“Your belief system is like a pot of stew” is the less than profound way I help people understand a bit more about why they do what they do in life. To make stew you acquire a pot into which you throw a whole bunch of varied and diverse components — for example, beef or pork, beans, carrots, potatoes, corn — but no matter how many different things are in the pot, we simply call it stew.
Each of us has a “belief system” within and it is the accumulation of a whole bunch of varied and diverse components — from the truths spoken by Jesus to the powerfully emotional and negative words spoken to us and about us as children. Family traditions and expectations, cultural norms, life lessons that seem to reveal how to navigate life are in there, as well as Bible verses I have read and memorized, and biblical truths learned in church or a small group. There are concrete elements but also assumptions. And all of this matters because it is our belief system that generates emotions and subsequent behaviors.
Our belief system is full of assumptions about how life should or will go – however, these assumptions are not always based in truth – but true or not, assumptions are very powerful.
For example, if I am young man who is recently engaged and looking forward to marriage, I may bring the following assumption into the relationship: because of the way I was raised and the model my mother gave me, I just assume my wife will always keep the house clean, enjoy cooking, and look forward to entertaining friends. I hope some premarital counselor helps expose and talk through that assumption prior to the wedding or my bride (and I) may be in for tough times.
But let’s get even more foundational. For Christians, there is an assumption that may be one of the most common, most unquestioned, and most naïve that people who believe in God share. We assume that because we believe in God, and because he is love, he’s going to give us a happy life. A + B = C. We assume that the way to find the life God has for us is to (A) believe in God, (B) be a good person, and (C) he will deliver the rest. A + B = C.
You may not be so bold as to state this assumption out loud – you may not even think you hold this assumption – but notice your shock when things don’t go well. Notice your feelings of abandonment and betrayal when life doesn’t work out. Notice that often you feel as though God isn’t really all that close or involved; feel that he isn’t paying attention to your life.
Assumptions will either help us or hurt us, every single day of our lives. Our assumptions control our interpretation of events, and they supply a great deal of the momentum and direction for our lives. It’s important that we take a look at them. And life will provide hundreds of opportunities to take a look at our assumptions in a single week.
Perhaps the best way to ensure our assumptions are accurate is to hold them up to Jesus and ask him what he thinks. In fact, we would do well to hold the same assumptions Jesus does about life – things like, “in this world you will have trouble” or “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” or “without me you can do nothing” – otherwise, I don’t know that we will ever really find the life he has for us.