Assumptions. We all make them. Lately I’ve been thinking about the effect assumptions can have on our lives. Now, most of us when we think about assumptions will of course think about them being negative. These are the ones I am talking about. Of course not all assumptions are bad. We might just change our terminology with other types of assumptions in order to keep them away from the detrimental ones. For example, if my wife falls asleep on the couch while we are watching something I picked on the tv then I can assume that it may not interest her and I should change the channel. But I may rather say that I should be “sensitive” or that I should be “aware”. I make this pause because it can be a cop-out to just say that all assumptions are bad and then shake our heads with a “tsk…tsk”.
Concerning negative assumptions, I find myself like a refugee out of a battle worn country. The effect that bad assumptions have had on my spiritual walk with Christ, my personal and work relationships, and simply my running thoughts throughout the day, is staggering. It always starts out small. There is some issue or rather something that is important to me that “seems” to be threatened in some way. Boy, that sounds dramatic…I mean to say that it could be as pithy as waking up 15 minutes late or finding out about an unexpected bill. A whole book could be written on the causes and effects of assumptions (see Pursuing Wisdom), but in the meantime I think it is valuable to have a short thought on the topic that can be applied today.
Three Reminders to Combat Negative Assumptions:
1) Negative assumptions exist in the absence of grace.
When we make negative assumptions and it involves other people, not just circumstance, there is always the temptation to believe the worst in people. This is especially a problem for Christians because we know more and more in our sanctification, the depravity of man. We find ourselves increasingly confronted with how wretched man is. Thus, when we encounter potential threats, how can we not assume that people will react in ways that reflect this evil nature? And yet Paul says very clearly in Philippians 2:3 that we should count others more highly than ourselves. Philippians is very clear about our attitudes and intentions. But this has nothing to do with how they will be to us. The effort of extending grace to others is not one that expects reciprocity but is an effort in obedience to The Lord whether to the Christian or the non-Christian. I am not referencing all of the verses about grace because we are not talking about sin that has happened but sins we fear will happen in our negative assumptions. Therefore, knowing the corruptions of our mind and the clear charge to give people the benefit of the doubt, negative assumptions are best stamped out by removing this cynicism about individual’s sins and rather keep the depravity of man education applicable to ourselves for our own repentance.
2) Christians are not meant to flee from suffering but rather to embrace it.
I have to thank one of the ministers at my church for this one (Thank you Jeff Salisbury). Philippians 1:29 tells us that, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but suffer for His sake.” As Christians, we often are taught about the existence of suffering in the Christian life. And yet, it seems that we attempt to constantly flee from this or at least be distracted from it. A professor of mine, Dr. Ivan Spencer, made an excellent point about this when he related that all of our advancements whether technologically or for leisure have been in an effort to combat or distract from the effects of the fall of man. It is in our nature to flee from the truth of what we are as sinners. More so, our human nature fights against our calling as Christians to embrace the suffering we are meant to endure. The challenge is that there are so many distractions that really keep the majority of us in Western Society, especially, from the kind of suffering seen in the Bible. That, of course is not true everywhere. The are many, many Christians across the globe that are being persecuted and even killed for their faith even today. But how many Christians are actually exposed to that truth today? (By the way, there are great resources concerning the suffering of brothers and sisters in Christ. One of which is Voice of the Martyrs). But because so many of us do not experience that kind of suffering we are left with many pithy concerns. Nonetheless, for all of us there is an ever-present suffering we endure with our human natures and further more the attacks of the enemy (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, whether big or small, we all suffer. It must be the effort of every Christian to accept this and not flee from it. Any effort to flee from suffering is rooted completely in our attempts to resolve our own circumstances and fears. For even if we have the best of intentions for someone we love and we fear for them, we are still doing so based upon our own assessments and assumptions. Suffering is meant to be met with surrender, not to the world, but to the providence and ultimate resolution of The Lord whether on the present earth or the eventual blessed one.
3) Christians are pre-disposed to think about what concerns man and not what concerns God.
Mark 8:33 is our Lord’s rebuke against Peter. He says to him, “But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'” We can all relate to Peter here. Negative assumptions are made because of fear. That fear exists because of an uncertainty of security in Christ. That uncertainty exists because of a dependency we place on ourselves to resolve our circumstances rather than our submission to The Lord. This is what man sets his mind on. He thinks on how HE can fix it or what HE needs from OTHERS to fix it. These are not the things of The Lord. In order to have a perspective where we concern ourselves with what matters to God, we have to accept that we are NOT in the know. We have to accept that there is, and there has always been, an ignorance of what is really going on it its fullness around us. We may have thought we have had a good grasp on things but in truth there are far too many variables to really deny the guiding force of the Creator. God has a plan and an agenda, our effort as Christians must be to get on His wagon. Prayer, time in the Word, and honestly submissive silence are the only options. In doing so, we will find ourselves giving people the benefit of the doubt, but accepting trials as they come our way, and having hope that God has a master plan and we are secure in Him.