Well, ouch. If that didn’t hit the nail on the head. I have beat myself up for years thinking I was being prideful in my desire to please and make things perfect. It became just one more way to, well, beat myself up.
I’d spent the entire week reading and re-reading Psalm 51, noticing patterns and sorting out the sequence. That very morning, just a few hours before Sheri left her comment, I’d prayerfully meditated on verse 17:
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
As I read Sheri’s comment, it hit me:
Beating ourselves up is not the same thing as having “a broken and contrite heart.”
Beating Yourself Up vs. Psalm 51
Here’s the sequence I experience when I beat myself up
- I do something wrong.
- I feel guilt, fear, and shame.
- I beat myself up.
- I make promises to myself and God.
- I try harder.
The sequence I see in Proverbs 51:
- God takes the broken and contrite heart I offer Him as my only sacrifice.
- God washes me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanses me from my sin.
- God desires truth in my inward being, so He teaches me wisdom in my secret heart.
- God creates in me a clean heart and puts a new and right spirit within me.
- God restores to me the joy of His salvation and sustains in me a willing spirit.
My Way vs. God’s Way
Spelled out like this, the difference between the two lists couldn’t be more obvious:
When I beat myself up, I turn the spotlight on me. Oh, I tell myself that beating myself up is an act of humility.
But it’s All. About Me.
God takes center stage when I surrender my broken and contrite heart. I hand it over; He does the rest.
It’s All. About. Him.
Which is great news for those of us who are tired of beating ourselves up!
But wait—there’s more.
Verse 13 says
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Notice the time signal, then?
In other words, I can’t teach transgressors God’s ways and sinners won’t return to Him until the condition is met.
What’s the condition?
Well, left to my own devices, I would come up with sequences like these:
- Once I have beaten myself up hard enough and long enough, then I will teach transgressors Your ways.
- Once I have made enough promises to myself and You, then I will teach transgressors Your ways.
- Once I have started trying even harder than I was trying before, then I will teach transgressors Your ways.
But God doesn’t work like we do.
His sequence looks like this:
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways.
Beating ourselves up doesn’t save us.
Or anyone else.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that the harder we are on ourselves, the faster we scare people away.
When God does what only God can do with our broken and contrite hearts, the joy of our salvation is restored.
We sing aloud of His deliverance. He opens our lips and our mouths declare His praises.
Our joy, our songs, and our praises draw others to Him.
So the next time you start beating yourself up, remember:
Broken, not beaten.
A broken and contrite heart.
It’s all you’ve really got.
And it’s all God even wants.