“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12
Psalm 77 starts with a plea to God for an answer, or even comfort. When it is delayed, these verses show the psalmist reflecting on what he has seen the Lord do in the past. He is reminded by the clear testimony of the past that God is active, faithful to his promises, and powerful to handle any concern or worry placed in front of him.
As we look at the biblical side of self-assessment we must look at the whole story, beginning with what changed so long ago. We were created as human beings in God’s image. To be human is to have and express emotions. This ability is a gift. The gift of emotion was altered along with our relationship with God when sin entered the picture in Genesis 3. In Cain, we see our first example of an emotional reaction.
In “Cain and Abel: The Roots of Emotional Malfunctioning” Dr. McCloskey points out “Five emotional malfunctions” within this story (I’ll address two briefly, but all are valuable):
- We prefer to fake our reality
- Live in ignorance
- Overcome, letting emotions master us.
- Live in self-centered isolation
- We blame others for our problems and predicaments
This is a clear opposite of something I talked about in part 1 – the need to confront reality. According to McCloskey, “we fake our reality” and become unwilling to “confront the truth about life.”
Living in ignorance
This centers on not being able to define or describe our emotions in a healthy way. When Cain was confronted by God with his emotions he could not face them. Like Cain, we all become self-absorbed, focused on our own needs and unconcerned with the needs of others.
Our self-assessment must begin with our fallen nature. Sin is reality, and while we have met Christ and are restored back into relationship, our flesh is still alive. We are reminded many times in scripture (in both Ephesians and Colossians, for example) to take off the old self and put on the new self through Christ. This is possible with the Holy Spirit working in each of us, but we still face the reality that our own selfish nature often rises up to get what it wants.
Realizing our spiritual condition is the first point of Jesus’ 57 point sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). “Blessed are the poor in spirit” means that those who realize their spiritual condition are blessed. The kingdom of heaven goes to those who realize who they really are and also realize their need for help. We need God to speak into our lives
Self-assessment was practiced by many biblical characters. Those who did not practice it usually ended up in dire straits of some sort. An OT character that immediately springs to my mind is Saul, a man we see become more narcissistic in every chapter of 1 Samuel. Saul focuses more on his own ambitions and desires than on those of the One who raised him to kingship. In clear opposition is David, who at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30) shows himself to be a humble self-assessor.
When David and his army return to find their home raided, their children and wives taken captive, it is a low moment for David. David must deal with the reality he faces. He has a chance to assess the choice he has made – in this case a bad one. Being authentic in this way allows him to escape the temptation to project his low emotional well-being onto others or outside circumstances.
Facing reality allows David to first accept blame where it is appropriate, but then also move toward a solution. David finds strength in the Lord and navigates his way from what could have been the lowest point of his leadership to a valiant victory. This ability to navigate from weakness to victory comes from a deeply set emotional maturity that I believe was, for David, rooted in self-assessment. David knew he would become king, but was not the king yet. He knew all that God had done for him and all God had allowed him to do. By knowing his spiritual condition David was able to experience healthy emotions and be well self-assessed.
Click here to continue on to part 4 (the last installment in this series).