Every Monday we’ll post something to do with maintaining sexual purity. Hope it helps.
When Hurting is Helpful
“ — neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” - II Samuel 24:24
I see nothing in scripture or common sense leading me to believe life shouldn’t be savored. Paul told Timothy that God has given us all things richly to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17) and I say bring it on. There are walks to take, movies to see, waves to ride, footballs to toss, and an endless variety of meals to relish. Indeed, I think “relish” is a verb we ought to apply liberally as we relish a good joke, a shared moment, a chance to dance poorly and sing loudly, plus the beauty of friendship, family love, worship and the occasional good book. We serve God, empowered by the Holy Spirit as we follow Christ, and none of those three is a tyrant, so our load’s pretty light when you get right down to it. Problems notwithstanding, I find life in general is good, and life in Him is abundant.
But sometimes it should hurt. Sin is, and where there’s sin, there’s human failure, heartbreak, evil. That hurts. So does disappointment in people, or mishaps large or small. And sometimes, there’s the hurt coming from obedience – the pain of telling ourselves “no” when we’re craving permission, or the ache of distancing ourselves from something beloved but wrong, or the cold sweat of an ugly but needful confrontation. That’s when Good Life morphs into Hard Life, and living it right doesn’t exempt us from the pain.
Just ask the woman who’s fallen in love with a man so unlike her inconsiderate, boorish husband, and who feels more alive and vibrant in his company than she’s ever dreamed she could. To her, cutting the relationship off feels like an amputation; necessary but devastating. Or ask the man who’s always been attracted to other men, yet knows a homosexual union can never square with God’s will. His celibacy feels like banishment from all hope of physical and romantic intimacy, and the peace of his obedience is mixed with very real longing and frustration. They’ll tell you that doing right is right, but feeling good is by no means the guaranteed outcome. There’s a hard truth all of us, at some point, have to come up against.
Paul said as much, when he expressed a three-part desire for intimacy with Christ, resurrection power in his life, and communion with His pain:
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.” ( Philippians 3:10)
I recall that, as I also recall the author of Hebrews remarking that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) And when I remember these things I can say, when denying myself what I know to be both wrong and deeply pleasurable, “I’ll say no, because You said no. You had choices, some of which caused unfathomable pain no matter how right they were. The least I as a follower can do, is to go and do likewise.”
And somehow that gives meaning to my choices. They are, for sure, miniscule in their consequences compared to the Lord’s. I may take up my cross, but I’ll never know the weight or agony of His, so my tiny self-denials are hardly the stuff martyrs are made of. But they do, in their feeble way, bring me into communion with Him, and the discomfort I feel over them feels hard but right; hurtful yet peaceful. The hurt helps, both as a reminder that I’m called to live against the tide, and as a gift I can give Him that requires something of me.
Like the little drummer boy offering a par-um-pa-pum-pum, I’ve no illusions about this gift being something God needs. But it’s something He wants; something He’ll accept. Heaven will operate just dandy without any contribution from me, but if God likes my gift of discomfort born out of obedience, then today I’ll rejoice, just like the kid on the drums did, when I can say right along with him:
“ — then He smiled at me.”