean thoughts and right desires. Amen. (from Psalms 139:23–24; 51:10 LB)

 Read and reflect on Matthew 7:1–5.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Dealing with the Subtle Sins


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. –Psalm 51:10 NIV

I should be ashamed to admit it, but dusting is just not something on my must-do list. Call it laziness, call it setting priorities, call it avoidance, call it denial (“It’s not that bad.”), call it whatever you want. In my opinion, it’s a futile activity, especially in the winter. Especially if you have a wood stove. Especially if your furnace has a blower. I could dust one day, and the next day it doesn’t even look like it.

The only time the thickening accumulation bothers me is when the sun is shining. Then, and only then, will the dust be dealt with. Unless there’s company coming, which is as rare as me dusting. And then I give it a lick and a promise.

Just as the dust accumulates in my house if I don’t deal with it, so sin accumulates in my heart. Call it laziness, call it setting priorities, call it avoidance, call it denial, call it what you will, but if not dealt with, it results in spiritual dryness, an empty prayer life, and stunted Christian growth.

Lent has always been a time for spiritual introspection, a time to clean my spiritual house and get rid of the hindrances, time to face the ugly things I’d rather keep hidden, for I’m ashamed they even exist in me.

Yet I’m an imperfect human being, struggling to live a godly life in an ungodly world. I don’t lie (outright), but is there any way I deceive others? I haven’t murdered anyone, but have I, by spreading gossip, murdered someone’s reputation? I claim to love others, but do I harbor bitterness or envy or unforgiveness in my heart?

For the next six weeks, we’re going to examine some of these subtle sins. Today we’ll start with envy.

Years ago I discussed unanswered prayer with a friend at church. I couldn’t understand why there seemed to be a roadblock to book publishing. My first novel was considered by the publishing committee at several houses only to be turned down again and again. In addition, speaking and teaching gigs had dried up.

He asked if there was unconfessed sin in my life. I told him I’d considered it, but didn’t really see anything. I prayed for God to show me, but He knew I wasn’t ready. I really didn’t want to see, didn’t want to know. God always brings us to a place of readiness first.

Then we started a two-week prayer and fasting time for a writers and speakers network I belonged to. Many needed breakthroughs, especially financial. The first devotional was about sin hindering prayer. Once again I prayed, “Lord, show me …”

And He did. The sin was envy. Not a strong presence (so I thought), but a grasping one. I don’t want to say “little,” because no sin is little in the eyes of God. But when others asked for prayer for favor for their book proposals, for book contracts or speaking engagements, the envy would stir. “I want that for me, too!” I’d cry silently. And I wouldn’t—I couldn’t—pray with a sincere heart.

If you couldn’t have it, why should they? Envy whispered.

For so long I either denied the envy I harbored or refused to acknowledge it was strong enough to affect me and make a difference. I was wrong.

Unlike dusting my house, cleaning the accumulated dirt in my heart is not futile. It’s vital.

Lord, pluck this envy out of my heart! Then spray the weed killer of Your Word to destroy any root left behind. Plant the seed of Your love to grow, spread, blossom, and give off a sweet fragrance. Envy has hidden in me for a long time, and I will have to be on my guard, watching for it in case it sprouts again. Never again will I underestimate the cost and the power of this deadly sin. Only through the blood of Your Son, Jesus, can I overcome this and live the life You have called me to live. I thank You for Your patience, steadfast love, and unending mercy and grace. In the name of Him Who died so that I might live, Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord of my life. Amen.

 Read and reflect on James 3:13–4:10

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.