1 Timothy 1:15 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”
There is a psychoanalytic theory that Sigmund Freud developed called ‘Defence Mechanism”. It is is an unconscious psychological mechanism that reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli. Among the purposes of ego defence mechanisms is to protect the mind/self/ego from anxiety or social sanctions or to provide a refuge from a situation with which one cannot currently cope.
Through processes such as repression, identification, or rationalization the individual learns to manipulate, deny, or distort reality.
I have recently noticed the upsurge in depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Our ER’s are full of ‘psych’ patients, people who are suffering from some form of mental disorder or other means of trying to correlate their reality with a worldly approach. Alcoholism is continuing to proliferate in homes where quarantining in an anxiety filled environment drives people for other ways to cope. The resulting attempts at trying to understand how to stay balanced or as Freud put it, remain in ‘equilibrium’, are exercises that become futile over time.
The pathways to acceptance are simply distortions of reality by which people either shelve the problems for another day or drive the negative impulse so far into their psyche that they then suffer from the secondary effects of never resolving the original conflict.
The greek translation for 1 Timothy 1:15 reads like this: “Trustworthy the saying and of full acceptance worthy, that Christ Jesus came into the world sinners to save, of whom (the)foremost am I (ego).”
The Apostle Paul should have wrestled with an immense amount of guilt. Having previously been a Pharisee, his former radical agenda was to eliminate christianity from the face of the earth. He originally believed that christianity was an affront to God and that Jesus was an imposter. He couldn’t fully understand the measure of Jesus’ fulfillment of the messianic prophecies nor could he see beyond his own idealism. The only way for Paul or at the time named Saul, to deal with this problem was to arrest or kill these followers of ‘the way’.
What was it that radically transformed Paul’s reality?
An Encounter with Jesus
The road to Damascus was a moment that changed Saul from an opponent to a radical proponent for Christ. In Acts 9, Jesus appeared in the form of a brilliant light and Saul heard the voice of the Lord ask him why he was persecuting Him. Jesus made sure Saul understood that by persecuting believers in Christ, He was persecuting the Lord God.
Jesus identifies with His people.
When we suffer, He feels it. When we rejoice, He rejoices with us. Jesus is intimately acquainted with all our ways. He knows our fears, He knows what troubles us, and He has the solution to all our woes.
Isaiah 43:5-7 “Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”
The methods that Freud employed for understanding and dealing with life’s pressures are humanistic methods people try and use for coping with life. These methods elevate man into a position that God alone should bear. When we try to deal with life by attempting to form doctrine or conclusions that attempt to bring clarity to a dilemma apart from God, we are simply not accepting the fact that life is more than what this world proclaims.
If our first response to anxiety is an attempt at processing meaning to a dilemma apart from Christ, we attempt to reconcile our lack of control to a method that is unstable and lacks support.
James 1:6-8 “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
The reality that every person on earth knows but might not acknowledge is that life can seem very unstable. The moment we think everything is going great, life throws us another curve ball and destabilizes our perceived reality. If we once again react to these changes by trying to stabilize our situation through our own reasoning or strength, we will find that we grow more desparant with each unsuccessful attempt.
Isaiah 45:5 -7 “I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.’”
Do you realize that there are times when the unsettling events that occur in our lives are actually inflicted by God Himself?
There are moments when we battle against God’s leading and the sin of rebellion leads us into trouble. The harder we fight to keep control, the more we seem to lose it. Our ego might even take over and the perception that we can intellectually manipulate our way through trouble becomes a reality check that we aren’t in control as much as we thought we were.
When these moments of reality finally settle in that we can’t control everything, we have a choice then to either look elsewhere for help or we attempt to cope with our weakness by finding something to bury ourselves in—substance abuse is a common recourse for hopelessness.
Paul shows in 1 Timothy that he has reached a reasonable conclusion in his life regarding his past, present, and even his future.
“I am the worst”, is the conclusion to the substance of his flesh. He knows if he were left to his own vices, he would become one of the most heartless, unloving characters to roam the earth. Many today would take a Paul and try to build him up. “Oh, your not as bad as you say you are”, “Look up, you have many good qualities” are common words of encouragement spoken by those who don’t want to see anyone think less of themselves.
Thinking less of ourselves isn’t always a bad thing.
Keeping a right perspective regarding life is important in dealing with the variability that comes with living.
Isaiah 45:11 “This is what the LORD says— the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands?”
There is a point we must get to where the conclusions of life are not satisfied by intellect or reasoning, by substance or strength…we must draw our conclusions based off what we know regarding an Infinite God.
We cannot understand all His ways nor should we. If we can’t get to a point of trust, knowing that He is faithful, we will live in a state of anxiety and fear for the rest of our lives.
He is leading, our responsibility is to follow….this is the conclusion that makes sense and when we entrust our lives to Him, knowing that we are nothing before Him, we gain a perspective that brings Peace.