What Is the Matter with Me?
Charles Naylor, 1941
Many people ask the question, "What is the matter with me?" who are not able to answer it. In some way they do not feel right. There are various symptoms in their feelings that make them think that something is wrong in their spiritual life. Before the trouble is repaired, there is necessity for a right diagnosis. An abnormal condition cannot be treated intelligently, unless we know what is causing the condition.
The first thing to be decided is: Is anything wrong? There are two kinds of ills—real and imaginary ones. The treatment for the two kinds must be very different.
A real illness or disease is caused by some abnormal physical condition.
Imaginary ills are located in the mind, though when the person becomes convinced he has some sort of ill, a physical effect is likely to be produced.
People have imaginary spiritual ills—and frequently these imaginary ills give them a great deal of real trouble. The cure for these is to think right, to quit imagining something is wrong, when nothing is wrong. An imaginary spiritual trouble may throw the whole spiritual life out of balance and cause untold distress.
I have seen many people who were suffering from imaginary spiritual ills. All they had to do to get the victory and feel all right, was to come to realize that the trouble was imaginary, which is no easy thing. But when once this imaginary ill is seen in its right colors, and the proper attitude is taken toward it—then normal conditions are quickly restored.
Then there are some who magnify little difficulties into great mountains of trouble. Sometimes people who have had a little spiritual trouble of some sort, magnify it until they come to feel that they are in an almost hopeless situation.
They remind me of an experience I had many years ago. I was walking across the country through fields and woods one summer day. Presently one of my toes began to hurt. The farther I went the more it hurt. It felt as I had heard people say corns feel, so I began to think that I must be getting a corn on my toe. As I walked along and it continued to hurt, in my imagination I could see a corn upon my toe. Finally it hurt so bad that I decided to find out, if possible, what was the trouble. Removing my footwear, I made an examination, but found no corn; instead I found a little thistle spine, almost too small to be seen, sticking in the flesh. This I quickly removed and went on my way without any further trouble.
In the same way, if you mistake some little trifling thing that gives you discomfort in your spiritual life, and come to think it a grave evil—then you will suffer just as much in your mind as though the trouble were that great evil.
So we need to find out for certain whether our troubles are real or imaginary. Let us note some of the symptoms of trouble that people feel.
Sometimes people say, "I don't feel right." When asked what the matter is, they say, "Oh, I do not know. I just do not feel right." Sometimes people feel ill at ease spiritually, and unsatisfied; sometimes a flood of doubts comes into the mind, sometimes there are fears. The person fears—and knows not what he is fearing. He fears he is not right. He fears this, that, or the other thing—but does not know whether things are thus or not.
Sometimes there is a sense of spiritual weakness, a feeling of inability to accomplish anything in spiritual matters. Sometimes one gets to where he cannot pray, or do so only with difficulty, and his prayers seem mechanical and formal. Sometimes there is a sense of oppression that settles down on one; he is in heaviness and perplexity. Sometimes a feeling of condemnation comes upon people—perhaps they do not feel right, yet know nothing that they have done that is wrong. They search and search and find nothing at all, and still they have a feeling of condemnation. Others search and find little trifling things, things for which they would not think of condemning anyone else—yet they themselves feel condemned. They are troubled and perplexed.
Again there are times when a sense of loneliness settles down upon one. There are also times when people have a feeling of apprehension as though something evil were going to happen. They feel troubled and bothered, and do not know what to do. There are others who feel tried, and hardly know at what they are tried; but they have a deep sense of being tried.
There are many other things, too, which give people trouble. They are all indications of something. But we have many feelings, the origin of which we cannot determine.
There are those who used to have no trouble, but now they do have trouble with their feelings, and they ask the question, "What is the matter with me? I did not used to be bothered this way."
Let us look at a few things that cause people trouble in their spiritual life.
First is a lack of steadfast faith. Sometimes people let doubts creep in when there are no real grounds for doubting one's experience. The simple, steadfast faith that they had at first, they have let slip. They let questionings and doubts come in, and relax their steadfast faith. And then, of course, we cannot feel the same as we did before.
Many young converts do this. They feel joyous at first. Their faith is steadfast and unshaken. They know they are safe. But presently they come to question themselves, "Why do I feel this way?" Then when doubt enters—certainty departs and trouble begins. Unless they get to believing steadfastly again, they are likely to have an unsettled experience.
If you have let doubt come in as to your experience, you should not expect to feel as you did before, until you are rid of the doubt. When you believe as simply and as steadfastly as you did before—then you will feel all right again.
Sometimes people make failures in what they attempt. They come short of their expectations—and then condemnation, doubts, fears, and such like come upon them. In such cases it is only the discouragement of their failure which troubles them. Let them renew their confidence and go forward, and they will be all right.
Another thing that is the source of much spiritual trouble is the withdrawing of one's consecration. When we make a full consecration to God, it brings us into a sacred relationship with him. When we draw back or drift back from this consecration, it paves the way for all sorts of troubles. If we are troubled, we need first to examine our consecration and see that it is full and up to date. If it is not, bring it there.
Neglect of duty also is a thing that often gets people into trouble. Through timidity or fear or sheer neglect—they let opportunities and duties pass. This often brings condemnation. It weakens and troubles.
Another cause of trouble is partaking of things the conscience does not approve fully. When the conscience is wounded, it reacts on confidence. Some people allow and do things now that they formerly would not do. Perhaps the change has been all right. Perhaps it has not. "Happy is he who does not condemn himself in that thing which he allows." Many people's troubles and spiritual lacks are to be located along this line. The cause is that they do not keep their conscience in a proper attitude, and do not live up to its requirements.
Another cause of trouble is not heeding spiritual warnings or urgings. Some people ask, "Why does not God show me things as he used to do?" Perhaps it is because they did not heed what he has showed them before.
Whatever is the matter with you in your feelings or in your experience—find out the cause if possible. If you cannot find out the cause—then begin to go over your consecration. Draw near to God, stir up your faith to activity, reject your doubts, believe God, measure up to all the truth you know—and then cast yourself full length on God's mercy and trust him for all you need. The Great Physician can cure all your spiritual ills, if only you will submit to him.