October 17, 2021

How to Stop Gnawing On a Dry Bone

            There have been times in my life when I was miserable and discouraged. Joy had taken a holiday. During one of those periods I heard God saying to me, “You pay too much attention to what others are doing, or not doing, and not enough attention to what I am doing. Change your focus from others to me.”

            I began trying to change my focus but soon realized this would be a daily challenge. The temptation to focus more on others than God recurs throughout our lives. Victory then comes only through diligent obedience, day after day, to the inner voice of Jesus.

Listening to Jesus while reading his words in the gospels is the best remedy for overcoming the temptation to pay more attention to others than God. For example, in his most famous sermon, Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” He goes on to explain the danger of focusing too much on others: You become their judge. When I read these words, I know Jesus is talking to me:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus was speaking to me because one of my flaws is a tendency to speak critically of others instead of remaining mercifully silent or finding some way to offer words of praise. E. Stanley Jones called this flaw “gnawing on dry bones,” a good way to starve yourself. Recalling the pathetic sight in India of a skinny dog gnawing on a dry bone, Jones said that more pathetic than that is “a Christian gnawing on some dry bone of grievance against others. It is a poor diet and the soul grows thin on it.”

The way to stop gnawing on a dry bone is to focus primarily on Christ. Because everyone is flawed, people will disappoint us. Only Christ is always dependable. He will never let us down. And He will give us the grace to overcome the temptation to focus on the faults of others and make ourselves miserable while starving ourselves.  If we keep our eyes on Him, we will have no need to gnaw on a dry bone of grievance against someone whose flaws pretty much resemble our own. + + +