To say my friend “fell”
from the ministry would be an understatement. If I told you what he did, you might
want to quit reading. It was bad -- really
When you and I sin, most people never know
about it. If a friend or family member is hurt, we can usually smooth it over. However,
when this friend sinned, it made TV, YouTube, and the newspaper.
Years after the events, the dust is still
settling … and it may never resolve completely. Still, this man is a brother in
Christ. And while what he did was revolting, the man is an old friend of 20
I recently caught up with him and he recounted
for me what happened, relived the bad choices he had made, and took full
ownership for what he had done.
As someone well aware of my own sins, I was
slow to cast stones. Instead, I listened with a heavy heart as he described the
life-changing consequences he now endures. And through this difficult journey,
he also told me about how Jesus had met him in these dark times. He had renewed
hope, embraced a fresh forgiveness and understood life as he had never
experienced it before.
At one point, he said something that struck me
profoundly. “You wouldn’t believe the physical, emotional, mental, and
spiritual hell I’ve gone through. It has been awful and I wouldn’t wish it on
my worst enemy. But I wouldn’t trade it away, either … because it made me who I
That’s a stunning statement.
Don’t misunderstand. He was immensely sorry for
his sin and broken by the consequences, but the result drove him to the cross
in a way he never had experienced before. This horrible, humbling experience
was both the worst thing -- and the best thing -- that ever happened to him.
And lest you think I’ve given him a free pass for what he’s
done, I haven’t. Still, my friend is a living example of the joy and growth
that can come from brokenness. When we put aside our self-righteousness and
embrace our pain and sinfulness, God can meet us in a special way.
Most of us like to hide our failures and
shortcomings. We smile at church, offering a quick, “I’m doing great. How are
you?” After a while it becomes habit, and we begin to convince ourselves that
we don’t have needs or problems. And as we strive to maintain this rosy
picture, we miss out on the chance to meet God in the pain and difficulty we
experience. We miss out on the chance to know his healing and his touch in a
After all, it’s not the healthy who need him,
but the sick.
I’m thankful the Bible is filled with people
who met God in a special way as they embraced their pain. Consider these:
Hannah … cried out to a
husband who didn’t understand, and was accused of terrible behavior by God’s
priest. After she prayed, God met her in a special way and answered her prayer
(1 Samuel 2).
Paul & Silas … were beaten and
publically humiliated. They shared the experience together, embraced the pain, and
found energy to praise God. In return, God shook the ground, broke their chains
and freed them from prison (Acts 16).
Jeremiah … wasa reluctant prophet who didn’t want
the job. He spent 40 years in ministry as a hated, sorrowful man. Thrown in
jail for speaking the truth, Jeremiah had a difficult calling. When his prophecies
came true and the city of Jerusalem was attacked, destroyed, and burned to the
ground, there stood Jeremiah—with tears and a
broken heart. And do you know what happened? God met him in his pain. The
weeping prophet did not hide his pain but embraced reality. And in the middle
of his anguish, he discovered the nearness of God and said, “Because of
theLord’s great lovewe are not
consumed,for his compassions never fail. They are new
every morning, great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Or how about David, whose lapse of character and judgment brought agony and pain
on himself, his people, and his family. What’s the lesson he learned and subsequently,
teaches us? You can meet God in a special way when you own up to your sins. “Blessed is
the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered … When I kept silent, my bones wasted away … Then I acknowledged my sins to you … And you
forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32).
Me & You
Life is painful. If it doesn’t hurt now, it
will at some point. And in the denial of those difficult times, you may miss the
opportunity for God to meet you in your pain.
The problem is often our ego. We don’t want
people to see the real us. We don’t want people to see us cry. We think that if
we hold it inside, we won’t have to share it with others or with God. The
problem is, when we do that, we miss out.
Numbing the Pain
Sometimes that pain is inflicted on us and
sometimes we bring it upon ourselves. Regardless of the source, every moment of
pain comes with a decision. Will we stuff the feeling deep inside and try to
numb it, or will we embrace it and let God meet us in that pain?
I have known people who try to numb their pain in
many ways. I’ve seen people try to drink their troubles away. I’ve known young
people with scars on their arms and legs who tried to find relief through
cutting. I’ve seen dear friends try to comfort themselves by eating too much—and others try to take control by eating too little.
And me? My usual escape isn’t a substance but rather
the busyness of distracting activities … because I know that if I stay busy
enough, I won’t have to think about it.
Embracing the Pain
Life rarely works out the way we want. And the
surprises that blindside us can be devastating. Even if we manage to dodge the
outside forces that can damage us, we still have a tough time evading the
effects of our own sin and shortcomings.
So what can we do about it?
Hide it? Stuff it? Numb it? Or embrace it. Yes,
embracing the pain hurts. But by being honest with others, ourselves, and our
God, we have the opportunity to meet him in a way we’ve never known before. An
experience we wouldn’t trade for the world.