The Prayer of Jabez - Dealing with False Guilt
"Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, 'Because I bore him in pain.' And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested" 1 Chron 4:9-12
We all know at least one human typhoon - those people who rush through life leaving an array of mayhem and pain behind them, completely oblivious to their destructive influence.
There are, however, a group of people who are the opposite to an extreme which is not any healthier. Perhaps this is something that you can identify with-
Do you feel responsible for fixing any problem that you know about even if it is beyond your control?
If you are in a group situation and realise someone isn't having a good time do you feel guilty and like it is your job to entertain them?
Do you beat yourself up about things you said on the off chance that they were taken the wrong way and caused offence?
If you answer 'yes' to one or more of the above then perhaps you suffer from false guilt.
False guilt is effectively feeling guilty for things that are not your responsibility or even in your control; It can make you feel horrible and insufficient when things go wrong (even if you personally didn't do anything bad) and you feel the weight of anything that is not resolved bearing down on you, because till something is fixed you believe that it is your duty and yours alone to do everything in your strength to work it out. You don't just feel guilty about things you may have done but things you feel you ought to have done and haven't.
The American Institute of Stress states:
“If you are predisposed by life experience or biochemistry to self-condemnation, it is easy to have a false or disproportionate sense of responsibility for anything that goes wrong. You may magnify what you’ve done, take personal responsibility for everything that goes wrong, “should yourself” instead of understand yourself, and unrealistically expect yourself to only have positive feelings. Rarely is an undesirable state of affairs all one person’s fault or as bad as it seems at the moment. Make your introspection work for you by re examining your “wrongdoings” and putting them in perspective.” (stress.org)
The Prayer of Jabez
False guilt is something that I have personally dealt with for most of my life, and I have been surprised recently to discover how many people I know share this struggle. Whilst researching this issue and looking for ways to put these feelings into perspective I came to remember the prayer of Jabez. He only appears for two short verses but his story and request gave me a refreshing new take on the whole question.
This was a man who was born with a burden of guilt hanging heavily over him; It was hard to get away from as it was carried in his name. His mother called him 'Jabez' because she bore him with pain. The actual definition is 'He bringeth sorrow.” It is unsure if this is because of his actual birth or the passing away of his father at the same time, probably the latter- either way it was not something he could control but something that he was identified with and that he no doubt felt.
So what did he do? He prayed!
He understood what was outside his control and went to the one who could make a difference. Instead of battling on his own and trying to handle everything he let it go and let it be.
Who was Jabez?
We know very little about Jabez, besides what is in these verses. He was the son of either Coz or Kenan and was eulogised for his piety and a few public works.
As this prayer was recorded chances are it was prayed publicly, perhaps upon entering service. If it was indeed upon entering service it may well have been upon the expulsion of Canaanites from his territory which was a task commanded by the Lord.
What did he ask for?
He didn't ask for every problem to be fixed; he didn't ask for everybody to like him.
His prayer was as follows-
"Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested".
Oh that you woud bless me indeed:
The first part of his request was for himself. That may sound selfish but it is actually very genuine of him. No-one can say that they are fully (or even partially removed) from their own fate. A lot of the pain that we can cause is out of our own fear and insecurities. By giving his fate to God he stood down from the rat race, trusting his Father to look out for his own good. If God wanted to move him up in life it would be by Heavenly interventions and not the result of trampling over those on his way.
That Your hand would guide me:
Even when we are trying to do the right thing, it is hard to know what the right thing is. A lot of false guilt can come from not being sure if you did something wrong and second guessing the decisions that you made.
Jabez asked for guidance from one that sees and understands so much more than what he did.
That You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain:
This is the crux of his prayer, “God, please ensure there is nothing for me to feel guilty about. Keep me from the meaning of my name, from my identity as one who brings sorrow!”
Really that is all that we can ask for. There will be some people who we can help and some situations that we can fix but when it comes down to it we aren't God and we can't fix more than what He uses us to fix. We can be a blessing and we can love people but we aren't perfect and there is so much that is beyond our power and understanding.
It is worth noing that not feeling guilty about other people issues does not mean that we become heartless stone and stop caring. It says in Romans “Weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice.” Empathy is good but not when it becomes a consuming need for control.
Just to finish I believe it is important to state there will be time when guilt comes from failures that we did in fact make. With all our best efforts we will still get things wrong, do things our own way and hurt people. Even if we pray this every day we we will make some mistakes. Paul writes:
'So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!' (Rom 7:21-25) The good news is that there is forgiveness and grace in our Lord and Saviour. David writes, 'As far as the East is from the West, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.' That is where the true freedom of guilt comes from but this prayer has been a blessing to me and an encouragement to relinquish what I could never control to God. I hope that it is a blessing to you also.
How do you feel about situations outside your control?
Another great hub about Jabez
- Jabez and Pain
The Jabez prayer reflects the cry of the soul for many in the modern world. Never has the desire to help others been surrounded by pain as it is in the world today. Read about the example Jabez gave us in his prayer.