What Suffering Have I Caused

When dealing with suffering, we are quick to find fault in others--our parents, our spouse, society, God? To be sure much of our suffering finds its source elsewhere. Job is the prime example of one who suffered not because of his own sin, but as a ploy of Satan to test his fidelity to God. Job's supposed friends are a great example of what not to do when someone is grieving. We should be very to slow to jump to conclusion about the suffering of others.

It can be, on the other hand, very beneficial to examine ourselves as a source of suffering--our own and the suffering of others. What suffering have I caused? The middle portion of the 12 step program walks participants through an "owning up to the wrongs I've done" process.

  • Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
  • Admit to God, to yourself, and to another human being the exact nature of your wrongs.
  • Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly ask Him to remove your shortcomings.
Where do I begin this process? How do I inventory my wrongs? I could rehearse my history and recount wrongs chronologically. (Do I have enough time to honestly do this?) I can think through my relationships moving out in concentric circles--my wife, my kids, my close friends, associates, neighbors, etc.

For centuries, Christians have used the moral law of God as the guide to take an inventory of their wrongs. I believe there is still no better standard.

An important note: In approaching the law, I need to keep the gospel clearly in view. The Decalogue begins: I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. In other words, I don't obey God to obtain my freedom, I obey because he has granted it. I don't obey God in order to gain his favor, I obey him because he has given it to me. As I go through this list, I need to keep God's grace firmly in mind. As Robert Murray McCheyne said, "For every look at your sin take ten looks at the Savior." With that in mind, here are my questions based on the 10 commandments:

  • Do I give God his rightful place in my life? Do I find my ultimate joy and satisfaction in him? Am I seeking his glory or my own or another's?
  • What do I worship truly? What do I value above all else in my heart? How is this shown in my use of time, money, my thought life?
  • Is my worship of God guided by his word? Do I depend on any unscriptural aids in worship? Am I superstitious? 
  • Do I recognize God's right to rule over me? Do I recognize that I am his?
  • Am I reverent toward God, his name, titles, attributes, word, and works? Do I make light of him? Am I flippant toward him? Do I presume upon his grace?
  • Do I set aside time to meet with God? Do I observe a day of rest, set aside from my regular routine to be refreshed by God's grace?
  • Do I do right by people? Do I give honor and respect to others?
  • Do I do all I can to preserve and enhance the lives of others? Have I caused physical or emotional harm to others?
  • Have I remained chaste (sexually decent and modest) in heart, speech, and behavior? Have I viewed or listened to any unchaste images, actions, or words?
  • Have I managed well my own property and wealth? Have I furthered the wealth of others? Have I hindered the prosperity of my neighbor?
  • Have I promoted truth between people? Have I upheld their good name? Especially in testimony have I told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
  • Have I caused injury with my tongue?
  • Have I been content with my condition? Have I envied the property or position of others? Have I been grieved at their good? Do I have any inordinate desires?

The next couple of steps help complete the process (which of course will not end until glory!):

  • Make a list of all persons you have harmed, and be willing to make amends to them all.
  • Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continue to take personal inventory and when you are wrong promptly admit it.


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