Life is easy. No one sheds a tear or has self-image issues. There isn’t any hurt or bitterness, right? Actually, that couldn’t be more WRONG! One is blessed with certain gifts when they have a relationship with Christ as their Lord and Savior. Some are gifted with evangelism; a heart that is driven by sharing the Gospel with the lost and bringing new brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of God. Others are gifted with understanding and relating to others. I believe one of my gifts is being able to understand others and lately a side effect of that has been empathy. In plain English that means I am well aware of what others are feeling, whether it is joy, sadness, fear, etc. The sad truth though is that as I’ve looked into the eyes of my friends, coworkers, and strangers, and as I’ve heard their stories the emotional quality that is most common is pain and sorrow.
This simple truth is plaguing my heart right now. If pain is so common and if sorrow and feelings of emptiness trouble so many of us then why do many of us pretend that everything is alright? American culture has taught us that we must have everything together. To appear broken and contrite is to lose your dignity and any chance of finding success, right? Well, that is certainly what the world has taught us.
Friends, I want to plea with you to change your heart on this. We do NOT have it all together, nor do we have to pretend that this world is all sunshine and rainbows. The reality is that the grass is not always greener on the other side and unfortunately there is never a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (Sorry if I just broke the hearts of some of you who believe in fairy-tales) Real people who have real relationships and are going through real life WILL experience pain. So, with this in mind, let’s have a conversation on being hurt and broken…
A primary example of this that almost everyone can relate to would be the pain one feels when their parents tell them that they are disappointed in them. Within the mere seconds that those words leave the lips of one’s Mom or Dad, the heart of the child is immediately ripped to pieces. I don’t care how tough you are or how callused your heart is toward hurtful words; few words will hurt you more than these.
On a deeper level though; pain is more often brought to us by the terrible things that others have done to or against us. There was that one kid in elementary school that would just not let you have a good day. When I was in the third grade, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and in order to correct it an orthopedic doctor prescribed a back-brace. From that day on, I was known by many of my peers as “Brace Boy”. And at the age of 21, I still have that seared into my memory. There are some days when my 8 year old sister comes home from school in tears. When I ask her what’s wrong, she explains through sobs that one of her peers told her that her dress was ugly and made her look fat…My sister is EIGHT! As the older brother and having the protective nature that I do; one can imagine how I wanted to react in that situation. With fists clenched, I reassured Brianna that she was incredibly gorgeous and created in God’s image and that she couldn’t ever be more beautiful than she already is.
I’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s book, “Death by Love”, which is essentially a series of letters that Pastor Mark has written to various members of his congregation. There are FEW books that have ever elicited an emotional response from me as much as this one has. Turning the pages through the various situations some of them have been in has literally made me cry. Hearing how some of these women have been forced into sexual relationships with men they didn’t want to. Learning of the prideful arrogance of some men; reading about how a woman was unfaithful to her husband during their engagement and then didn’t tell him until after they were married. All of these stories are filled to the brim with pain. But that’s real life…
As I’ve studied these stories and as I’ve looked at my own life; the root of at least 80% of the pain I’ve been through is caused by sin. Sin that I’ve either committed personally or sin that others have done against me.
Brothers…Sisters….Friends, please turn from sin! There are so many of you that claim to be believers, yet your private life is filled to the brim with sin. Some of you spend so much time making yourself appear righteous and holy on the outside by doing all of the right things, reading all of the right books, but on the inside your heart is filled with sin! Maybe that sin is adultery of the heart. Maybe it is pride. Perhaps you hate your brother and therefore are guilty of murder but regardless your heart is sinful!
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)
As this passage in Matthew makes crystal clear; the way that one appears on the outside is not important. It is the heart God concerns Himself with and by the heart you will be righteously judged one day. One of the most humbling realizations I’ve made is that the honest truth is that we either love sin or love God. You simply cannot love both, nor can you serve two masters.
This is certainly heavy stuff. It should be of no surprise if this sort of conversation makes you weak to your stomach or elicits an emotional response. In fact, my prayer as I write this is that many of you are driven to tears of repentance. I pray that the Holy Spirit convicts and reminds you of the injustice you’ve done against others and the heartbreak you’ve caused them. And I pray that the message of the Gospel and the healing that it brings is able to rebuild your hearts; that God will change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh as Ezekiel 11:19 states.
Family, I love you very much and am deeply aware of the real pain and suffering you are going through. I assure you that the only thing you have to hold onto is Jesus Christ. His unconditional love, overwhelming grace, and underserved mercy is the only thing that will bring your heart and spirit true healing. Only God has the power to change hearts. So pray that he changes yours my friends. I desire nothing more than to see your hearts radically transformed by the message of Jesus Christ and to one day walk with you and rejoice in the streets of Heaven. My heart simply cannot bear the thought of a single one of you being devoured by the fire of Hell. However, I love you too much to not remind you that if you do not turn from your sin and if you choose to live in disobedience to the LORD, then you WILL be subject to the righteous wrath of God.