Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
It is OK to be sad, to be angry and to be hurt when you have gone through a hard time—and it’s OK to be human. I’ve met people who experience real trauma because they spent so many years trying to please other people, and were never happy.
I want to talk briefly here about living in denial. An interesting subject. Do you live in denial? And what does it really mean? I think a good definition is a refusal to accept unpleasant truth about a situation or admit what you’re feeling. It’s so easy to blame others for how we feel.
We Are Flawed By Nature
Living in denial means you’re never a failure. It’s like saying I have never failed at anything. You think that you are somehow far too talented, hardworking or knowledgeable and that everything you touch will turn into gold. Sorry to burst your bubble there, but we humans are flawed by nature.
We all make mistakes. No-one is perfect except God himself. Or you say It’s always someone else’s fault; I’m never in the wrong. You keep doing everything right and they just ruin things for you. The girl who keeps squeezing into a size-10 dress when it’s obvious she’s a size-14.
The man who keeps calling the girl he met and asking her to go out, even though she has told him to go away and that she isn’t interested. The person who is having some really alarming symptom like passing blood in their urine or finding a breast lump, but hasn’t gone to ask the doctor about it. That’s called living in denial.
When The Truth Is Unpleasant
Mainly it means that they don’t want to know the truth about the situation, because the truth is unpleasant. Too unpleasant to bear. I’m not criticising anyone for this—I’m just trying to open up a thorny question which may affect you and me at some point. It’s about facing reality. Fooling yourself can have serious consequences or even long-term damage.
It’s easy to deceive others and ourselves by exaggerating or lying, or even refusing to face the truth about ourselves. Psychiatrists say, “People keep secrets from themselves because to acknowledge the information would be extremely anxiety-producing.” And I can understand the reasoning behind the professional advice. You may want to buy that new car, but you know full well you can’t afford it. But you go ahead just the same.
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That’s living in denial. We can cover ourselves with a phoney mask to make us look perfect to the world and hide who we really are—run away from situations to avoid getting hurt and ignore things we need to change in ourselves.
Do Christians Live In Denial?
I know that some loud voices have criticised Christians for living in denial. Like the one-time Governor of Minnesota in the US Jesse Ventura. When he was asked to state his opinion of the church, he said: “I believe that religion is for the weak-minded. It is for those that have nothing in themselves. For those that need something else to make them strong.” The mainstream media loved this quote.
But it’s a fairly weak and insipid thing to say, if not totally wrong. Christianity is not for those living in an unreal, fairytale world. Having a faith in a loving God, who created the universe, is the best thing you can do. It’s not ‘airy-fairy’ or denial living. In the Bible, faith is defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The definition never said anything about living in denial as a proof of faith. Instead, it shows us the importance of faith in our everyday living. It makes us see faith as the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. This thing called ‘faith’ is our handle on what we can’t see.
True faith Changes Things
The amazing thing is that a committed Christian believes faith in God does make a difference—every day. True faith is the one that changes things, and says: “I won’t live in denial that things aren’t the way I want them to be—but I won’t allow this to determine what becomes of my life. I’m fully persuaded that God will do what he has promised (in his word) no matter what the circumstances look like.”
In John 8:32 Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Facing our inner pain can be scary, but if you follow Jesus he gives us the strength to bear our hurts and follow through. The pain we may go through is just temporary as we journey towards healing.
Admitting the truth of our situation is the first step toward healing. As TV guru Dr Phil always says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”
We cannot open the door to God’s healing until we do. God says that you can’t heal a wound by saying it doesn’t exist (Jeremiah 6:14). God comes to help us when we call on him: “Our Lord you are near to everyone whose prayers are sincere” (Psalm 145:18).