Here’s one thing we all have in common: We all have problems! We all have issues, faults, weaknesses, and we surely have more unworthy thoughts and feelings than we would care to admit. Welcome to the human race!
Consequently, people spend tons of time and money trying to treat or reduce the symptoms of all these things. We want to soothe our angst, reduce our discomfort, fix the problems, get rid of our anger or just make life stop hurting. We want to just do something! And sometimes we just do anything, even if it’s wrong or ineffective, so we can proudly pronounce that we did something to fix a problem and move on.
The truth is, life is not that simple. We end up putting a Band-Aid over the symptoms of our distress, but usually never address the root cause. Furthermore, problems that took years of dysfunctional attitudes and behavior to develop do not go away with a quick fix. We may try to convince ourselves otherwise, but there’s no getting around it.
Many of our quick-fix solutions merely mask the real problem, while the problem remains unresolved and continues to mess up the person’s life and often the lives of others. For example, many people seek marital counseling, not to take responsibility for their own shortcomings, but to try to change or “fix” their mate. They want the counselor to improve the behavior of their spouse, but often rarely consider that they themselves might be contributing to the conflict. And when asked how they can work on an area in their own life that drives their mate crazy, they often discontinue counseling, saying it didn’t work.
In my lifetime and career, I have often had the privilege of trying to help people work through personal or relational problems, and I have found that one principle always holds true: correction must start from within, at the source, of the person’s problems.
Therefore, I try to guide people to identify the source of their problems, and try to help them find a way to treat the issue at its source. I lead them to identify the cause of the symptoms and thus the real problem, rather than just trying to fix the symptoms.
Even once we accurately identify a problem, the problem is far from solved. Solving a problem requires that the person with the problem take personal responsibility for their own life. It requires a change of their own behavior, values, perceptions, behavior and decisions. Human problems are really deep — and really messy.
So what is really the source of our problems? It’s us! It’s in our really messy hearts!
In Jeremiah 17:9 (CSB), God speaks of man’s real problem: “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” Jesus said this in Matthew 15:19 (CSB): “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, and slander.” Destructiveness originates and comes out of a human, then manifests itself outwardly in destructive behavior.
The Bible also gives us a solution for our messy hearts, as we can read in David’s prayer in Psalm 51:10-12 (CSB): “God, create a clean heart for me, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit.” David went straight to the source; he essentially wanted a new heart.
So what can we do? We must admit that our real source of problems is a heart that is messed up by sin and evil. We can’t fix a wicked heart, but it can be replaced with a new heart that is created by God. We can go to him for daily guidance to as we seek to listen to him and obey him.
So we see that it is futile to just mask symptoms; instead we must heal from the inside out. We must change out hearts to change from destructive behavior to constructive behavior, to move from hate to love, to go from anger to kindness. As we change perhaps we can help those around us to produce the same movement in themselves, and in our families, in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our society.
Receiving a new heart with God’s Spirit and values living inside us, addresses the real problems of our messy hearts. We must go to the source!
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church in Gwynn, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.