Self-Inflicted Suffering and Setbacks

Self-Inflicted Suffering and Setbacks
Robert Wurtz II

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (Matthew 5:10–11 NKJV)

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:20 NKJV)

There is a principal in these verses that I wish to consider that deals with the difference between what I might term “general suffering” and what we will call “self-inflicted suffering.” The same can be said for setbacks; there are “general setbacks” and there are “self-inflicted setbacks.”

Matthew 5:10-11 illustrates a group of people who by inference were persecuted for their own unrighteous behavior and who had been reviled, persecuted, and spoken evil of “rightly” and perhaps “deservedly.” These were the opposite of blessed. In other words, some might say concerning the reviling and persecution that they had it coming. These people stand in contrast to the “blessed” who were reviled, persecuted, and spoken evil of falsely for the Lord’s sake.

Peter takes it another step and states, For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? If you have a “beating” coming, then it is of no credit before God. However, when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. In other words, there is a sense in which the godly response is a spiritual sacrifice to God (1 Peter 2:5). In Peter’s language, it is a “gracious thing.”

Self-Inflicted Disaster

God makes it clear that there are times when He sympathizes with our afflictions and other times when He does not. It does not mean He does not love us, it simply means that the laws of sowing and reaping are in play. God is not mocked. Nevertheless, there are people in the world who are blind to the fact that their suffering and setbacks are self-inflicted. They may even assume that God feels sorry for them in their condition. Peter tells us plainly, For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? It is no credit at all. Take your stripes and learn from them. It was your fault. You take responsibility.

Self-inflicted injuries are just that; they are self inflicted. However, bad things are happening all around the person and they blame everyone but themselves — including the Devil. They are blind to their own actions. The secular English speaking world has an idiom for this phenomena: shooting oneself in the foot. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the expression as meaning “to do or say something that causes problems for you.” Emphasis on “you.” Another idiom says that some people are, “their own worst enemy.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines this expression as meaning, “doing things yourself that prevent you from being liked or successful.” Emphasis on yourself and you.

Sometimes we are not liked or successful because we take a stand for what is right. Sometimes what we think is right is not right at all; but that doesn’t stop us from patting ourselves on the back as if we have suffered for Christ. In other words, we must distinguish between truth and our idea of truth. If a person is moving in error and suffering for it — it is still self-inflicted rather they think they are in the right or not. They end up being disliked for reasons very different than what they think they are disliked for. This is a form of self-deception. We have to be willing to allow God to show us whether or not we are being “buffeted for our own faults” (as it were) or if it is actually “for Christ’s sake” that we are suffering.

Sometimes God has to put His finger in our chest — sort of like Nathan the Prophet did David the King and exclaim, “Thou art the man!” There is no hope for a person who “blindly shoots themselves in the foot” unless they take the blinders off and employ some basic common sense to their situation. What can we do if we see that we are self-destructing? The first step is to take personal responsibility for our own actions. Stop making excuses and stop blaming other people. Don’t “pass the buck” — another idiom meaning “to pass the blame (to someone else); to give the responsibility (to someone else).” You might have heard it said,  “Don’t try to pass the buck! It’s your fault, and everybody knows it. Some people try to pass the buck whenever they can.” (ibid) When we finally realize that we are the problem we can finally get down to making needed change and seeing progress. Otherwise we just go on in a sick sort of self indulgent pity — playing the victim when in reality we victimized ourselves.