Pain: An Excuse To Sin?

Recently I was asked a question that I suspect many people have wondered about at one time or another in one way or another.

Is my pain an excuse for me to sin?

What about if life is extra-hard?

What if I have been “dealt a really bad hand” in life?

God understands right?

Let me begin by saying that if you are experiencing some sort of pain or turmoil right now as you read this, I am right now praying for you.

I don’t know who you are other than the fact that you probably have experienced some sort of frustrating pain. So, I pray that in the midst of whatever circumstance you are going through that you would keep your eyes on Jesus. I also pray that God would draw you closer to Himself during this time.

Concerning pain, there are several different types; physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual. The Bible is clear that God cares about us humans in every aspect of who we are. Jesus, when He was on earth, healed the sick and healed people who were out of their minds (taking care of physical and mental pain.) Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted (addressing emotional pain.) And certainly, Jesus came to address our greatest need which is spiritual when He died on the cross. In doing so He made it possible for us to be free from the pain and ensnarement of sin.

It seems that human beings ever since The Fall have experienced pain of one sort or another in a variety of degrees.

Pain is so much a part of our existence on this earth that God has to go out of His way to declare in Revelation 21 that in the New Heaven and the New Earth there shall be no more pain of any kind! “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Additionally, Romans 8:18 gives a promise to those who have trusted in Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Wow! God has some really incredible and pain-free things in store for those who have faith in Jesus!

If you are going through some sort of pain at this moment I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of John 9, it really is an awesome and easy read! At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus and His disciples run across a man who had been born blind. When they see the man the disciples ask Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents? Jesus’ response? Neither. The disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that this poor man had been dealt such a “bad hand.” They were looking for a reason for his pain. Maybe his parent’s sin had caused him to be blind. Perhaps his own?

Instead, Jesus goes around all their expectations and says that the man was born in blindness so that God could be glorified! Jesus goes on to miraculously heal the man. At the end of the chapter, the man can now see both physically and spiritually!

So, to answer the initial question, no.

Pain is never an excuse to sin.

God wants us to have faith in Him no matter what our current situation.

He calls us to follow and obey Him no matter what the circumstance.

We may not always understand His reasons or ways, but we still ought to honor Him with our actions. Because He is good no matter what.

Don’t Forget To Remember

Recently, I was on a plane with not much to do so I decided that I was going to pass my time remembering. I allowed my mind to travel back to a specific date and location. I sat there as I remembered the people who were around me, what I was feeling, and what my outlook on life was at that specific point. Some of my memories were sweet and left me feeling warm while others made me cringe from embarrassment. Either way, I enjoyed remembering.

It is a good thing to remember the past.

I have been to many different places in my life and they all have one thing in common. No matter if I am in a big city, small town, or even a middle-of-nowhere wilderness I can always find some sort of memorial. A small sign, plaque, statue, monument, stones, engraving-all these can be found. And they all have one of three messages… “Don’t forget this person.” Or “Don’t forget this thing that happened.” Or “Don’t forget this person that did this thing.”

So why is remembering so important? Because most of the time forgetting can have tragic results.

Now, I’m not simply talking about misplacing your keys (although that can be a bit of a bummer.) I am more so talking about forgetting the people, events, and truths that have shaped you into who you are today.

Deuteronomy 8:11-14 says,

“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

See, God completely understands our human tendencies. We are forgetful and prideful people. God tells the people of Israel to remember the person-God, the event-God bringing them out from slavery, and the truth-God did it and it was not by their own power.

And then in verse 19, God gives them the tragic results of not remembering, “if you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them…you will surely be destroyed.”

Remembering is serious business. It can literally be the difference between life and death.

There are so many tragedies in history that we need to remember.

The Original Fall of Mankind, The Holocaust, soldiers who bravely gave their lives protecting the oppressed, 9/11, The Sandy Hook Massacre, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, multiple Genocides, and sadly I have only named a few. But all of these need to be remembered.

But also, triumphs should be remembered as well.

Jesus Rising from the dead, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, walking on the Moon, cures for terrible diseases, The Emancipation Proclamation, Israel becoming a nation again, and the Bears winning the Super Bowl in 2020. (That last one hasn’t happened yet, but I am hoping that one day I will be able to remember it.)

In the same way that we should remember history-defining events, we should also remember our own life-changing events.

I remember when I was trapped and chained by sin. But, Praise God, I also remember when I put my trust in Jesus.

I remember those countless times where I had fears and doubts. But Praise God, I also remember those countless times where God firmly yet gently pulled me through.

I remember when I was unfaithful to the God who loves me. But, Praise God, I remember when He continued to be faithful in spite of myself.

Don’t forget the important stuff in life.

Write things down in a journal. Take pictures. Create something to put in your house.

But whatever you do, remember.

Thinking of Others

In order for a commercial to be successful, it needs to communicate to the audience what the product is, why the audience should need or want it, and cause the audience to remember the product so that a purchase can be made. Companies usually accomplish these goals by either appealing to our humor or by tugging on our heartstrings.

Every once in a while a commercial will grab my attention, not because of the product being peddled, but rather because of the underlying message in the ad. These messages can be intentional or completely by accident. Either way, I do appreciate when the message is positive.  A while back I wrote about McDonald’s subtle, fresh, and positive perspective on The Importance of Dads. And now, the Golden Arches have delivered once again.

Just the other day I came across a commercial for a new product that McDonald’s was introducing. It began with a kindly elderly man ordering at a drive-through. He was alone in the car and yet he ordered two coffees. After a brief pause, he then ordered way-too-many orders of the new product being introduced.

When he pulled forward to collect his order the employee said something along the lines of, “wow you must really like these things!” And the man responded with, “oh, they’re not for me…they’re for them.” And just then he looked in his rearview mirror and the camera pans to a tired looking dad with a car full of energetic and loud pre-teen girls enthusiastically singing a song.

Perhaps the funniest part is when the song lyrics play “I’m losing my mind just a little.” We, the audience, are treated to a zoomed in shot of the dad wearily mouthing the words.

But that’s not what drew me to this particular ad. I remember this commercial because of the underlying message.

It is good to think about someone other than yourself.

The kind old man bought breakfast for a family he, more than likely, had never met before. And he supplied some much-needed coffee to a weary parent. And it made me think…

How often am I putting the needs of others before my own?

How often am I kind to others while expecting nothing in return?

Luke 6:31 records Jesus’ words, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” And Philippians 2:3 says that we ought to count others as more significant than ourselves. Colossians 3:12 urges believers to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Now you may be thinking, “ok slow down this is just a fast food commercial.” And yes, you’re right it is. But I also think that small and silly little things like commercials can cause us to stop and do some serious self-evaluation. Do we care about others enough to go out of our way for them or are we too self-absorbed to even notice?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22 that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. And then He says, “and the second [greatest commandment] is like the first, that you love your neighbor as yourself.”

Now, am I saying that in order to love others you need to buy them McDonalds? No, not necessarily. But what I am saying is that there is a Biblical mandate for us to love others.

We are called to show kindness, to love and care for people, and to put others before ourselves.

I am grateful that a silly commercial can remind us of those truths.

I pray that we all would be kind and love like Jesus loves each and every day….even when we are not in a drive-through line.

“Highly Subjective”

Lessons can and should be learned in every moment of every day, you just need to look for them.

Somewhat recently I wrote a fun little short story. It could be classified as a goofy adventure story, a mystery thriller, or a thought piece. Hopefully, it’s a bit of all three.

Well, after tweaking it, editing, asking friends to read it, and more editing, I finally decided to send it in and see if it was worthy of publishing. So, I sent it into four different short story publishers. (I will send it to more, but I wanted to start small since I’m not in a rush.)

A few days ago, I was sitting on the couch scrolling through my email when I came across a message from one of the publishers I was waiting to hear back from. My heart began to race, but I fought to keep my expectations small and my emotions in check.

I opened the email.

“Thank you for submitting blah blah blah…to the blah blah blah…” I read quickly and the words on my screen prompted me to look up and announce to my wife.

“Here it is honey! My first rejection letter!”

“Congrats babe! Proud of you!” was her response.

Yep. You read that right. I got rejected and my wife congratulated me. She was proud of me.

Why?

Because we had already talked about the probability of rejection. Back when I was deciding whether to send in the story or not she encouraged me to do so. And when I asked, “what about when I get rejected.” Her response was perfect. She told me about a famous author who had been rejected hundreds of times before her novel was finally given a chance. And she told me how that author went on to sell millions upon millions of copies of her books. She reminded me that getting rejected might just be the first step towards success and that I shouldn’t be discouraged.

I have a pretty awesome wife huh!?

Well, aside from the encouragement to persevere there was another lesson that I was reminded of. As I re-read the letter my eye was drawn to a specific phrase. “This isn’t a reflection on your writing. The selection process is highly subjective…”

Subjective is an interesting word. It is defined as something “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”

Ok, that’s all well and good, but what would the opposite of subjective be? Is there anything that is not based on personal feelings, tastes, or opinions? Is there anything that is just universally real and untouched by the whims of people? Is there truth that is unchanged and unaffected by our particular views?

Yes.

2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”

Hebrews 4:12 proclaims “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Hebrews 13:8 exclaims that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Malachi 3:8 reveals, “For I the Lord do not change.”

There is, thankfully no subjectivity when it comes to who God is and the truth that He has given to us.

He is God.

He is truth.

The Bible is God’s Word.

The Bible is truth.

I am thankful that there is a real truth that is not subjective.

I am thankful that the promises found in the Bible are not subject to the whims or opinions of people.

I am thankful that God’s love for me is not based on my own feelings.

And I am thankful that I have a Savior who does not change.

 

These are all great comforts to me in the midst of a highly subjective world.