Have you ever experienced the frustration of knowing the truth but no one believed you? Joshua did’and he had to live with the consequences of this for almost forty years.
Joshua was one of the twelve Israelites chosen to spy out the land of Canaan. Their report on what they saw would help and entire nation of people make a decision about entering the Promised Land. When the twelve spies gave their report, ten said it’d be impossible to conquer the land. Joshua and Caleb agreed that the task would be difficult, but they urged the people to trust God to help them. They saw God as loving, powerful, and able to lead them safely into the Promised Land.
The people, however, rebelled and sided with the majority report. They ran from the responsibility of surrendering their lives to God. The result of their irresponsibility was tragic. A whole generation’with the exception of Joshua and Caleb’died in the desert.
Many of us think we can escape pain by avoiding responsibility and its demands. What we fail to realize is that we often experience a much deeper pain when we run away from responsibility than we do when we accept it. Joshua experienced significant pain in his life despite putting God first in his life. But that pain was used by God to develop him into one of the most effective leaders in all of history.
Sometimes forgiveness involves pain. When we confront people regarding betrayal, abandonment, abuse, deception, or other offenses, we’ll likely experience sorrow. We need to accept this as part of the consequences of sin and learn to freely express it to God. He can transform the pain associated with wrongdoing and bring about good for everyone involved.
Remember men: not all sorrow is bad for you. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth that made them sad because he confronted them about wrongdoing. He initially regretted hurting them. But after reflection he wrote these words, which you can find in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10: ‘Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed’in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow.’
The grief Paul described was good. It was caused by his love for others in action, and accessed in light of honest self-evaluation. Like Paul, we too must learn that sometimes sorrow is a positive part of our spiritual growth. So when you’re confronted with it, don’t run from it and don’t reject it. Enter into it asking God to use it to direct the course of your life along redemptive paths.
Emotional pain never dies of natural causes. Old age doesn’t sap its strength. And you can’t bury it alive. If you try, it’ll kick and scream until you acknowledge it, feel it, and work through it. And working through it usually requires you to forgive. Of course, you can try ignoring the pain ‘ we call that denial. And this may work’to some extent and for some short period of time. But the only way to get it out of your heart is through forgiveness.
Unexpressed grief festers and swells, waiting to erupt. It may explode in uncontrollable rage, gush out in unstoppable tears, seep out in unexplainable depression, or ooze internally, resulting in undiagnosed illness. But men, the one thing you can be absolutely sure of is this: pain you’ve shoved deep down never leaves on its own.
People carry all kinds of pain from disappointments, failures, betrayals, and losses. In our hectic world, the most efficient and acceptable way of dealing with emotional pain is to get yourself so busy that you simply have no time to think about it. This eases your discomfort, so you can carry on, seemingly no worse for wear. The avoidance of pain, however, will keep you from going through the process of forgiveness. When you refuse to feel the full impact of your pain, you don’t allow it to do its necessary work on your character.
Men, please don’t settle for temporary and inadequate fixes. Extending forgiveness is the only real way toward healing.