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Archives For healing
I need to get something off of my chest:
I’m a hypocrite.
And so are you.
We all are. It’s a condition endemic to our species. It’s a dichotomy, a clever bit of cognitive dissonance, that we are–by and large–quite comfortable living with.
How does this play out?
Mostly, like this:
We get angry with those who sin differently than we do, apparently forgetting that we ourselves are sinners, too. It’s hypocrisy pure and simple.
Because we have to live with ourselves, we often give ourselves a pass, all the while condemning our brothers and sisters.
What’s the cure? How do we limit this hypocrisy, cut it off at its knees?
The Bible says we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, right? The late, great C.S. Lewis said that “loving one’s neighbor as oneself means being just as forgiving of one’s neighbor’s sins as one is of one’s own.”
That’s a tall order, to be sure. But it comes right from the horse’s mouth (as it were):
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Does this mean that we must forgive in order to ourselves be forgiven? Afraid so, folks.
Jesus paid it all for you, me, and that pesky neighbor down the street.
The first step to healing is admitting our hypocrisy: that we are no different than those who sin differently.
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What do we do when the much longed-for healing doesn’t come? When hope is dashed again and again?
When God, whom we know has both the power and ability, to do something, doesn’t?
What do we do with this disappointment? Why does he seem so silent, hidden, unfair, unloving, uncaring?
Are things really as they seem?
“Who is this who darkens counsel with words without knowledge,” Job was asked? Who, indeed? God, apparently fed up with Job’s questioning, answered him in a very Socratic way:
With questions of his own.
It seems there were things Job, and by extension, us, simply couldn’t understand. Meaning that if God, and his purposes, could be understood, he wouldn’t be God.
From his perspective, things were well in hand; from Job’s, unremitting loss and suffering. And instead of cluing Job in, the book seems more of an object lesson for Satan:
Do your worst, I know Job’s heart. He loves me…
Blows me away everytime I think about it. Admittedly, we don’t have the (if one can term it that) the luxury of God appearing in a whirlwind; rather Jesus tells us “Blessed is he who has not seen, and yet has believed.” Put another way, we walk by faith, and not by sight.
We are put into the position of having to trust that Father does indeed, despite all appearances to the contrary, know best.
So what do we do when the healing doesn’t come? We join that great cloud of witnesses which surrounds us. It’s some rather august company:
Paul asked thrice for his thorn to be taken; it was not. Instead, he was told that “My grace is sufficient for you…” The entire roster of the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews eleven consists entirely of people who didn’t get what they were promised, only glimpsing it from a long ways off.
A certain petitioner asked that a cup be taken from him; it was not.
We know how that turned out.
So what do we do when the looked-for healing doesn’t come?
As trite as it is to say: we trust, and obey. Otherwise anger, bitterness, frustration, and hopelessness stand outside the door threatening to destroy us.
We walk by faith and not by sight, right? I know: easy to say. But how do we do this–walk by faith–when our bodies, and our minds, betray us? I wish I knew. The world, the flesh, the devil, illness make a fairly comprehensive case against God’s fundamental goodness. Why does he seem so absent when things fall apart?
Why does everything have to be a test of faith?
“Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.” It’s hard, but I have nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to.
And I’m sorry, folks: I don’t have any answers. I’ve only got an Answer. I wish it were more satisfying. Like God, who doesn’t want to be analyzed, but rather just loved for who he is, I don’t want to be constantly tested, tried, found wanting.
Like him, I just want to be loved. Right where I’m at.
How about you?
In her seminal work, On Death and Dying, the late Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief:
While she wrote specifically of death, and think these stages can rightly be applied to nearly any hardship. Take chronic illness for instance. We may deny the cancer, or other ailment, but wishing doesn’t make it go away. So we progress to anger, shaking our fists at the heavens, declaring “This isn’t fair, God! Take it away.”
When he doesn’t, we bargain–telling him “If you’ll…, I’ll…” It seems however that he doesn’t respond to such conditional statements, wanting to be loved (rather than analyzed). When this bargaining doesn’t work out, we often fall into depression.
Thoughts of hopelessness swirl through our heads, clouding our vision, obscuring the way ahead. We can’t see the light for the tunnel is one of (seeming) perpetual night. But this is a trick of perception. We are locked in our skins, time bound, lives progressing in one inexorable direction.
But God is outside of all that. Above, beyond, transcendent: not bound by the laws of physics that keep us tethered to our mortal frames. By implication this means that his goodness is also transcendent–above the artifices and capriciousness of man. We–Christians–who claim to know him best are often the worst at this:
Just because God can do a thing, doesn’t mean he must. Because he has the power to heal, doesn’t mean he will heal. I believe we, especially in the American Evangelical church, are truly bad at this–believing that God somehow owes us something.
That He must heal us. He must do nothing of the sort. A far greater petitioner asked that a certain cup be taken; it was not. And if his request was thus denied, doesn’t it stand to reason that some of ours will be as well? As it says in Hebrews, “He (Jesus) learned obedience through those things which he suffered.”
Our expectations for lives of ease and comfort run smack dab into the very real road of pain we must walk. And so we get tripped up in the stages of grief, and vacillate between denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.
Never believing that by embracing acceptance we will find freedom.
One of the principles of recovery, recited as litany week after week, is: “Accepting, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is.” Meaning that, as a fallen world, bad stuff happens.
Even to God’s children.
Please join me in the Serenity Prayer:
“God grant the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Amen.
Wisdom here dictates that God does not always answer our prayers the way we wish, or end our suffering when we wish. I wish he did, but until that day when he “shall wipe away every tear,” I pray for serenity, and for the grace to navigate my broken self, and this fallen world.
Will you join me?
In A Boy and His Drug, I wrote of how I was not only allowed, but encouraged as a young boy to look at pornography. How that period lasted from the ages of ten-eighteen.
In The Unexpected Face of Grace I wrote of how God brought grace, and freedom, to me unexpectedly.
This is the rest of the story.
How I wish that had been the end of the story. How I wish, after breaking free, throwing out all of my posters and magazines, that I had never again looked at pornography.
As much as I’d like it to be true, I can’t say that. You see, as life got hard–had its trials–porn was there, cycling in, and out, of my life. I didn’t want to look, but I did. It was familiar. It was a friend from my youth.
Not really requiring anything from me, it had never let me down. Friends that is the insidious nature of evil, and of the evil one. First to tempt, then accuse. To first tell me “This will make you feel better,” only to follow it with “You horrible sinner! You call yourself a Christian! What would your wife think?”
Now let me be plain: Satan didn’t make me sin. I sinned–I chose to heed the voice of temptation. And true to his nature, the enemy was there to ensure I received a proper beat down for my choice. He’s not known as the “accuser of the brethren” for nothing.
In my guilt, and shame, I would cry out to God, confess to Him, tell Him how sorry I was. But in that spirit of that shame, believing I was alone in my wretchedness, I never told another human soul. And there was my undoing: I told no one. Not my wife, friends, anybody.
I bore the burden alone.
And so it went for many years–lather, rinse, repeat.
Until the time where I either wasn’t careful, didn’t care, or wanted to be caught: my Internet history found me out. Or rather my wife found my Internet history.
And what a blow that was–to me, yes, but much more to her. What do you suppose Satan’s message was to her? That her husband’s involvement in pornography was a way to anesthitize his pain, and stemmed from his childhood?
Not even close.
It was: “You’re not enough.” He looks at this stuff because you’re not enough woman for him. Thereby compounding his lies. He took my sin, and used it to assault her in the very core of her being: her femininity.
Even though to me it was never about sex, but rather medicating the pain of a life I couldn’t control. It was my besetting sin.
How I wish I’d never hurt her in that way, could take it all back. But I can’t. However, it is now covered under the blood, and not something I struggle with anymore.
Why? Why don’t I struggle with it? Why is it not cycling into, and out, my life like before?
There are five key reasons:
1) I have a God Who loves me enough to not leave me as I am.
2) I have a wife who, despite the pain I caused her, loves me enough to not leave me as I am. And who encouraged me to seek help.
3) I found help at Celebrate Recovery, and confessed my sins to similarly struggling men. I was astounded to learn that I wasn’t alone. Of all the lies Satan tells us, that’s got to be the biggest: that we are alone.
4) As corny, as cliché as this may sound, God spoke to me through Dr. Phil. The good doctor was doing an episode that featured a segment on porn, and said something that was seared into my soul: “That’s somebody’s daughter.”
That’s somebody’s daughter. I have a daughter. Would I want someone, somewhere, looking at my daughter? That thought alone brought me up cold–because the answer was a resounding “NO!!!!”
5) There is accountability in confession: by choosing to put my story out there I disarm the enemy. He’s no longer able to accuse me here in this place–because it’s not a secret anymore. And having done so, I was again astonished to learn that I’m not alone.
Mike Foster of POTSC says this: “Being brave with your story gives others the courage to be brave with theirs.”
Anne Jackson puts it this way: “By going first, you give others a gift. The gift of going second.” Meaning someone has to be brave, be courageous, share the uncomfortable–because you never know who you’re going to encourage by doing so.
Will you be brave today, give someone the gift of going second? You don’t have to share here, but please do find somewhere to share. You’re not alone.