The Examined Life

When a person goes through a severe trial and/or is immobilized from an accident, old age or a dreadful disease like Cancer or ALS, that person will likely become more introspective than he or she might have been when they were healthier and busier.

Looking back to when I was “normal” (physically anyway), I now think that many of my activities, including my workaholic nature, could be classified as introspection avoidance techniques. I might not have been conscious of it at that time, and, even though I was a Christian, I don’t think I really wanted to contemplate my so-called innerself back then. Maybe this is at least partly why I fought so hard to stay active; working for a year after being diagnosed, enduring painful falls, which caused a bad concussion, knocked-out teeth, broken bones and more cuts, bruises and embarrassment than I can or want to remember.

Obviously I also fought so hard (to stay mobile) because, like any able-bodied person, I didn’t want to be confined to a wheelchair. And I’m sure my stubborn pride played a big part too. Regardless of the reasons, the transition from avoidance of introspection to forced introspection was physically, emotionally and spiritually painful. But it’s also been rewarding to discover truths about myself and about God that I don’t believe I would have found had I not gone through this trial.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Whether forced by circumstances, as in my case, or the easier and wiser way of choosing to examine our inner-self, looking into this kind of emotional and spiritual mirror can be gut-wrenching; like the man that pumps out our septic tank, you might not like what you find. But, for the Christian, spiritual and emotional introspection is not optional; it is a must for spiritual growth. As Jesus told the hypocritical religious leaders (in Matthew chapter 23), for us to be right with God, man and ourselves, we must “first clean the inside” (our thoughts and motives…) so “the outside (our words and actions…) will become clean also” (CH 23:26).

I believe this is why, like so many other people, I repeatedly failed to keep my New Year’s Resolutions (dealing with outward actions) – it’s like washing the outside of the septic tank when the toilets won’t flush. (Sorry for the crude example).

I’ve personally observed or know of people who have gone through this reflective process and have overcome years of anger and unforgiveness and/or addictions; they’ve become more peaceful, joyful and hopeful. On the other hand, I know of people who have gone through this process and have become angry (at God and people) and some have even become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

What can account for these varying results?

I realize there are exceptions like a chemical imbalance, but generally speaking, from what I’ve observed in myself and in others, is that we have “tools” available to us that will either help or hurt us (make us more or less Christ-like) on this introspective journey, and I believe the tools we choose will determine the outcome.

Some of the harmful “tools” are:

  • Reading, watching or listening to critical or otherwise negative messages or people – “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
  • Comparing yourself to those who are healthier, wealthier or anything else that we might have a tendency to be jealous of or to covet – “…the message (of God) is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” (Luke 8:14)
  • Comparing yourself to your “old self,” the younger, healthier and overall (physically) better you. (I cannot think of a verse for this one, but everyone who has done this knows it is depressing).

Some of the beneficial “tools” are:

  • Surround yourself with encouraging people, especially those that have gone through the introspection process and have emerged more joyful, peaceful and hopeful – “…encourage one another and build up one another… (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Comparing yourself to and helping those less fortunate than you; supporting or volunteering with an organization that helps those going through difficulties – “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me…Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)
  • I’ve discovered that the most important “tool” is reading the Bible; it is a daily dose of knowledge, wisdom, understanding and encouragement. You don’t just learn about God’s nature when you read the Bible, you also learn about human nature – our nature and therefore the Bible is the ultimate introspection “tool” – “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)

Whether you’re currently going through a trial or everything is fine with you right now, I hope you’ll accept the challenge to suspend the blaming of your circumstances or the blaming of others and just focus on who you are in Christ. It took a severe trial for me to figure out that this kind of healthy introspection was the only way I could conquer my “demons” and finally “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)   

If you’ve gone through this kind of introspective journey (in the comment section) please share the “tools” you found helpful and those that you found to be harmful.

In my next post I will share how, through this process, I learned to deal with guilt and regret.

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on January 10, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 144 Comments.

  1. You have such great insight. It is amazing that you have done the hard private wrestling through your intense trial to come out with a rich faith and a desire to encourage other’s.
    I tend to get bogged down in being too introspective, and then trying to force change… *sigh* I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus or I am going adrift bigtime.
    There was a man who was briefly a part of our family (long story) but this middle aged man absolutely refused to do any honest self-examination. He was quick to blame everyone else and run to the next job or relationship, leaving a path of destruction behind him. It was sad.
    I suppose we need both, to stay focused on Jesus and honest about our desperate need for grace.

    • Thank you for your insightful comments, Sierra. We all seem to know people like the man you’ve described – they’re unteachable… As I think you’ve discovered, becoming teachable is an intentional process.

  2. Hope and faith are inseparable. Miracles happen when least expected. Only Prophets could evoke miracles at will.

    God is the Most Merciful. He is always there for us. All we need is remember and ask with the trust that He shall Answer, in His own ways. Only an open heart can “receive”
    such answer.

    The Soaring Eagle

  3. Wise words. I’ve been doing a little of this myself with my new cancer diagnosis. I think the scripture for the not comparing to your old self–the healthier one–might be found in Phillipians 3:13-14…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Looking back never does me any good. It’s what I do today, tomorrow and in the months ahead that count! God knows what those future days look like and He has provided me with the perfect body–healthy or well–to do what I am called to do! You’re living proof of that! Thanks for another great post!

  4. I definitely appreciate your perspective here. Even giving a compelling reason to read the Bible again (which I’ve been pretty disenchanted with lately). Thank you for sharing this and I’m glad I happened upon it today!

    • I’m sorry that you’ve been “disenchanted” (with reading your Bible…), Mark. I can tell from reading your blog that you’re in the midst of an “examination period.” You might call it a crisis of faith where you are doubting or at least reexamining your beliefs, but I think this will ultimately make your faith much stronger. Just commit to reading one chapter from the New Testament every morning.

  5. I have sent this link to about a dozen people! I am in love with your spirit. Your soul has touched mine with an attitude adjustment! I find myself wanting to share your blog with everyone! I am so thrilled that Chris and Michele have connected with you. God Bless you! Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you for your encouraging messages, Diane! And thanks for connecting me with Chris and Michele; I think we’ll really be able to help one other both in practical ways (dealing with ALS) and in spiritual ways (dealing with life:-).

  6. Great Piece! Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom

  7. Loved this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Hi Bill, Thanks for “liking our (Patty and Ray) blog, Today’s Enlightenment. My trial (Ray) came 30 years ago, with results somewhat similar to yours. My problem was one you might add to your list. I call it egocentrism (as compared to being God and neighbor centered. After realizing there was no hope of my getting myself out of my troubles, I put it all in God’s hands, and God told me what to do. I did that and from that point forward I have had hope and God has always fulfilled my hopes. Our blog is one result of hope fulfilled. The idea is to proclaim the truth that with God there is always hope where there seems to be nothing but hopelessness, good news in the midst of bad news.
    Grace and peace, Ray

  9. “Just focus on who you are in Christ.” Eight simple words that speak a sermon’s-worth of truth. Forget the hurts, the frustrations, the irritations, the unfairness, the ______ (fill in the blank!). When those kinds of thoughts distract and distress, refocus on Christ. Easier said than done, for sure. That’s why reminders such as yours are so valuable–to jump start the refocusing process. Thank you, Bill!

    Thank you, too, for visiting my blog. I’m honored!

    • Thank you, Nancy. I agree with you; staying focused on who we are in Christ, which is really who we (really) are, is easier said than done. But most good and beneficial things are easier said than done – at least for me. Changing our thought-patterns (“renewing the mind”) is like turning around a huge sailing ship against a strong wind – a slow and steady process.

  10. good advice….I can sure relate! What has helped me is sharing my God may be glorified in how he has restored me…..the biggest way has been to read Christian blogs…

  11. Any great need can drive us to our knees, clinging desperately to the feet of God. I am young, and cannot say I have suffered any great trial like others have or debilitating physical condition. But when I was in college I was incredibly lonely despite the fact that I had some awesome friends. From that starting point I began a practice of introspection, meditation, and listening for God, as well as regular study of His Word. The more I practiced, the longer I could stay focused on Him. I used to spend hours with Him. I have gotten away from this in recent years, but I have begun the desperate climb back!

    • Thank you for your comments. Loneliness can be one of the worst trials of all, as I think you know. We were created for relationship with God and man. Many people can feel isolated and lonely even if they’re surrounded by family and friends if they don’t have a relationship with their creator. The “climb back up” (to fellowship with God) shouldn’t feel like you’re climbing a mountain – it’s simply a turnaround called repentance. That’s the key that opens the door to God’s throne room.

  12. Thanks for spending time on my blog, I appreciate it. have a lovely evening. see you more often:)

  13. I’ve been blessed this morning by reading your blog, both what you wrote and by the comments others have made.

    It’s wonderful how God has drawn out of you a clear testimony of His grace, then how He uses what you’ve written to draw testimonies and confessions from others. And so we readers all feel drawn toward Him. You’re passing on a divine invitation to a deeper holiness; what better reason to write!

    As time permits I hope to look at some of these other folks’ blogs and read what they are writing, too. I’m sure it would be very edifying reading.

    I would have thought being too introspective isn’t a good thing, in one sense. We hear that North Americans are a society of navel gazers, always trying to figure out why they don’t feel as happy as they should. I’m afraid too many people are trying to wash themselves clean by their own willpower, by forgiving themselves, by positive thinking, yet avoiding the washing God would put them through.

    But what you are writing about is the biblical perspective of Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

    May God bless you for your willingness to share. Heaven will be worth it all.

    • Thank you for your insight and encouragement. I think introspection that’s not filtered through a biblical lens, is bad – it can lead to “it’s all about me.” But I believe if we use the Bible for this self-examination process, we become eternally minded and outwardly focused.

  14. I just stumbled across this post by accident, great testimony here, thank you!

  15. Thank you for the post. It’s helped me think maybe I can finally stop looking back at all the mistakes I made with God and in regards to my life. Maybe I’ll just keep looking forwards from now on even when self-blame comes on. Once again, thank you.

  16. Instead of pleasing or exalting yourself, Scripture tells us to examine, and humble ourselves. (Matthew 23:12; I Corinthians 11:31). I think this would apply to comparing our old selves, or younger bodies. We are suppose to become spiritually mature, and lose sight of the things that will depress, distract, disappoint, discourage, or destroy us. We should not compare ourselves to the rich, healthy etc. because we allow evil to seep in.

    We never know how others got what they got. But if it’s legal then God can do the same for you, and me if it’s His will. He knows what we need. When these Ungodly thoughts seep in, replace them with His promises. The only way to know His promises is to read our bibles and listen for the still voice.

    Our bodies will change over time as we are no longer babies, teens, etc. We are to become wiser in Christ, and more detailed to our character of God, while taking care of our temples (which belongs to God). When we find ourselves looking back on our past, or wishing we had done things differently, then we are looking for self gratification of pleasing ourselves. It is then we must know God’s promises of love, safety, and deliverance by those who dwell in Him (Psalms 91).

    I like to remember God is the changer, and we are the changed. Our temples are being prepared on earth for either Heaven, or Hell. Blessings to you, and I want to say be encouraged….stay encouraged, and don’t look back. Because by dear God you are here rather you are walking, or wheeling it! God is not done with you yet.

    Someone is worse off than you, or me and they praise Him, as if they have legs. They praise Him as if they are not blind. Glory to God. The enemy tried to consume you but God is present in your life because look at you now sharing and testifying for all to know how great God is.

    The devil is a deceiver, and we are not to be deceived, but to walk in faith even when it’s the size of a mustard seed. It is then the mountain can be moved!

    Shenine- A Woman After God’s Own Heart, submitting to Him daily!

  17. Thank you for organizing this material in the blog. I grow when I come here, and it helps me to eaxmine myself.

  18. Thank you so much for this inspiring post. Sharing is such a great tool. Whatever we are going through, we can still comfort others through our suffering when we are willing to share. Hope I can inspire you a little through your following of my blog as you have me.

  19. Reblogged this on annkilter and commented:
    When life is hard, how do we respond?

  20. Congratulations! I love your blog and have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award.
    That being said, I will not be offended if you don’t want to follow the rules 🙂
    I just hope to share your blog with others.

  21. My husband, who goes to sleep at 8 p.m. will ask me what channel I want him to change it to. I have been telling him to just turn it off. I agree with you. Repent (turn away) from the negative. Turn toward those who will build you up. Practice kindness, love, grace, which must come from the heart.

  22. Your perspective is always refreshing…I like how you encourage us all to surround ourselves with others who have taken the tough journey…it really does make a difference!

  23. Thank you for your comment. I see you are dealing with this as well. God bless you and keep you.

  24. Hi Bill, I really do enjoy your reflections as they are from a place of overflowing having walked the walk. Thank you. Craig 🙂

  25. Bill, great post. I’m surprised you haven’t included ‘writing’ as one of your positive tools. I find that when I write I get to re-read my thoughts and ask the question “Is that really me? Is that what I believe, what I really think?”

    “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (writes!)” mt12 In communicating we often get insight into what’s in our own heart.

    Thanks Bill, the effort you exert in blogging is multiplied many many times in the help you provide your readers.

    • Thank you, Jonny. I agree with you, writing is a big positive “tool” for me too. Writing, whether in a journal or for a blog post, helps me to organize and solidify my thoughts.

  26. this is very encouraging! praise God for this entry!

  27. Great Blog! Thanks for sharing:)

  28. Another wisdom ‘WOW’! Praise be to God for the trials you are going through! Jesus is smiling at you knowing that the testing of your faith has brought victory, spiritual power and inspiration to all those reading your words. I really believe that God has truly gifted you with teaching, being an inspiration and, of course, writing. While my personal drug addiction ended (Praise God) over 5 years ago, I just became addicted to a daily dose of your writing! So, with that said, thank you for writing and helping me have a deeper walk with our God.

  29. Bill, your blog is a keeper as well as your inspirational experiences. I am so happy we’ve connected. Keeping the light of hope lit through prayer, soul-searching and love as well as finding the good in all situations is my tool as I think it is yours. Honestly, there are moments of sorrow and pain, but the beauty in the gift of the present moment many times outweighs them and it’s how I try to inspire others (and myself) on a daily basis. My heartfelt hugs to you my friend. xo

  30. You are amazing. God bless

  31. Thank you so much for the “like” on my poem Leaning into Hope. My goal, when I set up this blog, just recently, was to build up the body of Christ even if it was just one reader at a time. When I saw that you and another blogger liked it, I knew I had begun to reach that goal!

    I am touched by your story, and am truly humbled that someone with a story like yours would acknowledge something I had written about how worthy God is, of our continual hope in Him.

    I pray that you discover untold riches in Christ through your unique circumstances, that you continue to share with the world.
    He is worth anything we could forfeit in this life, and those who know that, are TRULY blessed!

    Press on!

    • Thank you for your comments. Since my blog is about hope (in the Christian sense of the word), if I have spare time, I search for other posts using the tag “hope” and that is how I found your post. I get encouraged reading others “hopeful posts.”

  32. Bill, you are inspiration-personified with your positive, gracious attitude and your unfaltering faith. James Lane Allen said “Circumstances do not make a man; they reveal him.” What I see revealed in your posts is a man who has offered himself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1). Holy and pleasing indeed.

    • thank you very much for your kind words, Nancy – I wish I really was the man you described, I would really like to meet him:-) That’s one of the comforts I get from reading the Bible – God was able to use really flawed people – people like me!

  33. Thank you for writing…very beautiful and i understand that’s not easy for you. Prayers for you and all. Introspection is what brought me to Christ. I realized that the years of looking at my life and realizing that no matter what I was doing or learned about my behaviors and why….things didn’t really shift like I had hoped. I finally just gave myself up to God and said, obviously, I have no idea what I’m doing…I’m yours. Everything…is yours. And since that happened I read the Bible, work in a small group and I’m blessed with a church that has now started prayer sessions this year so I go to them. I think my introspection and learnings have mostly been answered through experiences combined with prayer.

    God has been incredible to me…I’m overwhelmed and blessed. I pray that my eyes, ears, mind and heart be open and I stop any behaviors that get in the way of being a Christian. And when I ask for a specific learning….so far it’s been swift and incredibly permanent. Before Thanksgiving I asked God to please show me the gap in myself that I need to fill and he did it in less than 24 hours. It was emotionally incredibly challenging but nothing has ever made it more clear than the events that happened. I have chills now as I write this. I continue to pray, study, worship, and ask for the learning and how to fill gaps with God and be a better Christian all the time. I love your two commandments for the year instead of New Year’s reslutions and I read them each morning most of the time as well. I thank you.

    If it is any comfort to you..I find you to be a blessing in my life though we’ve never officially met. My suffering is nothing, especially when I think of what you’re going through and what Jesus went through. Please know you are loved and thought of quite frequently by all of us who read your blog. Thank you for writing and being the wonderful inspiration that you are.

    God Bless!!!!!

    • Thank you for your encouraging comments. I suppose that most followers of Christ committed their life to Him after a period of introspection or search for truth. It sounds like you finally reached the end of yourself – rock bottom – the place where you’ve tried all of your solutions and found that they don’t work. And, as you discovered, arriving at that point is the only place where God’s grace can take over – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works (reliance upon our own efforts to please God), so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
      Thanks again for your encouraging words and for your prayers.

  34. Wonderful post, Bill. “I’ve discovered that the most important “tool” is reading the Bible.” The tool most helpful to me is taking this one step further… writing out what each verse means to me and how it relates to my life. It’s a process I’ve learned to call “capturing” or “likening the scriptures to myself.” Simply life-changing! Thanks for your sharing, Bill. Your words wring true. Blessings, Peg.

  35. One of the good results from recognizing our weaknesses is admitting that we have to depend on grace from God. Sometimes my weaknesses seem to turn into blessings, because they force me to stay close to God, which changes everything.

    I have a post about God’s amazing creativity in opening my eyes to what I was trying to avoid admitting about myself : ” You Aren’t Who You Thought You Were, Are You?”

    Thank you so much for sharing what God has taught you and struggling against such obstacles to do it.
    God bless you.

    • That’s right, Eileen, the bottom line is that it’s all about God’s grace – it turns our weaknesses (sins, failures, guilt, regrets…) into power.
      “…My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

  36. For me, it took reaching out to others and sharing what I kept hidden in my heart, first with myself (admitting to myself) and then sharing it with someone I could trust. I shared with my sponsor, recovery group and with a trusted Pastor/Counselor the abuse and abandonment I had when I was young. I uses the Twelve Steps of Celebrate Recovery, and their books to guide me in my introspection. They have questions that really get you to look inside yourself if you are willing. I have now lead a step study and we always have people drop out when it is time to do a self inventory of your life. It is a hard thing to do.

    • That’s good, Katie. It’s interesting that people drop out of your group when it’s time to open up. It’s ironic because they’re most likely in your group from the results of trying to keep those hidden things hidden.

  37. Thank you Bill for your thoughtful transparency that gently leads every reader to the Shepherd of our souls. Introspection without the perspective of the Scriptures and God’s Spirit can never truly satisfy. I will continue to pray for the blessing of God’s presence to strengthen you and your family!

  38. Great post. Two elements of introspection come to mind: one is the honest interaction/feedback of a few authentic friends not afraid to be transparent and ask/answer the tough questions and the other is the a spiritual mentor further along on the journey of following Christ who had the insight to ask some probing questions. Usually very uncomfortable but always rewarding.

    • Good advice, Rick. I think you’re right, spiritual accountability is vital. We need to open the “closet doors” in front of trusted friends so they can help us get rid of our junk!
      “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” (James 5:16 NLT)
      Thank you for your insight, Rick.

  39. You have pricked up my ears! Continue, please.

    I am dealing with a muscle disease called Polymyalgia Rheumatica along with Giant Cell Arteritis. Both are most painful and debilitating and are treated with prednisone. That has more side effects that the disease! However, I am thankful it is available and will hopefully return me to my former self in a few years.

    In the meantime I am most vulnerable and weak and have faced three major life-changing events while in this state. So far. What a day of reckoning it has been!

    To sum it all up, I see where I needed some major work done on this “tent” and am slowly setting about to mend it as best I can. In the meantime, I am trying to give back to the world a nicer person, more smiles, more patience, and greater love. I’m learning . . . that’s what life is all about.

    Shalom, young man. Thank you for your faithfulness to our Lord Jesus.

  40. This post really spoke to me today, and I believe God is trying to help me let go of a few things, although honestly, I don’t think I’m quite there yet. 😉 I haven’t felt well for some time, and I find myself mourning my former self and productivity level. And at times, I feel guilty for this. But this morning as I was reading through Habakkuk, two verses really stood out to me.

    Habakkuk 1:11 “They (the Babylonians) sweep past like the wind and are gone. But they are deeply guilty for their own strength is their god.”

    Habakkuk 2:4 “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.”

    This told me it didn’t matter how much I got done, but instead, where my heart was centered. Or, in other words, my righteousness isn’t determined by my skills, my accomplishments, my acts of service, but instead, my obedience and surrender. God can and will be just as pleased with me and what I do today if I am acting in obedience as He was with the plethora of things I did six months ago when I felt better.

    • That’s good, Jennifer! I can definitely relate to feeling like you’re not doing enough… But from the time our daughters started school I told them to just do their best – I think God has the same standard for you and I. It seems that all those trying to do God’s will never seem to believe they’re doing enough for Him or for others, but the guilt we feel is not from Him.

  41. Wow, you have wisdom that just sings out of this page. So exciting what God is doing in you and from the looks of these comments through you.

    I began the introspection process more than 10 years which you may know about from reading my blog.

    Regret was a biggie for me as I was always saying, “Oh, I should have done this or that and often having major regrets.”

    Besides truth journaling, which I talk about on my blog, I also did option charts which I haven’t found a way to post yet – if I get really daring and techie all on the same day I might try to do a video post.

    On my option chart I always put the option I WANTED to have – the one I couldn’t have and then I crossed it out with huge dark lines and put NOT AN OPTION!!!!! next to it so I could drill it into my heat that this wasn’t an option so stop thinking about it!

    Then I would put my real life options, including the ones I was currently doing, such as “stew about how terrible my life is.” Then I would make a chart and note how each option affected my relationship with God, my happiness, and the thing in my life I wanted to change.

    What I discovered is that the best option for both growth, my relationship with God, AND happiness was to do what God wanted me to do – the drastic option. The love, accept, forgive, and submit option! The ones I usually always did – those middle options where I complained, blamed, regretted, etc – they were the worst options in all ways.

    God really helped me grow through all these exercises and I entered such a deep relationship with Him I grew to be incredibly thankful for the trials. He also used the trials to mature me.

    I think it’s great that you’re writing about this because I think it’s one of the areas the church is weak in – just so sad you have to have ALS to learn about it! I told my husband who is a physical therapist about your blog – he knows how hard it is to have ALS, not through personal experience, but through working with patients. You are in my prayers. Thanks for your great ministry.

    • Thank you for your insight, Barb. Dealing with, or trying to deal with, guilt and regret is common among Christians, and you’re right, the church doesn’t seem to be teaching about how to overcome this. I like the idea of journaling. From reading your suggestions and your posts, I can tell you’re a logical thinker. I think many of these issues do have logical solutions, but some cannot be fought with “flesh and blood” methods – they are spiritual problems. Regardless of the source, I agree with you that we need to categorize them and make a battle-plan.

      • I would agree that spiritual problems can’t be fought with “flesh and blood’ methods. I guess the question is, how do we best employ the Word of God, which is a spiritual weapon, in our battles with the enemy?

        It seems to me that when Jesus used it against Satan in the desert, He knew the Word enough to recognize Satan’s lies (which may not have been recognizable to the average person) and fight those specific lies with truth. That to me seems like a logical process. Even though I agree with you – logic itself isn’t a spiritual weapon.

        • Jesus combating Satan in the “wilderness” is a great example, Barb. It’s always fascinated me how the Bible uses the word wilderness both in the literal sense and in the metaphorical sense (spiritual barrenness…). In Jesus’ case maybe it was some of both. Regardless, as it was in Jesus’ case, spiritual challengers always seem to know our weaknesses and they know the exact time to close in on us. The Old Testament begins with Satan challenging Eve when she was alone and vulnerable. The New Testament begins with Jesus facing the exact same situation. In both cases Satan tried to make them doubt God’s word by placing their physical and emotional desires above the word. Satan succeeded in Eve’s case because she either didn’t know God’s word or placed her emotions above the word. But he failed in Jesus’ case because He knew and believed the word and placed it above His temporary emotions and desires. This is our most powerful weapon, Barb. For instance, I may not “feel” like God’s forgiven me, but I choose to believe God’s never-changing word over my ever-changing feelings – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

      • I see what you’re saying – we believe the Word over our own feelings. I totally agree with you. So even if our heart is saying, “that isn’t true,” and the Word is saying, “Yes, it is,” we choose to believe the Word and act it.

        I also think if we believe the Word at the gut level (not just head knowledge), our feelings and desires will change. So if I truly believe my reward is in heaven, for example, I won’t care if I’m rewarded on earth.

        If I’m only at the intellectual level of belief – yes I see that the Bible says that, and I choose to believe it, but it doesn’t quite feel right – I’ll still be upset when I don’t receive a financial reward for my work.

        Or if I truly believe a person is a beautiful creation of God who has a sin problem that spills over and hurts both them and me, as opposed to thinking that person is a jerk, I’ll no longer be annoyed with that person. Instead, I’ll be grieving for them.

        So for me the challenge is to believe the Word at the gut level in those areas I don’t believe it at the gut level. I do that by taking off the lies and putting on the truth situation by situation as many situations as it takes to routinely believe it at the gut level.

        Often that involves acceptance to – accepting the fact that I’m a sinner, that others are sinners, that life isn’t fair, etc.

        Anyway, sorry for such a long reply – don’t feel like you have to reply back as I’m sure it must be incredibly painstaking to reply to these messages since you are paralyzed ( I read your process in one of the early comments).

        I hope you have a good night of sleep tonight.

        • Yes, Barb, that’s basically what I believe – we cannot trust our “heart” – “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
          Thanks again for your comments, Barb.

  42. Bill, I posted your article today. I hope it looks ok. Thank you so much for allowing me to share your story.

  43. Bill:

    I very much appreciate the post The Examined Life is Worth Living. As a Cancer Survivor and who who lives with chronic diseases your post deeply resonates with me.

    My tools to survive, even thrive include: Daily Bible study & prayer, taking walks, time spent with my wife & children, fellowship, discipleship, writing, receiving regular counseling, reaching out to others; both the healthy & the physically challenged, in-person, via phone, text, e-mail and Sykpe as well in serving others including hospital visitations.

    If you use Sykpe, I would enjoy communicating that way with you sometime.


    Glen Kirkpatrick
    San Diego, CA

    • You sound like a pro at this, Glen. I think walking or any kind of exercise is great; my wife walks every day while listening to audio-books or podcasts of sermons on the I-Pod, so walking is physically, mentally and spiritually beneficial to her. Thank you for the good tips, Glen.
      I haven’t ever used Skype.

      • Bill:

        Thanks for your reply. Regarding tools: The Lord has taught me, & continues to teach me fruitful ways to both seek and rely on him. My 1st bout of cancer was in 1987. I didn’t acknowledge, seek or know God until 1990. He saved me spiritually, physically & emotionally.

        Skype: is free to download. One pays a nominal fee for each minute of use. I’ve used Skype thus far to communicate Video & Sound between me in San Diego and a friend
        with MS in Georgia.

        Again, very inspiring to read your posts, and to communicate with you.


  44. Bill you seem to say the right thing when people need it, I have been looking in to my old septic tank over the last couple of days. I think starting this internship and working with people in the same situation I was in at the very place where I got my fresh start has hit home. It makes me want to work harder to help these people clean out their tanks and get the fresh start that I have been so fortunate to receive. Although I am not confused not everone is ready to clean their tank. I beleive I went through what I had to so god could give me the cleaning supplies to hand off to them so thank you once agian. Mike

    • I think it’s great that you’re able to help those that are as you once were, Mike. You can definitely relate to and empathize with them. The great thing is that you are passionate about helping them and that passion is what makes you good at what you do – it’s something that cannot be learned in a classroom – as you already know.
      You’re right, God can and does use our experiences to help others “clean out their septic tanks.” It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it:-)

  45. Thank you for such an insightful, thought provoking post. Every day of our lives, I believe that we need to ask God for a teachable, sensitive spirit – a willingness to see our wrong doing and thinking. Ask someone you love if he/she thinks you have a teachable spirit – their answer will be closer to the truth! 😉

    • That’s good advice. A teachable spirit (humility) is a must for God (the Holy Spirit) and for others to help us. I have tried to help people that did not have a teachable spirit and I felt like I was beating my head against a brick wall. And I bet there have been many times that God (and my wife:-) have felt that way with me.

  46. Becoming a Christian in God’s eyes, is indeed a result of the person finding the truth from God, that will set them free from Satan’s chains…John 8:32… “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (NKJV)

    But this grace from God, is only given by God to those who understand and obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… Anything less, will result in the warnings that the Apostle Paul writes about, in…

    2 Thessalonians 1:8-9… in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (NKJV)

    May U continue to let God’s grace shine through from the words you struggle to put down here…

    As Always,
    In Christ,

    • You’re right, Bruce, but many times, if not most of the time, people have false preconceived ideas about the Christian faith and years of emotional baggage that keeps them from seeking “the truth that will set them free.” I think this is probably one of the reasons that God allows trials; so they might seek Him. God sees the big picture whereas you and I only see the here and now picture. I have discovered that the kind of Bible-guided introspection I was referring to helps us to see the big picture – the eternal picture.

  47. Great post!! I know for me the time I spend reading the Bible and my personal time with Jesus each day is what sustains me and fills me. Much love and many blessings to you.

  48. I like your point on reading, watching or otherwise exposing yourself to negativity! Years ago I found it needful to quit watching most news programs for this reason! So much is out of our control and over exposure to these uncontrolable vices of of our world is sometimes toxic to our spriritual being! Thanks for the post. Very enlightening!

    • That’s good advice. I have drastically decreased the amount of news I watch, especially national news – it’s depressing. My oldest daughter doesn’t have or want a TV because there’s so much garbage on. I have basic cable and I still blocked out over half the channels.

  49. This post requires rereading, because there is too much material to absorb in a single pass. This is the sort of post many blogging “experts” tell us not to write, because people don’t want to read this much substance in one reading. Thank you for ignoring “experts” and giving your readers a true mental and spiritual meal.
    I often discover that I am dithering when I should be actually looking at the pride or envy or mean spirit that the Bible reveals by the light of its truth. You remind me that I need to face what God reveals by his wise dissection of my willful ignorance of my real self.

    • Thank you, Katherine. It’s ironic that you mentioned that this post was not the type of post that blogging experts recommend writing. I probably should, but I never have read recommendations for blogging experts, but one of my goals for the New Year is to keep my posts shorter and less “weightier.” After reading this post I knew that I had failed to reach my goal, but maybe next time:-)

  50. I agree that comparing your older to your younger self can get you down.

    “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions” – Ecclesiastes 7:10.

  51. So true! Several times during my life to this point, i have experienced times of complete isolation, either by choice (working overseas for 4 years) or significant physical illness that prevented me from being so “busy” all the time, I discovered many of these same truths about myself- why I stayed so busy all the time- and the introspection that this time forced me into was cathartic. I finally figured out why I was who I was and what I really wanted and needed to change about me, as well as what I loved about me and wouldn’t change for the world. Most importantly, I finally figured out that God loved me in spite of me and would continue to do so through all my triumphs, he even loves the ugliest bits of me that I was working so hard to keep hidden. Learning not to compare myself to others and to my “old” healthy self was my biggest positive tool. I did go into some of the negatives for a while too – and the most destructive of these was living in regret and anger.

    • Thank you for your insightful comments, Kimberly. I like what you said about learning that God loved you in spite of your faults. That’s one message that comes through loud and clear when reading the Bible – “For God so loved the world” and “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (John 3:16 & Romans 5:8) God didn’t wait for us to get our act together before sending Christ to die; He knew that apart from Christ’s suffering and death, it was impossible for us to get our act together. Even with His help it’s a life-long process – thank God for Grace.

  52. I so appreciate your attitude, given your medical adversities! I am a polio survivor, now limited to bed because of degenerative problems with my spine, as well as neuropathic pain. In spite of powerful pain relievers, I live with considerable pain always. I believe that God has called me to “suffering,” and find great measures of Grace daily; to the extent that I am happy, content, and I fully enjoy my life! I realize this is no comparison to ALS, but very I very much enjoy your perspective. Please be assured of my prayers, and hope you will be able. To keep on writing for a long time. May God richly bless you as you serve in this way. You are making a difference in wonderful ways!

    • Thank you, Steve. I’m so sorry for your adversity! I’m sure you’ve had a lot of time to go through this process of introspection. I don’t believe that God “calls us to suffering.” But this is a deep subject that gets into God’s perfect will and His permissible will – I know from reading the Bible that suffering, pain and death etc are God’s enemy and one day will all be done away with – they’re not His desire for you and I, Steve. But, if you mean that God can bring good out of “what the enemy meant for evil,” and use us during our trials, than I agree with you.
      God bless you, Steve.

  53. Reblogged this on Shamieka Dean and commented:
    Amazing inspirational post.

  54. Thanks so much for this post. Now that I think about it, I’ve been looking at the past too much and getting negative vibes from it. Time to stop and focus!

    Things that helped me with introspective journeys were: being brutally honest with myself and knowing that God forgives me if I’m sinning, that it’s ok. Talking about it honestly with someone I trust. Reminding myself that God provides and reflecting on all that I’ve been blessed with. Taking small steps of improvement.

    Bad things were, as you said, bad company and reflection on former days. Panicking because I didn’t know the answer. Thinking that I knew best about everything. The usual haha.

    • Good advice – it sounds like you have thought about this a lot. I like what you said about being honest (with ourselves and with others). Shame, pride and religion all tell us to keep our skeletons in the closet, but unfortunately that “closet” is our mind and, as I think you know, it’s really scary to be alone in there with all those skeletons:-)

      • Yes, it’s so easy to try to ignore those skeletons and just pummel on. But those things will catch up one day like a horror movie. You just have to stop and clean up at one point even if it means giving up on your pride and slowing down. 🙂

  55. Well said. I’m in a minstry called The Ultimate Journey, used to be called ‘Christ Life’ if you were curious enough to look online. It goes through 3 phases of groups, and phase 1 is about unpacking the old junk, seeing what lies we held onto, and replacing the lies with the truth of God’s word. Renewing our minds. It is a great ministry. What you wrote is very true. Thank you. I’m curious about how you are able to write? Are you partially paralyzed and able to type? I realize that’s a personal question, forgive me for stepping over the line. It would have been better if I would have been able to just email a personl note. Sorry.

    • That sounds like an excellent and very necessary ministry! Whatever else you and I could say about this subject, it is, as you wrote, all about being “transformed by renewing of the mind.” (Romans 12:2).
      I am totally paralyzed. I type with an eye-tracking system – it’s tedious and frustrating, but I am thankful for it!

      • No doubt in my mind it would be tedious and frustrating. I’m so sorry. Some years ago, I read a book, I think the name was ‘Blink once for yes’. A young woman had a litte girl, very young, had a stroke, & while in the ambulance had another massive stroke which paralyzed her completely. After 8 yrs of being in the nursing home, being mistreated by nurses who thought she was in a vegetative state, ..a therapist came into her room. Nobody told him of her ‘condition’, so he tried to communicate…blink once for yes. True story, sad, and a crier. They wrote the book with her blinking each letter. When I read that book, I was so touched, and all I could think of was my friend in Canada with MS. She was struggling at the time, in a wheelchair, pains, depressions. Through that, she felt like, finally someone ‘got it’. She’s in heaven now, and someday we will meet face to face. We all take SO much for granted. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  56. Hi Bill, thank you for sharing your heart with us and using your experiences to help us grow! As you know, I am very passionate about the topic of embarking on the journey towards maturity. I found that when we use pain to change us into becoming more like Christ, we can experience so much joy. Thank you for reminding us of the harmful and beneficial tools available to us when we face a trial. Great stuff! Praise God!

    • Thank you, Danielle. I can tell from reading your posts that you’re passionate about this “examined life” and, as I hope I made clear in my post and I know you’ll agree that introspection is fruitless and maybe even depressing if not viewed from an eternal outlook – using the Bible to guide us.

  57. Wonderfully insightful piece Bill. You give a lot for anyone to think about, regardless of their circumstances (or status of their own personal ‘septic tank’ 😉 We all have one. Love the ‘tools’ you reference!

  58. Introspection. Avoidance of introspection. I’m guilty of both. As you said, though, anything that derails “normal” will more than likely cause introspection. For me, cancer. The pondering, self-exam has been both enlightening and disturbing. Highly valued, though. Great post. Looking forward to your next blog. May God bless your day. Connie

    • Thank you, Connie. I know with all you’ve gone through that you could relate to this. I hope you’re doing well.

    • Thank you for help and honesty. I’ve been examining my own walk with the LORD lately and realize that I have wasted a lot time chasing after idols (in the sense that I have put so many things ahead of seeking God). I hope to make up for lost time by pressing into God through Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord. “Seek Me and you shall find Me if you seek Me with your all your heart.” I’m paraphrasing that verse because I don’t have a Bible in front of me at the moment, but that’s the answer to every question that I put before the LORD. I pray that in 2013 and beyond, none of us will “miss the mark.” I take comfort in the fact that even the most devout Christians (like St. Paul who compared his righteousness to filthy rags) struggle with the old nature. May God bless you for sharing your thoughts and encouraging all of us in our walk with the LORD.

      • Thank you, Sheryl. I am with you on feeling guilty over the time I’ve wasted on fruitless and selfish things! But I don’t believe that guilt is from God (the Holy Spirit) because, maybe you’ve noticed this too, that kind of guilt leads to despair and spiritual and emotional paralysis; it doesn’t motivate me to “press on…” Believing I’m forgiven for the million+ times I’ve “missed the mark” and believing that God will help me to “aim better” today and tomorrow, that’s motivation! We must leave the past behind in order to move ahead unhindered.

        • Thank you for your encouragement. I’m on a quest for a deeper relationship with the Lord. And you are right. Feeling guilty over the time I’ve wasted is down-right depressing. It’s time to move on and follow the Lord in the here and now. I will keep you in my prayers because in spite of your physical limitations, God can take to lofty heights and carry you on eagle’s wings. As His Word says, “Nothing is to difficult for Me.”

  59. Thank you so much for the re-blog, Vera!

  1. Pingback: The Examined Life (reblog) | verawrites

  2. Pingback: The Darkest Night | Junkyard Salvation

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