Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Acts 26:14

While driving recently, I listened to a podcast in which the interviewee described how, as a child in church, she felt that she had to pick between God and herself. In retrospect, she felt she made the right decision, rejecting God and being true to herself. Later, as an adult, she realized that the choice she felt force into as a child was a false construct of her church and that God actually wanted her to follow her way. She’d made her peace with God as she chose the god that wanted her to live exactly how she wanted to live.

I had no particular feeling about her specific moral crisis or her childhood church. I did though, recognize that she’d created her own god or had deified her own will, making her will her god.

I’ve done this, whether or not I admitted it at the time. I said I believed in God, but my addiction revealed that I put my appetite above all, sacrificing everything for it. I insisted I was going to follow my way – and it made me miserable.

Paul must have had a similar experience. He believed his way was right – persecuting Christians – until Jesus himself appeared. Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Goads were a sharp stick used to prod the back legs of oxen. If the oxen kicked against the goads, they were stubbornly engaging in behavior that would only bring them more pain. Paul, following his own will, opposed God, injuring himself and others.

We often do this. We demand the right to follow ourselves above all, not realizing that making a god out of our will puts us in direct opposition to God’s will. But we must be true to ourselves. Those of us who’ve known addiction though, understand just how deceptive and disastrous our will can be. Still, we follow it, often without even realizing it.

When we’re miserable, we must go to God, honestly asking what’s causing our misery. Then, we must do what it takes to give that thing up. Maybe he allows us to keep it and maybe he doesn’t. The problem is that thing which causes us the most misery is usually the one thing we won’t surrender. Whatever we refuse to give to God though, then becomes our god. If we truly want to know joy, we all must face the choice of following God above ourselves.

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