‘What a wretched man I am—–’ (Romans 7:24)

Paul’s description of himself is not very flattering- not here, nor elsewhere as he calls himself the worst of sinners, totally undeserving of the great privilege he received in knowing and following Christ.

The word ‘wretched’ can be translated as miserable, pitiful, miserable and shameful. When applied to self, it indicates a person who has seen the worst of himself. It takes out you anything that might make you boast or consider yourself to be an object of appreciation and exaltation.

The average man goes around the world and lives his life proclaiming how great he is. He might not say it but his actions betray that attitude. He loves it when people praise him. He does things that are unique, so that others would take notice. He merges with the crowd and in conforming with the pattern of the world, tries hard to do better so that he becomes the object of attention. Words, actions and mannerisms are cultivated with the end objective of exalting oneself.

However something dramatic happens when someone comes face to face with God. When Peter saw the miracle that Jesus performed in enabling them to catch a boatload of fish after having struggled hard for the whole night, he uttered, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Isaiah on experiencing the proximity of God says, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). What exactly is happening here? When mortal man sees the holy God in all his exalted glory and purity, all masks fall off and in the light of God’s purity, man begins to see himself as he really is- wicked, miserable and wretched!

Wretchedness is an attitude that cannot be cultivated by one’s own effort. It is a direct sequel of knowing God that follows when a person accepts Jesus into his life as master and Lord. Consequently, the Spirit of God dwells within man- God takes residence within man. In that coalescence, man begins to feel the heat of God and begins to discover himself. Wretchedness follows, bringing with it true humility; which does not mean a pilgrim will suddenly become quiet and take on a personality that the world equates with humbleness. On the contrary, within the unique personality that God has given him, he recognizes his wretchedness and demonstrates humility in his own unique way.

Wretchedness does not mean the pilgrim will become non-functional because he considers himself of no worth; rather in the light of God’s wisdom, discarding the self-exalting masks that cloud his judgment, he does become more aware of himself and his abilities and serves God more freely and efficiently, recognizing that God needs to be exalted through all he does.

Wretchedness is devastating for a pilgrim’s ego, but also makes him rise from the ruins to plant him in oneness with God.

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