Which is more painful? To live without hope or to catch a glimpse of hope only to have it disappear? Often, this is our experience on the eve of redemption. Certainly, God is not a fickle redeemer. He is faithful. But if we expect redemption to be mainly about comfort, we may be disappointed when—at least for a season—it brings more pain.
Or you may have come to God with a life that was a mess with sin and were relieved to find that he accepts you in Christ, just as you are. But in time, you were confronted with the reality that some of those sins from your former life still had a powerful hold on you. Some new Christians at this point are so discouraged they question whether they were ever saved at all.
Or you may have found that after years of harboring the pain of abuse in secret, it’s time to talk about it. You may have to revisit some painful memories or confront someone who has harmed you. The battle to decide to speak out is pain unto itself, intensifying the pain of the original abuse. Maybe you’ve made your secrets known, and your confidants, rather than comforting and protecting you, have hurt you further by suggesting that you keep quiet or have even blamed you for stirring up trouble by digging up the past.
You may have developed various means of dealing with what’s been done to you—self-protection, hypersensitivity, catastrophizing to grab others’ attention, never trusting anyone or depending too much on their affirmation, getting even, withholding yourself from others, becoming the aggressor, or self-medicating with any number of substances or pleasures. In short, you may have constructed a comprehensive manner of life for surviving apart from God (Eph. 4:22).
In delivering you, God wants to show you that this manner of life, which may be all you’ve ever known, is actually death. He wants you to walk away. But walking away from the only life you’ve known can feel like death. This is all very risky. It may feel like it’s getting worse before it gets better.
The grip of sin does not loosen easily. Chances are that your sin has been some form of refuge for you, some means of comfort. But that comfort was merely bait on a hook, and now you’re being reeled in, you’re enslaved. In delivering us from sin, God breaks the chains of slavery and beckons us to freedom. But faithful obedience is very costly; he calls us to abandon everything we have clung to in our sin, and pulling out the hook of false comfort can be very painful.
We have been bound in darkness; in redemption, God calls us into his light. This can feel like coming out of a dark cave into a midday sun—our eyes may hurt at first as they adjust to the light. How can we be so sure we know what the picture of redemption should look like, when we’ve been so blind?
Hat Tip: Crossway Books