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  • Writer's pictureKaren Pennington

Insanity Reconsidered

"Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." -Albert Einstein

Without taking away from the scientific genius of Mr. Einstein, I think he missed the boat on this particular thought. Forgive my frankness, but the more I ponder this thought, the more ridiculous it seems as an overall rule for living.

This is what I might call a "sometimes truth." Sometimes, maybe even often, Einstein's proverb give appropriate guidance to certain life decisions. Patterns of negative, unhealthy thoughts and behaviors will never create a positive, healthy lifestyle. Complete inactivity rarely if ever leads to breakthroughs and better living. Staying on the same diet that has caused a person to gain 40 pounds over the past year will not lead to weight loss. And no matter how much one wills it, or sucks in, or prays about it, those smaller jeans from days gone past simply will not fit on the body that is now eight sizes bigger. In these cases, it takes a change to reach desired results.

But what about those things in life that do not lead to immediate results? What about those times when one MUST do things over and over again in order to get to the results? What about those times when one may never see the desired results in this lifetime?

Is it insanity for a parent to consistently love and seek ways to properly discipline a continually disobedient child? When does it become less than wise to keep consistently praying a believing, even if the wayward child (or friend, or spouse) seems to be getting worse and worse? (And I want to clarify here, that I am talking about praying for and loving people, as opposed to continuing in patterns of abuse.)

Is it a form of psychosis to keep trying to work and pay off bills, even though it seems that the harder one tries, the deeper the debt gets? Does it seem unreasonable to keep paying tithe and trusting God to meet one's needs, even when one seems to always go without?

At what point does it become insanity to do what we know is right- to serve others and live with integrity- even when doing so often results in our own mistreatment? In these cases, people would definitely like to see certain results in this lifetime, and sometimes they do. But that's not what they are living for.

In contrasts to Mr. Einstein's thought, the book of Galatians offers this advice:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9

The apostle Paul puts in another way:

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." -II Corinthians 4:16-18

Paul's list of "light troubles" include the following: multiple assassination attempts; various creatively severe forms of beatings; being shipwrecked; years of incarceration in a foreign land, without a trial; loss of prestige and money; and quite often betrayal by those whom he has spent time and money helping. In saying "momentary," he refers to decades of his life.

By Einstein's definition, Paul was crazy. Maybe he was, but that's the kind of crazy that changes the world. It's the kind of crazy that trusts God beyond immediate earthly results. In the words of Paul:

"If we are 'out of our mind,' as some say, it is for God." -II Corinthians 5:13

Ironically, the word "insanity" is not actually a psychological term at all; it's a legal one. Defendants plea insanity to explain the momentary lapses of judgement that leads to certain crimes of passion, most notable violent crimes like murder. Insanity is never about a solid, long term plan; it defines and seeks to excuse a desperate reaction.

Seeking God's will and continually living by the truth of God's word, no matter what the cost or result, is not insanity. It's faith. It's not an act of desperation. It's a lifestyle of hope. And hope in this sense means living towards a result that we know will happen.

This kind of conviction will lead to amazing, mind blowing results as God's power works through us. But it often takes the "insanity" of doing the same things over and over again, even when we do not initially see the desired results.

It is such a blessing when we see the working of God, but there are also times when we cannot see the results with our earthly eyes. In some places of the world people continue to testify to their hope in Christ, though it leads to imprisonment, torture and death. I look forward to the great celebration in Heaven when we these martyrs receive their eternal rewards that move far beyond anything this life could have offered.

I submit to you a new definition: Insanity is living one's life by anything other than the will and promises of God. Anything else leads to true desperation, trying in our own power to grasp for what only God can provide. Lord Jesus, please guide me as I seek to break the insanity of self-reliance and lean ever more on your grace for my life.

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