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Pursuing God Out of the Pit of Despair

On May 15, EatingDisorderHope.com is giving away 10 copies of my book Happy for the Rest of Your Life. (To enter the drawing, click here.)  For a preview of what to expect, here’s an excerpt from Chapter 2….

Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

This beatitude is self-explanatory, and you can readily see how the pure in heart would be happy because they are able to see God. I get in my mind the picture of small, trusting children, whose innocence and purity allow them to comprehend God at a fundamental level. It becomes a little harder to see yourself, however, as that pure and trusting child. You’d love to be that child, but you left purity behind in your search for happiness awhile back. In fact, you exchanged some of your purity for a map to happiness that left you stuck in a decidedly unhappy place.

Children don’t make it into adulthood and retain their spiritual purity because of our sinful nature. When you read Scritpure, it’s hard for you to miss the point that sin has dire consequences. Occasionally, in your own life, I imagine you’ve deluded yourself into thinking you can skate above these consequences. But this delusion that the consequences of sin won’t surface to interfere with your life eventually cracks. When you live a life of active sin, you are skating on thin ice, which will break, plunging you into frigid and sometimes life-threatening circumstances.

People don’t generally come to see a person in my line of work (therapy) when all is going well. Instead, something is wrong, and they want help to fix it. Now, please don’t misunderstand me here; there are plenty of people who come to me for help who are in a difficult situation through no fault of their own. However, sin may still be an issue if their difficulties arise not from their own sin but from the sin of others: the sin of abandonment, neglect, abuse, selfishness, pride, favoritism, stubbornness, apathy, oppression, or evil intent. The sins of others have poisoned their lives and hearts, and they need help to detoxify, to heal and recover.

Now, there are some people who just seem to be naturally pure in heart. They are generous, forgiving, long-suffering, and patient, and they run far, far away from even the appearance of evil. You may look at them and think, “How can I be like that?” The apostle Paul, in a letter to Timothy, provides an answer: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). You’re back at the word pursue again, aren’t you? It all depends on what you’re pursuing and how you conduct your pursuit.

In my line of work, I’ve also seen a great many people who wind up in the pit of despair by jumping in feet-first themselves. No one pushed them in; they climbed down willingly, often on a misguided quest for happiness. Covered with the muck and stink of their current situation, they find themselves well removed from any sort of purity. They need help to extricate themselves from their pit. They want to leave their pit, but a small part of them doesn’t. They got into their pit for a reason in the first place, and leaving it is hard, even though they are tired of being trapped inside. I’ve seen so many people struggle to get out of some pretty horrific pits, only to become fearful and dive right back in.

This pit leaving is a process. It requires a refocused life, a life dedicated to pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace. This is how you get your purity back. Deep down, don’t you long to be that little child again, the one who was trusting and innocent, the one who was able to see God? You cry out, as David did in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David cried out this prayer after digging his own deep pit of adultery. God granted David’s prayer and renewed his heart David repented and acknowledged his sin.

Sin has consequences, and it stains you. If you give in to it, it blinds your ability to see God. If you give in to it, you will be unhappy, guaranteed. Sin needs to be called out for what it is, for the destructive force it is in your life, whether it is your own sin or the sin of others that has adversely affected you. When you reject and turn away from that sin and instead pursue God, you are cleansed and returned to your childlike state of being pure in heart. Your lives are redeemed from the pit (Psalm 103:4), and that’s a cause for happiness!

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