Self Diagnosis

While the autumn temperatures continue to drop, it seems as if the number of visits to the doctor climbs. Welcome to the season of runny noses, spiked fevers, and flu bugs. Just yesterday my wife had our twin boys into the office for ear infections.

These visits to the physician made me think about the diagnosis that the Great Physician gives when he evaluates us. Especially when he looks into our hearts and sees the pride that dwells there.

The diagnosis is grim: a serious case of the “selfs.”

This “self” diagnosis ought to come as no surprise. All the symptoms are there.

First, there is the obviously discernable self-centeredness and self-importance. We have a massively inflated idea of our own importance. And because of this huge opinion that we have of ourselves, our focus is turned inward on ourselves. We are the king (or queen) of our own little kingdom, and everything revolves around the royalty. We look out for number one, with hardly a concern for anyone else. Let others either help me or get out of the way.

Second, there is the subtle yet recognizable self-righteousness. In any disagreement, we think that we are right and others are wrong. When criticized, our inner lawyer is activated and we immediately respond in defense of ourselves and never admit that we are wrong.

Third, there is the symptom of self-confidence and self-reliance. We are confident in our abilities to handle any situation and we trust in our own arm of strength. We’re quick to the draw when it comes to other’s sins, but we are loathe to show any sign of weakness, whether physical or spiritual. We’re quick to dispense with advice and counsel to others, but we never ask for help or go to a friend or officebearer for assistance and counsel.

This “self” diagnosis ought to come as no surprise. It runs in the family, after all.

In fact, it goes all the way back to our first parents. We see the symptoms of it with Father Adam and Mother Eve in the Garden. See the self-confidence of Mother Eve as she stands on her own and converses with the enemy. See the self-centeredness as she reaches out for a fruit that will make her god, and then draws her husband into her misery. See the self-righteousness of Father Adam as he argues his case before the Judge of heaven and earth: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me! She’s to blame!” And then Eve points the finger: “The serpent beguiled me! It’s his fault!”

And down through the ages this vicious nature has been propagated. A corrupt stock has produced corrupt offspring. Our grandparents had the malady. Our parents received it. We have it. And, sadly, this is what we pass on to our children and grandchildren after us.

Is there no cure?

There is! We have a Great Physician who forgives all our iniquities, who heals all our diseases, who redeems our lives from destruction. He humbled himself and made himself of no reputation in order to deliver us from our pride. He gave up his life in order that we might have life and have it more abundantly. And he applies to us the soothing palm of forgiveness. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

But the Great Physician is not pleased to cure us in an instant. This is a lifelong process. And it is painful. He wheels us under the bright light of the operating room, opens us up with the knife of his Word, and uses that scalpel to cut away the cancerous mass. He gives us a daily dose of humility as he causes us to see his greatness and glory and our own insignificance and depravity.

Our Great Physician also prescribes for us a rigorous regimen of daily conversion. We are called to put to death the old man more and more, and to live out of the new man more and more.

This too is difficult. The old man does not go down without a fight. He wants to dominate. There is gradual growth and progress, but never perfection.

Give thanks to God for the healing he gives now and the strength to fight the “selfs” of pride. And look forward in hope to his return, when he appears with healing in his wings.

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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