A Thoughtful Word from Elizabeth Rice Handford

You’ll grant that Psalm 119:29 is an odd prayer, won’t you?

Lord, keep me from lying to myself.

How could you possibly lie to yourself? Wouldn’t you realize right away that what you were telling yourself simply wasn’t true?

Maybe not. Isaiah 44:12-20 tells about a blacksmith who cuts a tree down in the forest. He takes it home and saws it in half. Half the wood he burns to cook supper and to heat the house. But the other half of the tree trunk he carves into a god and decorates it with gold and silver. He “falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’” (Isaiah. 44:17).

You’d think a smart craftsman would have enough sense to admit to himself, “I cooked a meal with some of this wood. I heated the house with some of it. And the rest of it I carved into a god? Could a piece of wood like that possibly answer my prayers? Of course not!”

But verse 20 says, “A deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’”

Yes, sadly, we sometimes lie to ourselves because it is too painful to admit the truth.

Early one morning the parsonage phone rang. A woman sobbed, “Libby, auditors are coming this morning to examine the books where I work. They are going to find that I have embezzled from the company. I intended to pay it all back, but it’s too late now.” She didn’t know how much she’d stolen. “Maybe $10,000?” It turned out to be $200,000! She had lied to herself. If she’d intended to pay it back, she’d have known exactly how much to pay back.

A young man came for advice. He’s under house arrest. He’d been appointed a public defender, but he wanted $20,000 to hire a “high-class lawyer.” He asked a mutual friend of ours to give him the money. “After all, he has more money than he can spend anyway.” The friend, not surprisingly, demurred. “But I wasn’t asking for myself,” the young man complained. “It’s for the lawyer, not me.” He wasn’t telling himself the truth. Of course he wanted the money to help him stay out of jail.

A woman came to me in tears of frustration. Her doctor told her she was “morbidly obese.” Her health was endangered. “It’s not my fault I’m fat,” she said. “It’s my husband’s fault. He won’t keep a diet with me.” But she was obese long before she married him. She was lying to herself.

King David prayed, in Psalm 19:12, (nlt) “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults.” Faults hidden from whom? Certainly not from God. And probably not from our families and friends, either! We lie to ourselves about our faults.

What a blessed relief it is, when we finally stop telling ourselves lies and confess the truth!

Oh, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable. . . .
Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide them.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.”
And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:1-5

Yes, dear Lord Jesus, please help me not to lie to myself!