The Trouble With Nibbling Gnats



Gnats are such a nuisance! They fly about and create such irritation despite their small size. Have you noticed you rarely have one by itself? They seem to come in bunches or even swarms. Once they show up, they like to make themselves at home and it can be very difficult to get free of them. They feast most often on food scraps we leave out in the open, forgetting we have extended an invitation to gnats they will never refuse.


I think it is a wonderful description of what happens when we leave our failures laying around in our thoughts. No sooner than we have done so than gnats of another type come swirling about that keep us focused on those very failures. Before long we have lost our focus and the failure and the gnats are all we see. When we do, we are likely to feel as if we have tumbled into quick sand because we get stuck there.



We should forget past failures, for they do not define us.”


I love this quote by Barry C. Black. It’s true that our failures can teach us much perhaps, but they are never what define us. Sadly, we can easily fall prey to allowing them to do that when they become our primary focus.


Let me suggest an example. My house can be actually very clean, but if I happen to forget a plate with an apple core on it gnats will not be far behind. Now it would be foolish to berate myself for having a very dirty house from top to bottom because of one apple core left on a plate. Most of us would be upset that we forgot the apple core, but we would not label ourselves as bad housekeepers if the rest of the house were clean and tidy.


Why is it then that we can so easily do that very thing about some failure we remain acutely aware of? We can review it and focus on it like gnats attracted to a scrap of food. If we do it long enough, we will be tempted to believe that failure is what defines us and often we will label ourselves by that very thing. We do not move forward. We do not attempt something else.


I cannot help but think of the apostle Paul. He persecuted Christians and stood by holding the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen. Then on the Damascus road he saw the light when Jesus appeared to him. He, like Peter and many of us, have so many things we are not proud of that point to our weakness and failure. Despite Damascus road, Paul could have allowed those very things lay out in his thoughts and made them his focus.


It is a great comfort to realize that same Paul (formerly Saul, the Pharisee of Pharisees) writing from his jail cell in Rome in 62 A.D. gives us the prescription for just such a problem in Philippians 3:13-14:


“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ESV


Paul chose not to focus on the failure, nor did he allow the challenges he faced on his missionary journeys to deter him and give fodder for the gnats. He pressed on. Paul’s perseverance became a testimony of the power of the gospel at work within him after he saw the light on the Damascus road.


Paul didn’t rehearse his failures; he proclaimed Christ’s victory.


magazines-time-1Clearly, Paul models a lot for us to consider when nibbling gnats enter our space. Some of the other quotes you see in and around these paragraphs do as well.


I think the other truth we must face is that if we have accepted Christ and repented of all our sins and failures, we dishonor Him when our focus is on failure instead of His victory won on our behalf.


One of my favorite passages is Hebrew 12:1-2 and I think it fits in the context of what Paul tells us in Philippians.


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” ESV








17 thoughts on “The Trouble With Nibbling Gnats

  1. Great word – thanks for the encouragement. I often let feelings of failure clutter my mind like swirling gnats as you say. 😉 I find when I fix my eyes on Jesus, then, and only then, can those thoughts be replaced with truth.

    Thanks for sharing at Literacy Musing Mondays!

  2. When you began to speak about gnats, my thoughts immediately went to apples kept on the counter too long. They are pesky and for sure they do not fly solo. I liked your illustration how our Christian life can be all clean, but then we are reminded of our past failures and the gnats begin to collect. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit and his bug spray to remove them. Recently, the enemy reminded me, “remember whey you did that?” All at once I felt guilty and ashamed, but knew it was under the blood. The Holy Spirit reminded me of a long ago memorized verse, “There is therefore no condemnation to those who walk in the Spirit and not after the flesh.” Gnats be gone. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

  3. Christianity and loving Jesus is testimony in the idea that failure doesn’t fact our weakness is our strength, and our sins and failures are forgiven! Great reminder here today!

  4. Hi Pam! I much prefer a cloud of witnesses to a cloud of those pesky gnats. Ugh.
    I love the comparison to negative thoughts too, they can be so small, but can cause such trouble in us. You know, if Paul can succeed in leaving his past behind him, I think I should be able to do the same. No one is more effective in beating us up than ourselves. Time to treat ourselves with love, and look forward to what God has planned.
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  5. Gnats, be gone!

    I want to focus on what’s important, what’s necessary, what’s lovely and life-giving.

    Once again, Pam, you’ve taken me there. You’re like a mentor to me, ya’ know?


  6. May our failures never define us and may we also be patient knowing it takes time to change. And, be gentle on ourselves even as Paul was, knowing he didn’t quite have it all together, yet never let the goal of Christ – likeness out of sight!

  7. Yes! Thanks for truth from Barry B. and the Apostle Paul! I was also reminded of Paul “pressing on” words about grace: I am what I am by the grace of God.
    Me, too, and thankful.

    1. Ah, yes, “pressing on” words about grace…absolutely!! Blessings on your week! I have heard Maine has storms battering you. Trust you are warm and safe!

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