I happened to be processing this idea when it was my turn to write for the Southland Blog. While published there originally, I am archiving it here for my own reference.
There is a principle that has been fermenting in the sweet juices of my mind grapes over the past few months. There’s a place that Jesus has been leading me to that holds some previously unknown truths. Not new truths. Just unknown to me in my infancy and ignorance in the faith.
The truth I’m learning is pain. Pain exists. We think we can avoid it. We think with enough modern comforts or prescriptive remedies we can eliminate it. This simply isn’t true. Pain, in one form or another, will be a part of our lives until Jesus returns and makes all things new.
Knowing that pain will always be present, the question is: what is the source of your pain? Some people have debilitating ailments that cannot be controlled. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the self-selected pain we will experience in our lives.
A couple of examples from scripture:
2 Timothy 1:8
do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
Paul is telling Timothy there are two options in regards to the gospel. Shame because of it, or suffering on behalf of it. That’s it.
Shame is painful - the resulting isolation of not being known is the very thing that God has said is not good. Most of us can attest from some experience in our life that loneliness is painful. Shame from caring more about man’s opinion than God’s is even worse. The seared conscious won’t let our souls rest. It’s not physical pain, but the relational disconnect and ensuing sadness is very real, and in my experience, painful.
Suffering is painful - it needs no clarification. Whether it’s enduring physical beatings for Jesus’ name, or being on the receiving end of family members’ insults - the pain is very real to varying degrees.
There is no third option. There is either the pain of shame, or the pain of suffering for His name.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
Jesus is telling the disciples that pain is coming. A branch being removed receives a cut. A branch being pruned receives a cut. In this regard, fruitfulness or fruitlessness is irrelevant - either way a cut is coming.
What is relevant is what the desired outcome of that painful cut will be. Will it be relational disconnect from God? Or will it be increased intimacy with God as he disciplines you and refines you as any loving father does? The bottom line - the pain of a cut simply cannot be avoided.
Shame or suffering? Those are the options. I’ll close with what Jesus had to say regarding the two options that lay before us.
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You can pick your pain. Choose wisely.