The illusion of negativism

John Brogdar

We were reflecting this morning on our frailty as human beings, and how, like Peter, we mess up under pressure, and deny the things which mean most to us. (John writes)

We can imagine what Peter must have felt after the cock crowed – remorse, self-recrimination, guilt, shame, fear, perhaps that he had forever forfeited the love of Jesus.  We can draw encouragement from Duncan’s reminder that Jesus looks at futures, not failures. Jesus already saw the rock, where Peter saw only the quicksand of failure.

We believe – and many of us know from experience – that Jesus seeks us out in our pain and guilt, and forgives us, and as he does with Peter, finds a tender and loving way of assuring us that he is with us, and will never fail us.

Father, we pray that those struggling with guilt and remorse today may experience the reality of your redeeming love, and take the first steps into the brightness of a better future.

Sometimes, however, we find it hard to believe that God still loves us. We have a tendency, when we are not seeing things in proportion, to imagine that other people regard us as we regard ourselves.  I have messed up, I see myself as a total, utter failure, and I imagine that others see me in the same light, and I act as though that was indeed their opinion.

But more than that – often those of us who tend to be negative feel badly about ourselves for no particular reason. We are depressed and sad; we feel we are rubbish, and completely innocuous comments from others simply confirm us in this view.  And here too, because we see ourselves as rubbish, we think everyone else will too.

And for Christians, everyone else includes God. Thinking negatively about ourselves, we are quite certain that God sees us in the same way.  We feel God has abandoned us; that we must simply wait in our pain until God’s love breaks through again.

But this, as Duncan reminded us, is a total illusion. God always holds us in a gaze of unwavering love; God sees our failures (if we have failed) and our causeless negativism and holds out to us redemption and blessing. God’s arms, metaphorically speaking, are around us, even though we do not feel their touch.

I write passionately about this because over the last few days I’m been feeling negative about myself. But this morning, before I came to church, when I was doing nothing more or less holy than cleaning my teeth, I realised, or it was given me to realise, that my negativism was an illusion, a self-induced haze of mist concealing the sunlight.  And in that very recognition, I was blessed.

Don’t imagine that because you feel or think something about yourself, everyone else – including God – feels and thinks the same way about you.  And may we be encouragers of each other; acknowledging our frailty; our proneness to deceive ourselves; and may our arms express the love of God to those in pain; may the hospitality we share be a lakeside of redemption.

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