On most occasions we tend to try to avoid pain, which is usually a good thing. For example, we don't walk in traffic blindfolded. We don’t use power tools without safety gear. We wear our seatbelts. All of these are efforts to reduce the threat or depth of potential pain. It's evident that pain, even the threat of pain, greatly influences our behavior.
But interestingly, I would bet that several significant positive changes we’ve made in our lives have come as a result of pain. Have you quit smoking, drinking, or gambling? If so, I’d bet it was because you experienced pain because of your addiction, like a DUI, a scary x-ray or a broken-hearted child. Have you lost weight or changed your diet? No doubt you did so because you received some tough medical news about obesity, diabetes, cholesterol or just had a very humbling encounter with a bathroom scale. Have you engaged in a rigorous financial discipline plan? Probably because you found yourself in some financial trouble, right? All of these examples serve to show how pain can positively effect the decisions we make.
Disappointing our spouse, being disciplined at work or at church, losing a job — only when we feel the sting of those experiences do we truly realize our need for God and find the desire and ability to change our behavior.
Clearly, not all pain is negative. This principle carries over into our relationship with God. Praise God that he does not allow our pain to go to waste. Rather, he uses the pains of this life as a means to drive us into intimacy with himself. When we are brought low by painful experiences, we most clearly realize our need for God and our dependence upon Him in our lives. Disappointing our spouse, being disciplined at work or at church, losing a job — only when we feel the sting of those experiences do we truly realize our need for God and find the desire and ability to change our behavior.
Show me the man who is still struggling with sexual behavior and I’ll show you a man who has not experienced enough pain because of his addiction.
Though confession and repentance are at times painful, they are actually part of God's design for our sanctification. So avoiding them slows down the sanctification process. And why do we tend to avoid confession and repentance? Because of our pride, self-sufficiency, and fear of consequences. Show me the man who is still struggling with sexual behavior and I’ll show you a man who has not experienced enough pain because of his addiction. (Most likely because he hasn't been caught, or has not willingly engaged the sanctifying work of confession and repentance to those he has hurt.)
This is alarming because sometimes the pain of confession involves our spouses or loved ones, and confessing to them where we have sinned. (Let’s call it what it is, shall we? It’s not “slipping up”, it’s not “a mistake”, it’s SIN). Consequences of confession might be a difficult conversation, a few nights on the couch, being kicked out of the house, or seeing the heartbreak on your friend’s face. But I promise, unless we feel the pain of our sin, we won’t change.
In fact, you the reader, knowing you may need to come clean in an area of your life, are probably already trying to find a way out of it. “Isn’t it just selfish of me to confess, since I’m really only hurting myself?” “My confession may hurt another’s feelings, and I can’t see how knowingly hurting someone else is good.” “This is MY problem, I really don't want to involve other people”. Those are just some of the excuses we use to put-off in fairly transparent ways.
Scripturally, the precedent is abundantly set for the value of pain to drive people to intimacy with God. The following people all came to the Lord for no other reason than they were experiencing pain. Some only came after they had tried everything else! Look at how each of these people came to the Lord, and the pain that drove them to him. Examine each of these scriptural accounts, and add others to the list as you find or remember them. Allow them to encourage you to press on even with fear of pain to abandon yourself to God’s reconciling work of sanctification in you:
2 Kings 5, Naaman:
What caused him to pursue the Lord? What excuses did he make to avoid the path given him? What was the ultimate benefit of his Pain?
2 Sa. 12, Psalm 51, King David:
David had a MAJOR blindspot that prevented intimacy with the Lord. What did it take for him to address this blindspot? What was the eventual sanctifying work that resulted from the Pain of Confession?
Luke 7, the Centurion, the ‘sinful woman’:
*What drove them to pursue Jesus? What was the woman’s apparent response to the opinions of others in terms of her willingness to publicly bare her shame? What was the ultimate benefit of their pain?
Luke 8, Jairus and the ‘Hemorrhaging Woman’:
*What drove each of these people to Intimacy with Jesus? What evidence in the text suggests Jesus wasn't the “first stop” they engaged to treat their pain? What was the ultimate benefit of their pain?
John 8, the Woman caught in Adultery:
*Why was she brought before Jesus? Clearly the CROWD’S use of public shame was different than GOD’S -- What role did Public Exposure play in her sanctification? What did that PAIN produce in her longterm?
Other verse to consider:
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." - 2 Co. 7:10
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." - James 5:16
"The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted." - Proverbs 29:25