By Candace Wood
Is it just me, or have you noticed how small the print has become on many items: telephone book listings, recipes, map directions, how-to instructions, and warnings attached to medications? What about the latest advances in computers, cell phones, and digital devices? Large amounts of information can be used and stored in extremely tiny spaces. Big does not necessarily mean better, as the world of technology has shown.
How about noise? Depending on your location and at any given time, your surroundings can range from deadening silence to deafening roars. Bells signaling students to classes, screeching brakes and horns blaring in traffic jams, sizzling food in restaurants, price check call-outs in stores. Even the quiet of a library may be interrupted by the opening of a sliding door. We adjust to noise, so sometimes we are unaware of what we are not hearing.
Christians need a gauge to help us monitor how accurately we are seeing and hearing. We may be accustomed to making our decisions and choosing our way based upon what seems best for ourselves at the moment. But if these choices do not consider God’s preferences for us, we may be headed for difficulties ahead. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12, NIV 1984).
The Bible is filled with life-changing truths, some loudly proclaimed, others quietly spoken. In Deuteronomy 32:44-47 Moses stressed the importance of hearing and obeying God’s words. He calls them “your life” and “not just idle words” (32:44-47, NIV).
So how can we avoid the kind of entrapment thinking the world encourages? We can look to God’s Word to provide a greater understanding and direction for life. Let’s consider some of the worldly entrapments we might face and how God’s Word helps us rise above them.
Expectation of Happiness
Several systematized philosophies have pervaded mankind’s thinking and actions over the centuries, but let’s consider instead some expressions, ideas, and mindsets that are frequently seen and heard today. They may seem lighthearted, casually spoken, and harmless in intent. Yet they can become destructive as they discourage us from assuming personal accountability for our thoughts and actions.
One of these traps is the idea that God’s plan for you is to be totally happy, everyday, in every way. At first glance it makes sense to us. We would like it to be so. God designed his creation and recognized that it was good. He instructed Adam and Eve and Noah to multiply on the earth. The Psalms tell that “from heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind” (Psalm 33:13), that his “eyes . . . are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry” (34:15), and that he “delivers them from all their troubles” (v. 17).
Could we assume then, from these and other select verses, that the Lord places invisible, protective bubbles around his own so they are safely untouched by the world? Obviously not. While we cannot know the true intent and condition of another’s heart, most of us know believers who have lived lives of honor, worship, service, and sacrifice, who also have suffered trials and hardships. What happened? Were they being punished for some secret sin? Or is it also possible that harsh, difficult conditions are the natural lot of all mankind in a fallen world? A Christian gets the opportunity to show how life with God brings greater joy and peace than life without him, regardless of the circumstance. If we are persuaded that we should be deliriously happy every moment, we will be looking frequently for explanations for our miseries.
A Sense of Entitlement
A sense of entitlement suggests that life owes you. Only good things should come your way and you shouldn’t have to do anything to receive or earn them. It is simply your right. Perhaps our culture of abundance is to blame. Or maybe the subtle ways we have of helping build others’ self-esteem by telling them how great they are, what a fantastic thing they have done, or how much they deserve recognition.
How can we rationalize such thinking—that we should have possessions, power, prestige, and the best of relationships simply because we exist? This kind of thinking ignores the discipline, dedication, and perseverance of those who choose the more difficult path of working on one’s career, purpose, relationships, and personal values.
Entitlement thinking leads us to want what we want—immediately. The biblical admonition to “not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Romans 12:3) is a good reminder of the pitfalls of self-seekers.
A Vengeful Attitude
A third trap assumes that when someone wrongs you, something bad should happen to that person. And when it does, you’ll feel a certain satisfaction. In your view, God is “getting them back” for what they did to you.
But has God ever made such a pact with you, that when you’ve been offended, he will readily act to punish the offender? Would you say the same if you were the offender?
We’re mistaken if we think God is there to act on our whims. Rather, his Word tells us that he’s patient because he doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9) and we aren’t consumed because his compassions are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22, 23). God has more mercy and compassion on us than we have on each other.
A fourth and final entrapment is to think that an apology settles every offense. Newspapers, web headlines, and TV news programs often feature personalities who get caught in their mistakes and then apologize as if the apology makes up for the damage done. Just admit your mistake, state your desire to put it all behind you, and everything falls back into place. As far as they are concerned, it is in the past, and no one should hold the mistake against them.
Logical thinking? Some may think so, but the media’s tendency to capitalize on these situations often has the effect of glorifying the deed and the slick manner in which a wrongdoing is concealed.
This can be a slippery slope for Christians, especially if they think that simply issuing an apology will free them from negative reactions and unfavorable repercussions.
Let’s go back to Deuteronomy 32. The Israelites were on the verge of entering the promised land. Moses cited Israel’s history from creation, through their heritage, their ancestors’ actions, and God’s dealings with them. Despite Israel’s rebellion, God had been faithful to his promises. Moses wanted this truth to be planted firmly in their minds.
Then he gave the Israelites some solid advice: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32: 46, 47).
Are we seeing? Are we hearing? The world suggests idle, empty ways to deal with life. It focuses on self and selfish desires. But the discerning man or woman is the one who aligns with God’s words. They aren’t meaningless and empty, nor do they change on a whim. Draw near to God. His words are our life.
Candace Wood is a freelance writer in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Detangling Yourself from Entrapment
Which types of entrapment thinking do you most often fall into: expectation of happiness, a sense of entitlement, a vengeful attitude, or shallow apologies?
1. Write down truths from God’s Word about the area where you struggle.
2. Make a list of ways these truths pertain to your life.
3. Set a goal or make a plan to use these truths from God’s Word to overcome entrapment thinking.