Welcome to Monday, April 27, 2020, and this edition of The COVID-19 Devotionals. Today’s episode is titled Beers, Bibles & Bullets | My Monday Morning Cup.
Recently, I read an article about a sharp increase in prescriptions for depression, anxiety, insomnia during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the article here.
I have also read articles about surging alcohol and beer sales, increase sales in bibles, and in a spike in sales of guns and ammo.
People are responding differently to this pandemic. You can read articles on surging alcohol and ammo for yourself. Bible purchases apparently hit an all-time high during this pandemic. COVID-19 certainly has had its interesting share of side effects.
Amid all the ‘togetherness’ there has also been an uptick in the divide between us nationally and globally. We’re not all singing kumbaya in perfect harmony. In the months leading up to COVID-19, I had a growing, deepening sense of a spirit of discouragement clouding over the heartbeat of our nation. Today, as I prepare this post, I see an increasingly critical spirit creeping in among the conversations we’re having globally, nationally, and locally. My guess is that we’re beginning to see that in our homes too, even in the most optimistic folks living in our neighborhoods. Cooperation is starting to morph into dissent and unrest as the criticism of nearly everyone and everything ramps up into high gear.
I know that I can be guilty of this myself. Are you?
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Romans 14:10-12 (NIV)
To be clear, I think there is a difference between honest evaluation and exercising wisdom and discernment. But if we find our thoughts, words, and actions toward others to be increasingly negative, we must admit the problem and address it through prayer and intentional daily practice.
What is a critical spirit?
In her book, “Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook,” radio host June Hunt says that a critical spirit is an excessively negative attitude with harshness in judging. Someone with a critical spirit is prone to unfair criticism through faultfinding, nitpicking, carping, quibbling, and complaining.
The Bible encourages us to develop a caring spirit instead of a critical spirit.
What is a caring spirit?
A caring spirit, according to Hunt, is characterized by demonstrating a thoughtful, attentive attitude with a desire and heart to help. When we act with a caring spirit we are reflecting the compassion and caring heart of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Having someone care about us is one of our deepest human needs. We all, at some level, have a desire for someone to listen to our dreams and walk with us through our disappointments. We long for someone to share in our joys and sorrows, celebrate our successes, encourage us amid failures, maximize our strengths, help us overcome our weaknesses, and love us warts and all. We want people who genuinely care about us in our lives, don’t we?
“The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him…”
Nahum 1:7 (NIV)
Words are like bullets. Once released, they can’t be taken back, only forgiven. I know this myself all too well. If you grew up in a home where a critical spirit resided and spread its influence over the family, then you likely carried that spirit, like a bad virus, with you into adulthood. Negativity, like the cold and the flu, is easily spread. You may have grown up waiting for the other shoe to fall or where one person criticizing another was part of everyday conversation. I know that’s true for me, personally.
An interesting thing about growing up in an environment where you experience constantly being attacked is that you quickly learn to resort to staying on the attack. Punch first, ask questions later. Hurt people, as is often said, hurt people. Again, I know that to be true for me. I’ve spent my entire life dealing with this issue. I’m in recovery for a reason.
I think that oftentimes when we criticize others we are moving the spotlight off ourselves. Sometimes, criticizing someone else gives us a sense of momentary power—a sense of significance, if you will. We build ourselves up by putting someone else down. That need to build ourselves up doesn’t necessarily grow out of an air of superiority, but rather a feeling of inferiority. It’s a reflection of our need for spiritual healing and a component of our spiritual growth.
Scripture warns us though with Paul’s words recorded in Romans 2:1: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
In criticizing others, you and I are only revealing our own shortcomings and reflecting our sinful nature. The Creator of all things thought you and I were significant enough to send His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us so that we might not perish but have eternal life. He continually extends His mercy upon us. A critical spirit speaks to our need for love, security, and significance because for some reason we feel we are lacking in one or all of those areas.
COVID-19 isolates us from others, hindering our ability to sense the love of others and to show others love. The economic upheaval that has resulted from the need to slow and limit the spread of this virus is challenging our sense of security. Millions of people don’t know where their next meal is coming from or how they are going to survive financially. That’s disheartening and disturbing. The coronavirus, unseen and indescribable in our everyday human terms, can make us realize that we’re a speck of dust in a moment of time. Apart from a God who loves us, you and I worry that we might be nothing, at least nothing noteworthy of significance, in the lifespan of this big blue planet we consider home.
Digging out from the ditch of criticism requires a lot of mindful and intentional effort that starts with one thought and one word at a time. Cultivating a spirit of caring for the hearts and the lives of others instead of readily criticizing their attitudes and actions requires some deep reflection on our part in order to get on the road to peace and recovery. We’ve got humble ourselves, recognizing our own imperfections and our deep need for God’s mercy.
We can help others see their significance in God’s eyes. You see, in the Lord’s eyes, we all matter. He loves us, unfathomably. We should do likewise. And I’m not speaking as an expert here but as a struggling practitioner. We can examine the way Jesus showed compassion to others in reading the Gospels and through praying to God about helping us overcome our critical spirit and grow in our compassion and caring towards others. God can help us love others better. I know this is true from personal experience.
A simple way to start developing a louder voice of compassion and quietening the critical spirit in us is to praise God for the blessings He has bestowed upon us. Individually, we each have a lot to thank God for that we take for granted. We woke up today. We’re breathing. Not in our own strength, but because God ordained it. He granted it. He gave us today.
After beginning with praising God, praise the positive in others, especially those people who get on your last nerve or who you find super difficult and problematic. Ask the Lord to help you not despise anyone whom He created and loves. Again, I’ve learned this works from personal experience with people I’ve struggled with in the past, and as I remember to implement it when I encounter a new source of consternation. If there is someone or a group of someones in your life, remember that a) they aren’t there by accident, and b) they are as worthy of your love as you are of God’s. Christ died for them, just like He died for you…and me.
Ask God to show you something positive in that person who is driving you crazy and that makes you evoke criticism with every thought, word, and deed. Faithfully seek to praise that positive revelation the Lord shows you and speak it over that person’s life in place of the criticism you would otherwise unload.
One of the frequent prayers I share with the homeless men we minister to down at Union Gospel Mission Dallas is that they see themselves the way God sees them and that they recognize that they have value in His eyes. God sees us and values us. He didn’t send Jesus to give His life as the ransom for some, but so that none would perish. All who call on His name shall be saved (Romans 10:13).
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NIV)
We can choose to not let our words wound others. This is an area that I struggle in daily. I have to give my words to God first thing in the morning so that they are an instrument for good rather than a tool for the Devil and a weapon of destruction.
People don’t always mean what they say and their words and actions often speak to their own deep needs for love, security, and significance. If someone is exhibiting an undesirable or inappropriate behavior think of ways that you can help them overcome those behaviors through building them up rather than tearing them down.
Father God, thank You for the love and mercy You have shown me. I am grateful for the people You have put in my life. Help me love them as You have loved me. I pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to teach me spiritual truths that lead me to speak those truths in love. Thank You for Jesus. In His name I pray. Amen.
- Are you struggling with a critical spirit during these unusual times?
- How are you dealing with thoughts, words, and actions that find fault and put down others?
- Do you know someone who needs you to remind them of the value they have in God’s eyes?
If you feel encouraged by this post or know someone this post might help, please feel free to share it. I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to read my blog and I enjoy engaging with my readers through the comments that they leave. So be sure to leave a comment, share your thoughts, or give me a shout.
The Devotional Guy™
ABOUT: The Devotional Guy™ is a writing ministry of Rainer Bantau, a seasoned gospel preacher, church musician, and chaplain ministering to individuals in their workplaces, to the homeless, and wherever he meets them. He shares helps, hope, and insights on his blog, The Devotional Guy™.
I believe that in order to experience life the way God intended, you and I must receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ, God has made this gift available to all who ask.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Will you personally receive the gift of eternal life so that you can experience the total forgiveness from your sins that come through believing in the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”