Saturday, March 31, 2012

Emotions of pain -- loneliness

Be sure of this: I am with you always (Matthew 28:20).

Several hundred years ago, a Frenchman was imprisoned in a dungeon. Sitting alone day after day in his dank cell, he seemed to have been forgotten by everyone. In loneliness and despair, he took a stone and scratched these words on the rough wall: “Nobody cares.”

One day, the prisoner noticed a green shoot peeking out through a crack in the stone floor. As the days went by, it began to reach up towards the light coming in through the tiny window at the top of the cell. It continued growing until at last it was large enough to bud. Then, one glorious morning, the bud opened to reveal a beautiful blue flower. The prisoner, moved by this gift, scratched out his previous words and above them wrote, “God cares.”

Are you lonely? Do you have a hard time making friends because you’re shy? Do you stay away from parties because you never know what to say or how to act? Or have you lost someone precious to you, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that can fill the hole in your heart?

Loneliness might be a new experience for you. Maybe you have always been popular, but now all your friends have died or moved away, leaving you surprised at how quiet your life has gotten. Maybe there have been just one or two important people in your life, and now that they’re gone you feel lost, unsure of what to do next. Or perhaps you and loneliness go back a long way together. Maybe you were an only child who didn’t have many opportunities to spend time with other kids. Maybe you couldn’t think fast, or weren’t very coordinated, so you watched other kids play games instead of participating. Or maybe you have always been interested in different things than other people are, so you find little to talk about with your coworkers during coffee break.

The effects of loneliness can be devastating. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, God said that being alone was not a good thing. Loneliness can play tricks with your mind. When you are alone, every strange sound in the night can be frightening. When you are alone, problems can seem overwhelming because you have no one to turn to for advice or ask for help. Worst of all, when you are alone you start to wonder if anyone loves you.

In his book “The Cocktail Party”, T. S. Elliot describes three people waiting in a room. Each has recently died; each has been sentenced to hell. And so they sit, waiting for the devil to come and escort them to their fate. With nothing else to do, each man talks—but only to himself. No one pays any attention to what the others are saying; each is totally focused on his own misery. As time drags endlessly on, it slowly dawns on them that the devil won’t be coming to lead them someplace worse. They are already in hell, because each of them is utterly alone.

The Bible speaks of hell as a place of intense, unending suffering. But there is no pain worse than the pain of loneliness. We were created to love, and you cannot love or be loved when you’re alone. One good definition of hell is this: hell is where you are completely alone.

You may think that you know what loneliness is like, but I assure you that no matter how much you may have suffered, you have never been truly alone. Every human being lives in the warmth of God’s love. It is because of God’s action that you have recovered from the times you were sick or injured. It is because of God’s influence that you have known the love of family and friends. Because God is at work all around you, there are beautiful things to look at, soothing things to listen to, wonderful things to touch and smell and taste.

You are not truly alone at any point in your life, because you live in the world God made and loves. Earth is like a garden, and God works in His garden every day creating and nurturing life. No human being, not even an unbeliever, is truly alone because God is constantly at work all around us.

But there is one place God stays away from; His loving presence is not felt in hell. Hell is the place set apart for those who reject God’s love. The only place you can experience absolute loneliness is hell—and the horror of that loneliness is compounded by the knowledge that there will never be an end to it.

No one has a better understanding of loneliness than Jesus. In fact, His whole reason in coming among us to suffer and die was to shield you from loneliness. You and I are failures—we were created to love unselfishly, yet much of the time we get so wrapped up in loving ourselves that we fail to love others the way God expects. Because of this, we don’t deserve God’s love or care; what we deserve is hell, being separated from God and everyone else forever. For we who spend our days being self-absorbed, this is a fitting punishment indeed.

But loneliness is awful. In fact, loneliness is an alien concept to our loving God. From eternity, He has been Three in One—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because of this, God has never experienced loneliness—not until the cross. It was while on the cross that Jesus experienced loneliness for the first and only time. It was on the cross that Jesus suffered the hell of being truly alone, as He showed when He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) During those terrible hours on Mount Calvary, the Son of God suffered the loneliness of hell, and He did it for you—He suffered your punishment from God to spare you from ever experiencing it for yourself.

Are you lonely? In spite of how you feel, I can assure you that you are not alone. Jesus said, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends (Revelation 3:20). Jesus is waiting to be part of your life! He knows what it is to feel lonely—Jesus understands the horrors of loneliness better than anyone.

Ask Jesus, and He will ease your loneliness. He can open your eyes to see how much you are not alone. He has given doctors to care for you in sickness. He has provided postal workers to bring you mail, fire fighters to protect your home, electricity to bring you light during the darkness of night. Through television, radio and the Internet, He permits friendly faces and warm voices to enter your home any time you want.

Jesus can also help you connect with others. He can give you the courage to speak with strangers; I know, because I used to be very shy until I asked the Lord to help me overcome it. Jesus takes pleasure in mending fences; He would love to help you write a letter to someone lost to you because of a stupid fight, a letter offering a sincere apology and an invitation to rekindle your old friendship.

Jesus can draw you out of yourself. He has promised eternal life in heaven for all who die believing in Him, so if you have lost a loved one to death, there is no reason to be sad. That person is rejoicing in heaven, and when the Savior summons you from this life, the two of you will be reunited in paradise! Since your loved one is living in eternal joy, why are you sad? Is it because you’re feeling sorry for yourself, having to live without that person? Jesus can help you! He created you to love others every day of your life. Start showing love again by volunteering your time to a charity. Visit patients in a hospital or residents in a nursing home. By relieving the loneliness of others, you will be a channel for the love of Christ and your life will be filled with companionship.

Most importantly, Jesus gives you the fellowship of the church. One of the reasons we gather in these places is to support and love each other. Do you feel alone? Go to church! Do you feel as if no one understands you? Among the members of Christ’s house, you are understood—like you, we are all sinners struggling to find our way, led by the Master and supported by each other. Do you feel as if no one shares your interests or priorities? In the fellowship of believers, we all have several things in common—a love for God, a desire to know more about Him, and a passion to be close to Him forever. Among us, you are not an outsider—you are a fellow member of the body of Christ, a brother or sister of our Savior, a brother or sister to me and to the people seated around you. You are not alone—you belong to the largest, most widespread family in the world!

Jesus made a wonderful promise to those who love Him—I am with you always. With Jesus in your life, you will never be alone.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

"Love" is a word that gets overused. We use the word love to describe how we feel about our pets. We talk about loving our jobs. We even brag about how much we love having a new car. We use the word love to describe the powerful connection we have with parents, children, and those we are intimate with—how sad that the same word is also used to describe how we feel about a favorite brand of pizza.

Love is a term that often gets abused. There are men who say that they love someone, yet their concept of love can involve intimidation and abuse. There are women whose definition of love includes obsession and manipulation. There are young people whose experience with love has taught them to seek pleasure wherever and however they can, regardless of the consequences. It is terribly sad that so many people associate love with pain and regret.

But regardless of how it is misused and abused, talk of love always captures our attention. This is because love is essential to our happiness. When you don’t feel loved, you can be lonely in a crowd. When you don’t feel loved, it becomes extremely hard to deal with other challenges. Feeling unloved and alone with your problems has resulted in many attempts at suicide.

To be loved, you need someone else—someone who sees value in you, someone who wants to spend time with you. Only a narcissist finds love within himself, and narcissists are not emotionally healthy. God made us to be social—from the beginning the LORD said that it is not good to be alone. This basic need for love and companionship fills the Internet with dating services and keeps the liquor flowing at singles’ bars.

Sadly, we all have personality flaws—flaws that undermine relationships and result in being lonely. But even when your life seems empty of love, you have someone who cares about you and wants to spend time with you. That person is Jesus. You might not feel Him holding your hand, but the Bible is packed with messages that He has sent to you. In those words you can hear the love that He feels for you. He always has time to listen when you speak to Him in prayer. Regardless of how others have treated you, remember that there is one Person whose love will never let you down.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Do not fear, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:10).

Unless you have a lot of money at your disposal, medical insurance is a must. Sooner or later, everyone has a major health problem—a stay in the hospital, a battery of expensive tests, or long-term medical treatment. Such events are extremely expensive; having insurance makes sure that you can get the quality care you need, and takes care that you don’t go bankrupt paying for it.

Insurance gives you peace of mind. Think of the single mother with two young children, working several part-time jobs just to put a roof over their heads and food on their plates. Without insurance, every case of high fever is a cause for concern; without insurance, do you seek medical help that you can’t afford, or do you risk serious complications from waiting to see if things will get better on their own? No parent should face such a choice.

As important as medical insurance is, there is another kind of policy that we need even more—we need spiritual insurance. We all have major problems that afflict the soul. Some are wounded by divorce or betrayal at the hands of someone they trusted deeply—bitterness becomes a chronic problem and they lose the ability to place trust in relationships. Others struggle with problems like prejudice or extreme shyness—they live with the constant pain of rejection and emotional isolation. And there is always guilt—guilt over harsh words that cannot be taken back, guilt over wasted time and golden opportunities that were allowed to slip away unused.

We need spiritual insurance. We need to know that our mistakes can be forgiven. We need to know that when we die, God won’t send us to hell for the terrible things we’ve said and done. We need to know that tough situations aren’t hopeless, that unhappy outcomes are not inevitable. We need a policy that gives us inner peace.

God offers such a policy. It is signed by Jesus in the blood dripping from His cross, where He suffered and died to make right everything you have made wrong. And unlike medical insurance, the policy offered by Christ is completely free—the Lord Himself has paid your premium in full. When you are signed up as a member of God’s eternal plan, you can have the kind of peace that no other insurance policy comes close to offering.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Emotions of pain -- inadequacy

We are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

Suppose that during this past week, a young wife gave birth to her first baby. Now suppose that as she held that new baby in her arms and was enjoying the pleasure of motherhood, a stranger entered her room and asked, “how much do you want for that child?’ Of course she would show no interest in such an offer; she would be deeply offended at even the suggestion that her baby might be for sale. But the stranger is persistent and makes an offer of ten thousand dollars, then raises it to one hundred thousand, and finally one million dollars. But the offers are all in vain, because the mother simply holds her child close and says, “My baby is worth more to me than all the money in world!”

Of course, if she had acted any differently, we would question if she had the proper attitude for motherhood. But why does she respond the way she does? Is it because she looks forward to thousands of dirty diapers, sleepless nights comforting a sick child, and the expenses of raising that child? Does she refuse the stranger’s offers because she expects her child to one day bring her fame and fortune? Of course not. She acts as she does because she has chosen to value and love that baby with all her heart. That infant has worth because of who he is, not because of what he can or will do. The love of his mother is what gives him worth.

Do you feel inadequate? Does it seem as if people expect more from you than you are capable of? Is it hard to write a resume, because nothing about your skills seems noteworthy or special? Do you mentally kick yourself when you go to bed, because there are so many things you haven’t gotten done? Do you feel guilty about getting a raise, because you don’t feel that your job performance justifies one?

Do you feel worthless? When others make comments that put you down, do you secretly believe that they are right? Do you feel like you are a walking disaster just waiting to happen? Do you find an odd sense of comfort in being punished, because you know that you deserve it?

Are you staying in a relationship with an abusive person because you don’t think that anyone else could love you? When you go out on a date, do you hope the other person will do all the talking because you don’t want to have to talk about yourself? In your deepest, most personal relationships, are you uncomfortable communicating your needs and feelings?

Do you feel that you don’t deserve the good things in your life? Are you embarrassed when someone pays you a compliment? When people do you favors or give you gifts, do you think, “if they only knew what I’m really like, they would never be so nice to me”? When good things happen to you, do you regard them as evidence of God’s love for you, or do you attribute them to unexpected ‘good luck’?

How did you come to have such a low opinion of yourself? Did your parents tell you that you were a disappointment to them? Did you do poorly in school? Did the kids always tease you, or pick you last when choosing team members? Have the people you’ve dated humiliated you instead of treating you with respect?

Feeling worthless is terribly hurtful. If you don’t believe you have skills that will benefit a company, it’s hard to convince a personnel manager to hire you. If you don’t think that you bring much to a relationship, you may settle for partners who have little regard for your feelings. If you feel as if the good things in your life are there by mistake, you won’t fight very hard to keep them from being taken away. If you don’t believe that you are capable of achieving goals, too much of your time will be wasted in despondent idleness.

Pontius Pilate certainly knew what it was like to feel inadequate. In spite of all his efforts, his rule over Palestine as a governor of the Roman Empire resulted in one black spot on his record after another. In an attempt to emphasize the Empire’s authority, Pilate had images of Rome’s gods set up throughout Jerusalem; this enraged the Jews so much that Pilate was forced to back down in order to keep the peace. Nor did he score any points when his men, rooting out agitators, killed several Jews in the Temple as they were offering sacrifices. By the time that Jesus was brought to him for trial, Pilate’s political future was hanging by a thread—his superiors in Rome were questioning his ability to rule.

Pilate’s duty was clear—enforce the law of the Empire. After listening to the trumped up charges against Jesus and conducting his own private interview; it quickly became clear what was really going on. Jesus had broken no laws; the religious leadership was simply envious of the Lord’s popularity. They wanted to use Pilate to discredit Jesus and silence Him once and for all by sentencing Him to death.

Pilate’s duty was clear—yet he was suddenly unsure of what to do. Which was more important—the life of an innocent man, the rule of law, or the security of his position as governor? Pilate tried to pawn off the problem by sending Jesus to Herod, a descendent of Jewish kings who was set up by Rome as a ceremonial figurehead with no real power. But Herod was no help, and the problem of Jesus ended up back in Pilate’s lap. He tried to placate Jesus’ enemies; even though he knew the Lord to be innocent, he had Jesus whipped like a criminal. But when the religious leaders incited the crowd to the point of rioting, Pilate abdicated his authority completely—he told the Jews that they could have their execution but he would not bear responsibility for the deed, even though it was his soldiers who drove in the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.

Pilate proved himself to be worthless as a politician, and the Emperor eventually relieved him from duty as a result. Pilate demonstrates an important lesson—that when we lose sight of what is right, no course of action looks safe and we can easily become paralyzed with uncertainty. This opens the door for other people to push us around to achieve their ends.

Are you really worthless? Let’s look at things from God’s perspective. He designed you; you are a unique person with a combination of abilities that no one else has. God had a reason for placing you in this world; Ephesians says we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. God designed you for a purpose—to serve Him by using the skills He has given you. You might not think that you are anything special, but God tailor-made you to serve Him in ways no one else can.

Now I realize that you do come up short. So do I. None of us are performing to our full potential. We make mistakes because we are not as fast or skilled as we can be, as smart or perceptive as we should be. But the potential is there—I know that it is, because God put it there! He has goals for us, things He wants us to do. He made each of us in such a way so that we can be successful in doing the work He designed us to do. If life seems to be one failure after another, a continual chain of impossible tasks, then two questions need to be asked.

The first question is: am I doing what God designed me to do? A skilled bricklayer might not be a very good pastry chef. Someone who is naturally charming and personable might be wasted working alone in a tiny office with the company spreadsheets. Maybe you’re in the wrong profession or a substandard relationship. You might ask yourself what you enjoy doing and compare it to your job description. You might ask yourself what gives you satisfaction in your personal relationships and then ask the person you are with to give you more of what you need.

The second question is this: are you in the habit of asking God for help? Notice that I said habit—is prayer a part of your daily routine? When you need to make a decision, do you ask the Holy Spirit to clear out the mental cobwebs and reveal lies and half-truths for what they really are? Do you ask him to make sure that you are aware of everything you need to know to make an informed decision? Do you ask him for wisdom, so that the decision you make will be the best one possible?

If you seek God’s help in what to do and how to do it, you don’t need to feel inadequate or worthless. It is impossible for you to be worthless if you are doing God’s will!

Notice where your worth comes from. You are important because God gave you value. Like the young mother who would not give up her child for all the money in the world, our heavenly Father loves and treasures you above all. But what about all those times that you’ve made a total mess of things? What about all the pain you’ve caused others by your incompetence and selfishness? What about all the money and time God has given you that you have foolishly wasted? Since you have failed to do God’s will, does that make you worthless? Not at all. God values you—values you so much that He sent His Son to die for you. Jesus’ holy blood has made atonement for your guilt; when He forgives you, He sets you back on the path of useful service to God. You are worth a great deal to Jesus—worth more to Him than His own life!

Have you ever heard the term ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’? It means that if you expect the worst to happen, it probably will because you will make it happen. If you go on a date with a pleasant and attractive person, how do you think things will go if you expect that date to be a disaster? Chances are, your pessimistic attitude will bring about the very result you were expecting. That is the trap of feeling inadequate and worthless—when you expect things to go badly, they will. But there is an alternative—Proverbs chapter 3 says, Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. God loves you; He gives your life value and He gives your days purpose. Give Him your undivided attention, and He will prove it to you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quality care

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Quality medical treatment is very important. Getting that treatment promptly is also very important.

Every week I get emails from online merchants offering cheap prices on bulk medicine.
I never take a chance on these offers—my health is too important to risk on a product of questionable safety. Yet there are people who do take this risk. There are people who are willing to undergo experimental treatments, even if that means going to a foreign country where medical standards are more lax than ours. For the sake of quick results or saving money, there are people who are willing to roll the dice with their long-term health.

There are also people who put off going in for a medical evaluation. Money might be a factor—they worry about paying the bill afterwards. Others are slow to see the doctor because they fear getting bad news about their condition. And there are people who interfere with good medical care by fibbing in the examining room. They might not want to admit to doing something dangerous, foolish, or illegal. They might exaggerate their symptoms because they crave attention. They might downplay how bad their symptoms are, hoping to avoid more tests or having to take a new prescription.

The thing is, delaying treatment for medical problems only makes things worse. The same is true when you are not honest with your physician. More often than not, the situation eventually gets so bad that you are forced to confront it. At that point, the problem will be harder to cure and will cost more to be successfully treated.

When it comes to our spiritual health, we also need care that is timely and of the highest quality. It makes no sense to risk your soul by consulting astrology charts or people that claim to be psychic; Jesus is the Great Physician of body and soul, and He is better qualified than anyone else to prescribe what you need—after all, He gave you life. It’s not a good idea to put off visiting with Him in prayer or worship; the sin that grows in you like cancer will only cause worse problems for you the longer it is left untreated. And be honest with Jesus about your faults; He wants to make you better, and He can tell when you are fibbing to Him anyway.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Preventive maintenance

I will strengthen you and help you (Isaiah 41:10).

Preventive maintenance is important. Cars and trucks are expensive investments; you protect such investments by making sure the oil gets changed, the tires are rotated, and maintenance is arranged as soon as the check engine light comes on. If you ignore doing routine maintenance, you may wind up stranded somewhere or forced to pay a large repair bill.

Preventive medical care is even more important. Regular exercise lessens the risk of heart disease. Vaccinations can prevent you from getting sick. Cancer screenings and stress tests can identify problems early on, making treatment easier and more effective. The same applies to dental check ups and eye examinations. Although it involves some time and out-of-pocket expense, preventing health problems or catching them early on is much better than dealing with cancer or diabetes that has had time to become a crippling problem.

Our spiritual health requires routine maintenance as well. Without regular check ups, your inner self can also degrade without your being aware of it. A couple of impulsive decisions can soon develop into a pattern of problem behavior; it doesn’t take long to slip into the rut of a nasty and miserable habit.

The Son of God did more than just heal physical ailments; Jesus also treated problems of the heart and mind, illnesses of the soul. Regrettably, sin is a chronic problem—like cancer or alcoholism, the best we can hope for in this life is to experience remission. People in remission understand the importance of routine check-ups. On a regular basis, cancer survivors visit a doctor and alcoholics go to AA meetings. Thanks to Jesus, we are survivors too—He has rescued us from the eternal death that sin otherwise results in. But like anyone who is in remission, we need routine care to stay spiritually healthy. That care includes time spent reading the Bible, where God helps us understand our condition and reassures us that His treatment is effective. That ongoing care includes worshiping God in church with others who are in remission, where the LORD helps us see where we’ve gone wrong, and uses us to offer mutual encouragement and hold each other accountable.

Make time with Christ an essential part of your routine; without His ongoing support, your spiritual health is far from insured.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Emotions of pain -- desire

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

It seems incredible to us that Charles Manson could attract anyone as a follower. But we get some insight from Lynette Fromme, the woman who tried to assassinate President Ford in Sacramento. When a reporter asked why she attached herself to the ‘Manson Family’, she explained that it was Manson’s philosophy that she found so appealing: ‘Get what you want, whenever you want it. That is your God-inspired right.’

Are you a slave to your desires? When you pass an attractive person on the street, do you typically find yourself staring? Do you have a stash of pornography? Do you measure your self-worth by how attractive you are sexually?

Or is shopping your greatest pleasure? Can you easily spend an entire day going from one retailer to another? Do you find it impossible to leave a store without making a purchase? Which is more important to you: shopping, or putting money into savings?

Do you control your appetites, or does your appetites control you? Do you have a hard time staying home from the bar or keeping out of the refrigerator? Do you always have to have something in your mouth, whether it be a snack, a soft drink, or a cigarette? Or do you need something stronger to get you through the day, something like meth or cocaine?

Is making money the most important thing in your life? Do you put in such long hours at work that you have little time left for your family? Do you obsess over your investments, taking time throughout day to check the markets? Are you reluctant to give a donation to charity?

We all have desires, things we want to make us feel safe, feel satisfied, feel good. But these desires can get out of control; they can confuse our priorities and dictate our actions. When our desires start controlling our daily lives, they have become addictions. We must be constantly on our guard to prevent this from happening.

It is natural to feel attraction for the opposite sex; men and women were designed by God to pair up and form families. But sexual desire causes problems when it pulls your attention away from the person you’re committed to; that person will either feel betrayed or unappreciated. Left unchecked, your desire can ruin your most intimate relationships.

We all benefit from the fruits of civilization—cars get us to work faster, household appliances free up more time from chores to spend with family, television links us to the wider world around us. But filling your life with stuff can isolate you—is text messaging and time spent watching TV really better than face to face contact with loved ones? And constant spending can get in the way of saving for the future; what good is a closet full of fashionable clothes when you can’t afford necessary medical care?

Sitting down to a meal with loved ones is a blessing—Jesus even pictured heaven as a banquet. Wine is an excellent beverage for fellowship with friends; Jesus even used wine as part of the Last Supper. But eating to excess can ruin your health; drinking to excess can result in words being spoken that should never have been uttered. What good can come from poisoning yourself with tobacco? How can you provide for your family and plan for the future if your money is consumed by a drug habit?

Money is our way of getting what we need. But when making money is our greatest passion, problems follow. There is reluctance to support the work of the Church. There is temptation to do anything to get more money, even if it involves methods that are unethical, illegal, or immoral. Some people even measure successfulness in life by the amount of their assets instead of by the quality of their character or the depth of their relationships.

Jesus’ disciples were not immune from desire. In their case, what they lusted after was power. These were not men of high social standing; these were not men of wealth. They did not have advanced education; they were ordinary folks who never anticipated becoming men of importance. But when Jesus invited them to become His disciples, their future suddenly brightened. They looked at Jesus’ wisdom, power and popularity, and they started getting stars in their eyes. He gave them the power to perform miracles in His name, and their confidence grew. Jesus might just be the leader Israel had been waiting for, they thought, someone who would expel the Roman occupation forces and restore the nation to the political power and prestige of years gone by.

Heady stuff for twelve common working men. No surprise, then, that they started desiring power and prestige for themselves. On one occasion, the people of a Samaritan village did not welcome Jesus and His entourage; offended, James and John asked Jesus: "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village (Luke 9:54-65).

Another time, Jesus was telling them that it was hard for rich people to enter the kingdom of God. When they heard this, Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" (Matthew 19:27)

There was also a time when the disciples got to quarreling among themselves as to who in their group was the greatest; this prompted Jesus to tell them: "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35).

Even during Holy Week, the disciples still let desire for power consume their thoughts. After Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem with a king’s honor on Palm Sunday, James and John asked Him for an incredible favor— "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." The other disciples naturally reacted with jealous anger. But Jesus set them all straight: "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark chapter ten).

The problem with desire is that it leads us into selfish behavior. Of course, we don’t see it as selfish—we make up excuses to justify why we need the things we crave. A woman who has an affair can rationalize her behavior by saying, “My husband doesn’t care about me”—but that doesn’t make her conduct acceptable to God. A man who steals from his employer might justify his actions by saying, “The boss doesn’t pay me what I’m worth”—but that doesn’t change the fact that he has sinned. We can make up all sorts of excuses to whitewash our motives, but even if we succeed in fooling ourselves, God sees the truth—that we love treating ourselves more than we love respecting Him.

Another characteristic of desire is that it is never satisfied. An addict always wants more. This is just as true of a lust for sex as it is for a desire to go shopping; addiction to drugs is really no different than addiction to junk food or the compulsive accumulation of money. We see it in the behavior of the Twelve; in spite of Jesus’ repeated correction, the disciples kept fantasizing about having power, and that desire showed itself in their wrong-headed conduct.

God says, Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. The Bible warns us repeatedly against lusting after sex, lusting after money, lusting after property. God condemns lust for food, lust for alcohol, and lust for power. It all comes down to looking at the wrong things for happiness. How long will your body stay feeling good after a candy bar or a line of cocaine? How long can you expect to hold an elected public office? How long will your investments support your spending habits after you retire? How many years can you expect to lure strangers into bed with your good looks?

There’s the problem; in this world, things end. Money is used up, youth gives way to old age, someone smarter comes along and takes your office. You cannot find lasting happiness by feeding your desires for earthly pleasures.

Thankfully, you don’t have to. Gifts have a limited life span, but the Giver of those gifts does not. God is the great Giver of All. He is eternal, and He has gifts to give that do not wear out—gifts that can follow us through the grave and out the other side. He offers us the gift of mercy, forgiveness for our mistakes that frees us from the chains of guilt tying us to the past. He offers us the gift of purpose, a reason to live that is more than just shoveling food into our mouths or stuffing our closets with new clothes. He offers us the gift of compassion, so that we can let go of hurts and, through forgiveness, have quality relationships with each other. And He offers us the gift of life after death, a life with Him in a place where there is no addiction to desire.

These are gifts that can be yours right now, and they are gifts that do not have a shelf life—they will continue to bless you into eternity. Even better, these gifts don’t result in compulsive behavior; they don’t tempt us to be selfish and hurtful towards others. But gifts this wonderful did not come cheaply; they cost our Lord a great deal. The price of these gifts was the life of God’s Son, demanded from Him in exchange for our blessing. Jesus was betrayed, insulted, made fun of, whipped, beaten and crucified—all to offer you something better than a wallet full of twenties or a fully stocked liquor cabinet.

What does God ask of us in exchange for these everlasting gifts? He asks three things. First, He demands that we give our love to Him; we do this by honoring His Son Jesus as His greatest gift to us. Second, He instructs us to use every gift responsibly, whether it be sex or food or money or influence over others. This means that we must study His Word, so we can better know how to use His gifts in ways that please Him. And finally, He expects us to receive His gifts with thanksgiving. God doesn’t owe us anything—all that we receive is due to His loving generosity. It is only right that we tell Him thank you with sincere hearts on a daily basis.

God gives us everything we need and more besides, and He does so purely out of love for us. It is foolishness to devote more love and attention to the gifts than to the loving God who gives them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good health

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

It is important to take care of your body; after all, it’s the only one you get. Sadly, we are prone to abusing our bodies in any number of ways. Some of you smoke or overeat; others cause damage by misusing drugs or drinking too much alcohol. Some of you let your bodies get out of shape by not getting proper exercise. Others go to the opposite extreme; they put their health at risk by participating in extreme sports, not stretching before a workout, or failing to wear protective gear. And how many of you put your body at risk by driving without buckling your seat belt?

Behaviors such as these present a very real possibility of serious health problems. You body can be injured, perhaps severely. It’s one thing to recover from a broken bone; it’s another thing entirely to deal with liver disease, lung cancer, or paralysis from a back injury. And make no mistake—abusing your body can even result in premature death.

It is important to take care of your body; it is even more important to take good care of your soul. You only get one life, and the way you live it has eternal consequences. Sadly, we are even more prone to mistreating our spiritual health than our physical well -being. Some of you look at so much pornography that you no longer see the face of your spouse when making love. Many of you have broken an important promise, weakening the bonds of trust with another person. Some of you carry a grudge like an old friend, not even aware of how bitter you’ve become. Others of you are consumed with jealousy and envy, poisonous emotions that prevent you from being happy and satisfied with your life.

Your soul can be crippled by such things. Wounds to the soul can make it hard to love other people or give them your trust. A crippled soul is more interested in curling up in a fetal position and protecting itself than it is with serving others and giving generously when someone is in need. Souls that are maimed by sin are at risk of suffering in eternal darkness when death brings an end to life.

Don’t take your body for granted—take good care of it. Even more importantly, don’t take your soul for granted; let Christ the Great Physician take charge of your life, that you might be spiritually healthy now and forevermore.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Emotons of pain -- fear

Do not worry (Matthew 6:31).

A man was driving through unfamiliar country one night when his car broke down. The steep hills made his cell phone useless, so he got out and started walking. It was extremely dark; there was no moon, and clouds covered the stars. The man took his time, knowing there was a steep ravine along one side of the road. Despite his caution, he suddenly felt nothing but empty space beneath his foot; he started to tumble down the hillside, desperately grabbing for anything to stop his fall. After a moment, his fingers close around a scraggly bush, and he held on for dear life. But as time passed, he was soon in agony. His fingers ached and his arm grew numb. At last, weak and despairing, he lost his grip and dropped—dropped six inches to the bottom of the ditch.

Think of the needless fear and suffering that man went through. Think of the times you have needlessly let fear put your life on hold.

Are you fearful? Does worry consume your thoughts? Are you addicted to watching the news? Do you fret about violence overseas or climate change? When the phone rings, do you wonder if you’re going to hear bad news?

When you make plans, do you find yourself revisiting them over and over again, tweaking them and making adjustments? Do you check every day to see how your investments are performing? Do you procrastinate, because making decisions is hard for you?

Do you constantly tell other people what to do and how to do it? Do you feel overworked because you insist on doing everything yourself? Are you afraid to take a vacation from work or be away from home because something might go wrong that only you can deal with properly?

Where do these tendencies come from? Perhaps you were once caught unprepared, and things went so badly that you are now obsessed with being ready for any situation that might come up. Maybe a person you completely trusted betrayed you, and now you fear opening up to anyone and getting hurt again. Maybe a natural disaster took away much of what you had, or you went through a time with little or no income; as a result, you now look at the future with caution and uncertainty.

The effects of living in fear are terrible. You can’t get a good night’s rest, because your mind is constantly trying to anticipate problems before they happen. Since you are reluctant to trust anyone else, you feel that you have to do everything yourself, leaving you frazzled and exhausted. When you don’t feel safe opening up to others, close relationships are few and far between. The stress of constant worry can lead to bad eating habits and other health problems too.

If there is anyone who understands the pain that comes from being afraid, it would have to be Peter. Normally, Peter was brash and impetuous. If there was something to be said, you could count on Peter to speak up first. When Jesus was threatened with arrest, it was Peter who drew a weapon to defend his Lord. On Easter morning, John hesitated to enter Jesus’ empty tomb, but Peter charged right in.

But fear could steal all of Peter’s bravado. When the disciples were out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee during a storm, they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water. Peter called out, asking for the ability to also walk on the water and approach his Lord. Jesus gave His assent and Peter started towards Him. But Peter became frightened by the savage wind and waves, and instead of focusing on Jesus he let fear squash his faith; he would have drowned had not Jesus reached out to grab him.

That lapse into fear only resulted in humiliation. But the night Jesus was arrested and put on trial, Peter’s fear resulted in the worst moment of his life. Like the other disciples, he abandoned Jesus in the olive grove to avoid being arrested. However, he and John did summon up the courage to enter the courtyard of the high priest so they could find out what was happening to their Master. We don’t know what happened to John, but apparently he and Peter got separated. Peter tried to remain inconspicuous, but soon a servant girl recognized him as one of Jesus’ followers.

Fear seized Peter as never before. He felt trapped and in danger; not knowing how else to protect himself, he lied, claiming that he didn’t know who Jesus was. In a cold sweat, he then made his way towards the gate, where he could slip away quickly if necessary. But it wasn’t long before another servant pointed him out as a disciple; growing increasingly afraid, Peter again denied being associated with Jesus.

Then the moment of crisis came. One man said that Peter was probably a member of Jesus’ group, because they both spoke with the same provincial accent; another thought he recognized Peter as the man who had drawn steel at the time of Jesus’ arrest. Now Peter was in a blind panic; he not only denied knowing Jesus, he even called on God as his witness, offering to be cursed if he was not telling the truth.

As all of this was going on, no one noticed that the soldiers were bringing Jesus out of the house. Something caused Peter to close his mouth and turn around; when he did, he was horrified to see Jesus just standing there, staring straight at him. Then it all came rushing back—how Jesus had predicted that Peter would deny Him three times, and how Peter had proudly claimed such a thing would never happen. Overcome with grief at this terrible betrayal of his Master, Peter fled into the night, weeping bitter tears.

Because of his fear, Peter had been unable to think clearly, and in his panic he made one bad decision after another. That’s what fear does to us—it ruins our ability to think and behave as God wants us to.

Fear all boils down to one thing: failure to trust in God. Obviously, Peter did not believe that Jesus could protect him from arrest; why else would he deny being the Lord’s friend? When Peter had been overcome with fear of the storm and began sinking into the Sea of Galilee, Jesus laid it right on the line: "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31)

Jesus said, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). Faith in Jesus is the one thing absolutely essential for our eternal well being. But fear is the natural enemy of faith. They are polar opposites. And so Satan works mightily to make you afraid; he knows that when you fear, it interferes with your faith in Jesus. He hopes that if he can get you scared enough, you will turn your back on Jesus just as Peter did. In Peter’s case, that severed relationship cost him his position as a disciple; in our case, severing our relationship with Jesus can only lead to eternal condemnation.

Thankfully, our Savior is loving and compassionate. The reason He went willingly to the cross was because He wanted to free us from our sins. By suffering and dying in our place, He has endured God’s punishment which our sins have deserved. And Peter soon got to experience that mercy first-hand. One morning after Jesus had risen from the dead, He prepared a breakfast on the beach; during this meal, Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him and restored the humbled man to membership in the Twelve. In the same way, Jesus offers forgiveness to us when we foolishly let fear erode our faith in Him.

Living in fear is unnecessary. You don’t have to be constantly on your guard against impending disaster, whether it be fire, disease or storm. Our universe is not the result of mindless evolution; the fact that you are alive is no accident. There is an Intelligence responsible for creating and sustaining all life, and that Intelligence is characterized by power, wisdom and love. That Intelligence created you for a purpose, and sent His Son to help you fulfill that purpose. That Son is Jesus Christ. He has the power to provide for your every need. He has the ability to rescue you from every danger.

You don’t have to live in fear of mistakes—your own, or those made by others. Mistakes can result in frustration and pain, but they need not be the end of the world. Jesus is more than just a wise teacher; He is the Savior of mankind. He has the wisdom to set right every mistake resulting from your bad judgment. He has promised to forgive everyone who trusts in Him, and He assures us that if we are loyal to Him, He will treat us as His own dear friends. He loves us so much that He was willing to die for our sins in our place, sparing us from suffering in hell.

So when you’re afraid, don’t panic. Don’t spend hours in bed drenched with sweat, trying to figure out your options. Don’t spend your time frantically searching the Internet for answers. Don’t cower in your favorite chair, hoping the problem will just go away. When you are afraid, run—run to Jesus. Throw yourself into His arms. Read His Bible every day. Worship at church every time there is a service. Pray to the Lord morning, noon and night—pray that He would ease your fear, give order to your thinking, and help you respond to your problem constructively. When a child is afraid, the only comfort that satisfies is being with Mom or Dad. When we are afraid, the only comfort that really satisfies comes from spending time with our Master.

Above all, remember this: when the all-powerful Son of God is looking out for you as your Friend, there is no problem that you need to lose sleep over.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

A clock with no hands

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house (Matthew 5:14-15).

In a small European town, there is a strange old clock tower. What makes it strange is the fact that although it is in perfect working order, there are no hands on the clock face. The clock is kept wound and has been faithfully running for many years, but because of an old superstition, the hands were removed from the dial long ago and have never been replaced.

Think of it—a clock that works as it should, but has no hands to mark the passing of time. Mounted high in a tower, that clock could serve an entire community—but because it has no hands, it is of no use to anyone.

There are people who are just like that clock. They were baptized by the Lord Christ and believe in Him as their Savior. They pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive their sins. Because they believe and are baptized, they are promised eternal life with God in His wonderful kingdom. Inside, these people are Christians.

But to all outward appearances, they look no different than anyone else. If they belong to a church, they rarely attend. When visiting with others, religious matters never come up in conversation. They don’t make donations of their time or money. They laugh at crude jokes, listen to gossip, and tolerate profanity without a word of protest.

People like this are like the clock with no hands. Inside, they are blessed with a working faith—but outside, there is no evidence of that faith. This is a tragedy, because all of us rub elbows with many people who need to experience God’s love. When they don’t see Christ at work in us, it is an opportunity wasted—perhaps the last opportunity they will have before a car accident or heart attack claims their lives.

Don’t be a clock with no hands; don’t keep the grace of God bottled up inside. Instead, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Under construction

I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

The owner of a shipyard steps out of his office and takes a look around him. Close by is the skeleton of a ship in the early stages of construction; over there is a hull with no super structure rising above it; and beyond that is a vessel that is outwardly whole, but still needs much work inside before it is ready to sail. Nowhere in the shipyard is there a single vessel that is finished and ready for use.

The air is filled with the noise of construction—banging, the scraping of metal, orders barked from one builder to another. The ground is a mess, a mixture of mud and scraps of debris. Yet despite the chaos, despite the fact that not one ship is finished, the owner is content. He never doubts the outcome of his work; in his mind’s eye, he sees each vessel brought to perfect completion. This gives him patience during the long, slow process of construction.

God is like that ship builder. He has an ideal man or woman in mind as he creates each of us. We are like the ships which are under construction. None of us is perfect—some have large obvious flaws, while others can only be seen as incomplete if you take a careful look inside. This world is like the shipyard; it is muddy and cluttered with things that are dangerously sharp. Making progress in such a place is challenging and dangerous.

To the untrained eye, conditions in the shipyard look anything but hopeful. Yet the owner sees things differently—instead of chaos and imperfection, he sees a process going on that is leading to a final product of his design. So it is with God. The world is messy and dangerous, and every person in it falls short of the ideal. But as disappointing as things might seem, our Creator does not give up—He has perfection as His goal, and He knows what He can do with imperfect men and women. So the next time you get frustrated with the people in your life, remember that, like you, they are a work in progress. And if there is someone you are convinced will never change, remember that Jesus said: "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27).

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Emotions of pain -- anger

"In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Alexander the Great was one of the few men in history who seemed to deserve his descriptive title. He was energetic, versatile and intelligent. But although hatred was not usually part of his character, his life was permanently scarred by the times when his anger got out of control.

Case in point: one of Alexander’s generals was also a dear friend of many years. One day, this general became intoxicated and began ridiculing the emperor in front of his men. Blinded by anger and quick as lightning, Alexander snatched a spear from a nearby soldier and hurled it at his friend. Although he only intended to scare the drunken general, his aim was true and the spear took the life of his childhood friend.

Anger was replaced by deep remorse; overcome with guilt, Alexander tried to take his own life with the same spear, but was restrained by his men. For days he lay in bed, calling for his friend and bitterly naming himself a murderer. Alexander the Great conquered many cities and defeated many countries, but he was a miserable failure when it came to controlling himself.

Do you find yourself getting angry a lot? Do little frustrations ruin your day? Are you prone to snapping at others for no good reason? Do you spend a lot of time complaining about how bad things are? Are you jealous of what other people have?

Anger can arise from many sources. Some people are inconsiderate of your feelings; they don’t ask your opinion before making a decision that affects you, they thoughtlessly speak words that are offensive, they do the same annoying things over and over again, even though you’ve asked them to stop. There are times when you just cannot figure out how to solve a problem; and as frustrating as this is, the stress is made even worse because a deadline is fast approaching, or your delay is holding up everyone else. Other times, you are making progress on an important project and then something goes wrong and you lose all your momentum, or someone interrupts you and you lose your train of thought. Anger can even come from reading or watching the news. It can be aggravating to read stories of government incompetence and waste. It can be infuriating to see a criminal escape justice on a technicality.

Some people try to pretend that nothing is bothering them; they follow their usual routine, unwilling to let others know what’s going on inside of them. In fact, they might not even admit to themselves that they are angry; they avoid dealing with their hostility by keeping busy. But this is not a healthy way to manage anger. You can’t make problems go away by ignoring them; choosing this path only guarantees continued aggravation, which can result in stress-related health problems and suck all the enjoyment out of life.

Others acknowledge their anger, but try to keep it bottled up; they tromp through the day red-faced and irritable. They know that their anger can get them into trouble and feel badly when it does, so they do their best to keep their mouths shut when things irritate them. But this too is not a healthy way to manage hostility; sooner or later, something happens that pushes them over the edge and they lose control. It’s like watching a volcano erupting, spewing out dramatic emotion in every direction. But pity the individuals who unwittingly trigger the outburst or get caught in the blast.

And there are some who make no effort to control their anger; their days are a never-ending litany of complaints about anything and everything. They have an opinion for every occasion, and it’s usually negative. The people around them are barraged with so much negativity that either they join in becoming negative themselves, or they stop listening to the complainer altogether. Obviously, such behavior is unhealthy—chronic complainers have a hard time seeing anything good in their lives.

It can be dangerous, letting anger overwhelm you. Anger can give you tunnel vision, fixing your attention so intensely on what is making you mad that you lose sight of almost everything else. When you are angry, you don’t see all the options that are open to you; when you are enraged, you lose your patience and are much more likely to make a hasty, foolish decision. Decisions made in anger are almost always bad decisions.

The Pharisees were the celebrities of Jewish society. They had no real power, but they did had much influence among the people. But they were not celebrities because of their looks or wealth; they were influential because they were holy men. Everyone looked to the Pharisees as a shining example of religious training and exemplary conduct. When Jesus came on the scene, many of these Pharisees became blinded by hostility. For some, it was a righteous anger. Jesus publicly forgave sins, something only God had the authority to do; who did Jesus think He was, anyway? He also ignored many of the regulations that the Pharisees had so carefully designed over the past 400 years; as far as they were concerned, Jesus was setting a bad example for Jewish citizens who didn’t know any better. How dare He claim to be a teacher of righteousness, yet at the same time mislead the people? Other Pharisees, however, were angry for less noble reasons. They enjoyed their status as celebrities, getting invited to the best parties, being looked up to for advice. Now Jesus comes along, stealing their thunder—suddenly people are flocking to this upstart from the back country. They too were enraged—enraged by jealousy.

Their anger blinded them—blinded them to the clear evidence of Jesus’ true identity. No one knew God’s Book better than the Pharisees, yet almost to a man, they could not see the obvious—that Jesus was the Savior long promised by God. Jesus fulfilled every criteria set down by generations of prophets—healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching Good News to the poor. But in their anger, the Pharisees just couldn’t see it—they couldn’t see that the Son of God was right there with them!

The blindness of their rage led them to make a terrible decision—they decided to have Jesus discredited and put to death. They would not even consider the possibility that Jesus was the Anointed One of God. Instead, they arranged His arrest, drummed up false witnesses, and pronounced Him guilty of heresy, of false religious teaching. Then they manipulated the Roman governor into sentencing Jesus to death by crucifixion—a form of execution so painful and humiliating that it was reserved for only the worst of criminals. Because they let anger blind them, the religious leaders of God’s people orchestrated the suffering and death of God’s own Son.

God gets angry too—angry at the sins we commit. But unlike us, God never lets rage take control of Him. Even a casual reading of the Bible reveals how unbelievably patient God is. Peter tells us why God is slow to anger: He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God is love (1 John 4:16), and He will take any reasonable step to break our fascination with sin and draw us to Him instead. But this should not be interpreted as God being soft on sin; the Lord promises harsh punishment for those who reject His Son: The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:41-42). How angry does God get over sin? Look at Jesus bleeding on the cross, ridiculed by men and rejected by His Father. That’s how much God hates sin. That’s how truly terrible God’s anger is. That is what we had coming for our sins, had not Jesus intervened and taken our place.

Because our God is a just and loving God, He does not act out of anger—He tries to resolve things constructively. Through the Bible, He tells us what behavior angers Him. Through Jesus, He offers to forgive us if we are willing to change our ways. He even sends the Holy Spirit to help us live lives that please Him instead of angering Him. The only time that we are in danger from God is when we ignore what He has to say to us; if we fail to repent and follow Jesus, then God’s wrath will be a terrible thing to experience.

It is unhealthy to deny your angry feelings or try and keep them bottled up; anger must be expressed, but in a positive, God-pleasing way. Instead of grousing about bad government, send letters that are firm but polite, and take every opportunity to vote good people into office. When you’re stumped by a stubborn problem, take a break—go do something completely unrelated to let your mind relax for a bit, or ask someone you trust for advice. Instead of hiding your anger, tell those who have hurt you how you feel and why—give them a chance to apologize and treat you differently. Before you make a decision, find a private place and sort out all your options—writing them on paper can help. If jealousy is making you see red, take a nighttime walk through the neighborhood; with the darkness shielding you from distractions, reflect on all the blessings God has given to you. When the only way to end your stress is to confront someone, mentally rehearse what you are going to say. And reflect on your attitude—if you are looking forward to a confrontation, you’re probably too fired up and should wait a while longer; but if you are dreading the confrontation, your anger may have simmered down enough for you to keep control. Most importantly, turn to the Holy Spirit when your temper starts flaring up. Ask Him to give you calmness, patience and perspective. Remember what the Spirit said through Paul: Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others (Colossians 3:13).

Anger is destructive; ask Jesus to help you in directing it, so that no one is needlessly harmed by your hostility—including you.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me (Psalm 69:29).

Pain. There is nothing worse than dealing with pain. Severe, mind-numbing pain is awful to experience. A persistent nagging pain can wear you down both physically and mentally. And then there’s emotional pain. The horrible agony of betrayal. The dull ache of being constantly alone. Pain, in all its forms, is something that cripples us.

People go to great lengths to avoid pain. When it comes to physical discomfort, some will go so far as to overdose on pain medication or get hold of powerful drugs by dishonest means. When it comes to emotional pain, some will back away from friendships and intimacy out of concern for getting hurt. Just the fear of pain can rob you of peace and security.

We are blessed with all sorts of advances in pain management. New treatments for physical ailments become available every year. When it comes to emotional pain, there are counselors and psychiatrists, not to mention a boatload of self-help books. And yet, despite all these resources, there are still times when you experience pain and nothing seems to help.

Pain is part of every life, and much of that pain is inescapable. So how do you cope with it? Do you spend your time getting drunk or high as a way to ignore the pain? Do you throw yourself into some project with such intensity that the ache is shoved to the side? Or do you just give up and look for a way to end the pain once and for all?

Jesus understands your pain. When He was beaten, ridiculed, and nailed to the cross, the Son of God went through a combination of physical and mental torment that you and I cannot begin to comprehend. But that suffering had a purpose. Christ endured the punishment that we deserve for speaking hurtful words, for causing injury through our actions and our failure to act. Jesus suffered in our place so that we might be forgiven and rest securely in God’s loving arms. The LORD supports us when we hurt, cradles us in His arms and soothes our worries about how we will make it through another day, another hour, another minute of pain. And because Jesus rose from the grave, we are promised our own resurrection to a life where pain will never steal our happiness again.

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