Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast:
Get caught up with all episodes in the Developing a New Focus series.
We are learning something new all the time. We acquire information from people we know, from the books we read, the media, and lessons we learn from the choices we make and just plain living.
The Bible tells us many real-life stories about people, their struggles, and the outcomes of their decisions.
Some of us don’t spend as much time in the Old Testament as we used to or give a lot of thought to how the stories could benefit us today. These stories reveal people just like you and me who struggle with life.
Sometimes they resisted doing what was right and were overwhelmed with temptations that got them into a lot of trouble. Their lives were not perfect. And neither are ours. But we can learn and improve.
Consider the following:
- Noah started drinking in excess after his successes.
- Cain was jealous and murdered his brother.
- Jacob was a liar and conniver.
- Joseph became a victim of jealousy and hatred.
- Gideon was afraid.
- Samson was a womanizer and his lifestyle had disastrous results.
- Rahab was a prostitute.
- David had an affair and his adultery led to murder.
- Samuel, a faithful servant of God, was a terrible parent.
- Elijah had depression.
- Jonah ran from God and had a bad temper.
- Job lost everything and was taunted by his religious friends.
- Peter denied Christ.
- The disciples fell asleep when Jesus asked them to pray.
Why read the Bible?
If the Bible is full of stories about people who do hurtful, vindictive, and destructive things, why should we read it? All we have to do is watch the evening news, and we can see and hear the same thing.
However, the stories in the Bible don’t just show a slice of human nature. They also offer alternatives – a different way to live. They include insights into the character of God. He loves us, warns us, gives us instructions, and allows us to suffer the consequences of our behaviors while giving us grace.
Within these stories we find ourselves! We also find redemption and forgiveness and the precepts to live principled lives. And we find a God who reaches down to us, a God who sent His Son to die for us. His love is so great.
Let’s take another look at these stories. What can we learn from each of them that, if applied to our own life, would make a great difference?
In the book of Genesis, man’s desire to rely on his own wisdom and intellect instead of obeying God is revealed in the first chapters. The first family experienced sibling rivalry, jealousy, and murder. When Cain was challenged by God to be responsible for his life, he chose to nurse his anger and resentment until it led him to murder.
Noah was chosen by God to save his family from a corrupted world. While enduring taunts and ridicule from neighbors, Noah continued to build the ark, trusting in God. He chose to believe and followed instructions. It was only later that he allowed alcohol to dull his thinking and emotions.
Jacob took matters into his own hands and decided he would carry out what he believed was God’s prophecy. He lied to his father and cheated his brother out of his inheritance. His conniving resulted in him fleeing for his life. He, in turn, was manipulated and cheated. Later he returned home to face the brother he had deceived. There was a reckoning both with God and his brother.
Joseph was his dad’s favorite, and his brothers were jealous of the special love and attention he received. Their resentment fueled a grievance story that led to a murder plot. At the last minute, however, Joseph was sold as a slave instead of being killed by his brothers. Later in life, these same brothers were at the mercy of Joseph. Joseph had to choose whether to be vindictive or to forgive.
Samson was given extraordinary abilities. He became arrogant and flippant and used his strength and charm to flirt with danger – the enemy of his country. He paid for it with the loss of his eyes, his strength, and his life.
Rahab lived at a time when, if a woman was not under the protection of a husband, prostitution was a way to survive. Rahab was a prostitute. Yet she was challenged to put her life on the line to protect men of God. She believed this was the God to follow, not the culture and king of the day.
Gideon was asked to lead a battle. He was not in the army. He was afraid. He had to ask repeatedly if God was really going to be with him. But then he stepped out in faith, followed instructions, and his people were saved.
David, who loved God and who God set up as king of Israel, jeopardized his entire kingdom by thinking because he was king he could make his own rules. A king’s power was like the dictators of today – they made the rules and imposed the power over them. However, this kingdom was supposed to be run by God’s rules. David’s misuse of power ended up in adultery, breaking up a marriage and murder. The consequences followed him throughout his life.
Within these stories (and many others) we see the effects of jealousy, resentment, grievances, anger, lust, manipulation and misuse of power, alcoholism, dysfunctional families, cheating and lying. These characteristics seem to be in the very nature of humans.
What we can learn about ourselves from Bible stories
But also within these narratives, we see how God intervenes in our lives to save us from ourselves and bring us back into right standing. Without that intervention, we would not make it.
He not only gives us instructions on how to live, but grace when we screw up. But it is not cheap grace that says, “You can go on as usual.” That grace had a price that was paid for by the death of His son on the cross.
As therapists, we try to help people who have been victims of trauma. We work with them to overcome anger problems and abuse and find constructive and positive ways to establish self-esteem and worth.
There are cognitive methods to neutralize fear and anxieties without alcohol and drugs. As a counselor, therapist, and teacher I have taught strategies on how to replace habits, change our thinking to reduce emotional upsets, and ways to turn our lives around. Within each of us there is an amazing resilience and the ability to heal and make changes.
Yet, our efforts will ring hollow if we don’t recognize that we need God to teach us the basics on how to live. We need His intervention to help us heal and forgive and give our lives purpose and meaning.
It is only then that we will find the peace we all so desperately want and cannot find any other way.