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Ever been hurt by someone? Ever been dealt an emotional, mental, or spiritual pain that may or may not have accompanied a physical hurt? You know the kind of hurt I’m speaking of… a soul-searing ache that shoots into your heart and mind, eliciting responses of fear, anger, and hate as well as the temptation to react with fight or flight. For those who try to run away, pain has a way of pursuing them relentlessly, like an awful hound of anguish keeping them constantly looking over their shoulder in dread. Or the pain slyly disappears from view for a time, hidden in the waters of busyness and life, only to resurface unexpectedly, laying hold of its victim with its icy fingers and tempting them to either hide from life or lash out even at those who love them.

Perhaps you’ve tried to numb yourself to such pain, burying it with pursuits of other things that promise to mask the hurt as you medicate yourself with activities, accomplishments, pleasures, drugs or faulty relationships. Maybe you reason that such vices are better than violently seeking revenge on those who have hurt you. Still, in time the pain one buries has a way of taking root and shooting forth tentacled vines of regret, suffocating you and even controlling you like some alien weed that makes you something you never dreamed you could be – even in your worst nightmares.

At first, such strategies seem to work. You have a “respite” and so you buy into the lie that ignoring what hurts you, closing your eyes to the pain and locking memories in a closet of denial, will somehow make the hurt go away. But the problem with masking painful hurts, running from painful memories, or avoiding painful situations is that the pain remains. It’s still there, all the while injecting the poisons of bitterness, fear, and despair into your spirit. You can neither live fruitfully nor fellowship fully with others as long as pain is allowed to control your choices. Nor can you enjoy God and what it means to be His child as long as your pain is unaddressed. Consequently, you cannot be all you could be because of the control that unsurrendered pain has over you.

Let’s not oversimplify things, but let’s recognize that addressing pain victoriously begins with engaging the source of the pain itself. Acknowledging the pain and its source is essential to recovering from it. As you admit and “own” your hurt and what it is or was that hurt you, you can move on to the healing act of forgiveness.

Letting it go through the grace of forgiveness has less to do with letting someone else “off the hook” then it does with letting yourself “off the hook” of keeping score of what others deserve and the weighty obligation of taking them to account for their sins against you. And as you forgive, hearkening to God’s admonishment to forgive others (Matthew 6, Mark 11, Luke 6, 2 Corinthians 2, Colossians 3, etc.), you then trust in God’s forgiveness of you (1 John 1:9) and finally begin to find the holes in your soul beginning the process of healing.

Forgiveness, as opposed to running away from your pain or taking revenge out on those who have wronged you, allows you to move on to the new things in your life that God has in store for you. You let go of the former things (even your broken dreams) and press on (Philippians 3:13) allowing these new things (and new dreams) to fill up the empty spots in which your past experiences try to keep you trapped. This applies to even your own mistakes, failings, and sin… you set right what you can but you know that all the rest is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Walking obediently with Him (in even your attitudes as well as actions) allows His healing to become effectual in your experience. The more of God in your mind, heart, and experience, the less room for the bitter fruits of the past.

Healing takes time, by the way, and only the faithful and patient application of “waiting on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) allows you to experience the reality of recovery from the powerful grip of pain.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Yesterday afternoon, the stunning horror of the massacre in Las Vegas reached my ears. I, along with the rest of the nation, was shocked by the unveiling of evil in another senseless tragedy. My prayers and the prayers of my family and church go up for those whose lives have been terribly changed by this unexpected intrusion of wickedness.

Many questions arise as the country strives to comprehend why a deeply disturbed man would do such calculated evil. And, as usual, folks from all sorts of political positions are jockeying for an interpretation of what has happened, why it happened, and what must be done to prevent it from happening again. The gun control debate, for example, is finding plenty of explosive fuel for renewed battles in our government and media arenas everywhere.

GrievFolks are looking for easy answers, and, by extension, easy solutions, but are dangerously prone to overlooking the subtle nature of the problem. It isn’t a gun control problem. A person who intends to do a terrible thing will certainly find a way to do it (as the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9-11 terrorists demonstrated for us). It isn’t even a violent game or a violent movie problem, although horrible violence acted out in the name of entertainment doesn’t help in the least and should alarm us at the level of cruelty that can be imagined.

The problem is more basic than these things. The problem is within the human heart. What happened in Las Vegas is nothing less than evil, whatever the motive of the attacker. What was the purpose of his assault? While Stephen Paddock sadly may have been a tormented person (no one seems to know clearly what his story was), the actions of this 64 year-old retiree can in no way be construed as trying to defend himself. It is clear that he was simply driven by a cruel desire to inflict pain and suffering.

However, if we are really concerned about getting right what is wrong with a country in which something so terrible can occur, we need to call this what it is: evil. Somehow evil was given such leeway in his mind and heart that it grew and eventually exploded in this unthinkable storm of hate and rage.

And now families across America are shattered with gaping holes left where loved ones once lived. People like you and me are wounded, not just physically, but in their very souls with images seared into their minds which no one should be forced to see. People like you and me everywhere find themselves confronted by the utterly sobering truth that nothing can be taken for granted and that very bad things are ready to leap in and take what is most precious to them.

In one brief moment, the entire world somersaulted for the those impacted by the Las Vegas attack. Bodies were broken, dreams were shattered, and lives were snuffed out. The tragedy grew and grew, bringing with it a firestorm of anguish that will never completely heal while this world lasts.

As people discuss the terrible events that have taken place, the question arise (quite naturally I might add), “Isn’t there ANY place that one can be safe?” On the one hand, the answer is, of course, “No.” There is no corner into which human presence has entered that there is absolutely no potential for violence and pain. Our social stability hangs upon a mere thread, as we depend on complicated systems of checks and balances to regulate the affairs of each day, recognizing that basic human nature cannot by itself govern and sustain our nation benevolently. In fact, it is a somber reality that any venue in any city, small town, suburban neighborhood or country road can become an arena for the darkest manifestations of evil just as readily as any late night subway or dark alley. Concert halls, shopping malls, athletic stadiums, college campuses, childcare centers, school playgrounds, church sanctuaries, Amish school houses and even living rooms cannot guarantee safety, let alone peace of mind.

But on the other hand, there is hope. The hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ cannot be derailed by sorrow and loss, even when it is of this incredible magnitude, because the hope that we have in Jesus Christ recognizes both the capacity that humanity has for rendering great evil to itself as well as the nearly bottomless depth of sorrow that we bear when faced suddenly with unthinkable loss. As surely as we suffer and mourn the events of today, we can know that God also suffers with us and mourns with us in our hurt, His heart aching from the pain that we bear.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled…. Jesus wept” (from John 11:33, 35).

The fact that our basic nature is not in harmony with His is deeply troubling to God. And when the awful fruits of our “independence” from Him ripen, yielding us a feast of trouble and grief that we cannot swallow, the compassion of God is stirred up and His Spirit reaches out to ours with an invitation to repent and turn to Him. And if in spite of our spiritual blindness and deafness, we can finally discern the truth that we truly DO need God to help us, sustain us, lead us, and purify us, we’ll finally actually begin living in the freedom with which God desires to wrap us.

“Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!… ‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I am God. Also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from My hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43:8, 10-13 ESV).

When He acts to redeem us from our sin and the hopelessness that characterizes a life that is bound to it, no one can reverse it. As we turn to Him, we come to the one place that truly is safe no matter the howling gales of trouble and cruelty. As we walk with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, abiding in the center of His will, we find that we are also in the center of His mercy and are the recipients of wellsprings of His grace.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Whom I trust…. If only I will pay attention to His commands, my peace will be like a river, my righteousness like the waves of the sea’” (from Psalm 91:1-2 & Isaiah 48:18).

One whose eyes are clouded with hurt and despair might ask why God doesn’t just do something. But he or she should take heart… God is doing something: He’s reaching out with mercy and grace, calling us to trust Him and to step out of the poisonous vapors of bitterness and despair. And He’s calling us to lift our hearts and voices to Him in prayer, seeking His help in an age where the only help we can truly have can only be found in Him.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A great deal of tragedy has struck in the past week in our country’s Midwest.  Literally dropping out of the sky, destruction and terror descended unexpectedly into the lives of people who were simply going about their daily activities and minding their own business.  Like so many, they had no idea beforehand the ordeal that would sweep away routines, livelihoods, homes, and in some cases lives of loved ones.

TornadoI am glad to see how people are working in response to save lives, rescue survivors, and comfort those who have been especially devastated by the disasters like those that have hit Nebraska and the Dakotas.  It is especially significant to me to see how God’s people have rallied to help via the many trained disaster relief workers who are going to help in the immediate crisis but also in the days to come.  Tragedy and disaster cannot be made as if they have not happened, but a Christ-like compassion in others renews hope and drives fear away.

Perhaps it occurs to you, as it does to me, that these deadly twisters are reminiscent of circumstances and trials that unexpectedly drop out of metaphorical skies into the lives of people everyday. Of course, we may know of people (or may even be those people) who, like storm chasers, seem to go out of their way to get as close as possible to trouble (some for the thrill of it but some to learn more about the tornadoes so that lives might be saved).  Nevertheless, even when you are not looking for trouble, trouble sometimes finds you anyway.

Some will say that if you accumulate enough good “karma” that you will avoid trouble, or if you have enough faith, trouble will not come to you. Perhaps you know of someone who believes in “luck” and calculates his propensity for trouble (or for escaping it) by trying to determine how lucky he is or by carefully reading horoscopes and so forth.

But even Jesus Himself had “trouble”, which is to say that He experienced uncomfortable, painful and sorrowful situations in the days prior to His ascension into heaven. Those things were not the result of His going out of His way to find such trouble nor were they the result of His being negligent with daily opportunities to make for Himself a life of prosperity and/or ease. They were simply the circumstances that arose in His life as He engaged the world.

Mockers, disloyal friends, rejection, conspiracy, betrayal, pain, humiliation, and death were “troubles” or “storms” that arose in His life that allowed Him to demonstrate the extent of His faithfulness to the Father, His love for us, and His commitment to conquer the troubles that beset Him with a victory so complete that we, as His followers, would inherit a rock-solid assurance that sustains us when twisters of trouble suddenly and unexpectedly drop down onto us.

Jesus comforted His disciples with words that are meant also for us today. “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

What kinds of troubles are swirling around you right now? What vortexes of confusion, doubt, and fear are threatening to turn your life upside down? Whatever the occasion, the victory of Jesus is found in His not only overcoming death, but in guaranteeing us an eternal place of belonging. Whatever storm may be beating up on you right now will, sooner or later, have to pass. Who awaits you on the other side of your storm? God!

Simply trust that it is God’s plan that the winds eventually will give way again to peace, that hailstones of hurt and doubts will finally have to end, and that wounds you have suffered will be bound up and healed by the hands of God.

When I find myself discouraged and I wonder if I can survive another storm, God’s Holy Spirit reminds me that even if all the world is lost to me, He has heaven in store for me. So if you are finding yourself a victim to troubles that are threatening to spin your life out of control, remember the One Who sometimes calms our storms but sometimes chooses to walk with us through them. It could very well be that He is striving to help us know Him better and give others in the world through us a glimpse of grace and hope that no wind on earth can possibly blow away.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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When golden sun first lights the day
and little songbirds wake and play,
perhaps you hear the Father say,
“I am with you, O My child.”
 
But even when the light is shorn
and gray and cold you find the morn
and trials come that can’t be borne,
He’s still near you, O dear child.
 
When your joy is overflowing
and you reap fruits of gladness’ sowing,
of fear and hate there seems no knowing,
bless His name, O happy child.
 
But when all life is filled with woe
and grief and loss are all you know,
and one more step’s too far to go,
let Him carry you, O weary child.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.   And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

 

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Early this afternoon, the stunning horror of Newtown’s massacre reached my ears.  I, along with the rest of the nation, was shocked by the unveiling of evil in what appears to be yet another senseless tragedy.  My prayers and the prayers of my family go up for those whose lives have been terribly changed by this unexpected intrusion of wickedness. 

Many questions arise as the country strives to comprehend why twenty children were suddenly shot to death.  Already folks from all sorts of political positions are jockeying for an interpretation of what has happened, why it happened, and what must be done to prevent it from happening again.  The gun control debate, for example, is finding plenty of explosive fuel for renewed battles in our government and media arenas everywhere. 

Folks are looking for easy answers, and, by extension, easy solutions, but are dangerously prone to overlooking the subtle nature of the problem.  It isn’t a gun control problem.  A person who intends to do a terrible thing will certainly find a way to do it (as the Oklahoma City bombing should remind us).  It isn’t even a violent game or a violent movie problem, although horrible violence acted out in the name of entertainment doesn’t help in the least and should alarm us at the level of cruelty that can be imagined. 

The problem is more basic than these things.  The problem is within the human heart.    What happened today in Connecticut is nothing less than evil, whatever the motive of the attacker.  What was the purpose of his assault?   While Adam Lanza sadly may have been a tormented person (no one seems to know quite yet what his personal story was), his actions can in no way be construed as trying to defend himself.  It is clear that he was simply driven by a cruel desire to inflict pain and sufferin. 

However, if we are really concerned about getting right what is wrong with a country in which something so terrible can occur, we need to call this what it is:  evil.    Somehow evil was given such leeway in his mind and heart that it grew and eventually exploded in this unthinkable storm of hate and rage. 

And now families in Newtown are shattered with gaping holes left where loved ones once lived.  Now little boys and girls are wounded, not just physically, but in their very souls with images seared into their minds which no one should be forced to see.   Now mommies and daddies everywhere find themselves confronted by the utterly sobering truth that nothing can be taken for granted and that very bad things are ready to leap in and take what is most precious to them.

In one brief moment, the entire world somersaulted for the community of Newtown, Connecticut.  Bodies were broken, dreams were shattered, and lives were snuffed out. The tragedy grew and grew, bringing with it a firestorm of anguish that will never completely heal while this world lasts.

As people discuss the terrible events that have taken place, the question arise (quite naturally I might add), “Isn’t there ANY place that one can be safe?” On the one hand, the answer is, of course, “No.” There is no corner into which human presence has entered that there is absolutely no potential for violence and pain. Our social stability hangs upon a mere thread, as we depend on complicated systems of checks and balances to regulate the affairs of each day, recognizing that basic human nature cannot by itself govern and sustain our nation benevolently. In fact, it is a somber reality that any small town or country road can become an arena for the darkest manifestations of evil just as readily as any late night subway or dark alley. Shopping malls, college campuses, childcare centers, school playgrounds, church sanctuaries, Amish school houses and even living rooms cannot guarantee safety, let alone peace of mind.

But on the other hand, there is hope. The hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ cannot be derailed by sorrow and loss, even when it is of this incredible magnitude, because the hope that we have in Jesus Christ recognizes both the capacity that humanity has for rendering great evil to itself as well as the nearly bottomless depth of sorrow that we bear when faced suddenly with unthinkable loss. As surely as we suffer and mourn the events of today, we can know that God also suffers with us and mourns with us in our hurt, His heart aching from the pain that we bear.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the others who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled…. Jesus wept” (from John 11:33, 35).

One whose eyes are clouded with hurt and despair might ask why God doesn’t just do something. But he or she should take heart… God IS doing something.

One whose eyes are clouded with hurt and despair might ask why God doesn’t just do something. But he or she should take heart… God IS doing something.

The fact that our basic nature is not in harmony with His is deeply troubling to God. And when the awful fruits of our “independence” from Him ripen, yielding us a feast of trouble and grief that we cannot swallow, the compassion of God is stirred up and His Spirit reaches out to ours with an invitation to repent and turn to Him. And if in spite of our spiritual blindness and deafness, we can finally discern the truth that we truly DO need God to help us, sustain us, lead us, and purify us, we’ll finally actually begin living in the freedom with which God desires to wrap us.

“Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!… ‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me.  I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior.  I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I am God.  Also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from My hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43:8, 10-13 ESV).

When He acts to redeem us from our sin and the hopelessness that characterizes a life that is bound to it, no one can reverse it. As we turn to Him, we come to the one place that truly is safe no matter the howling gales of trouble and cruelty. As we walk with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, abiding in the center of His will, we find that we are also in the center of His mercy and are the recipients of wellsprings of His grace.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Whom I trust….  If only I will pay attention to His commands, my peace will be like a river, my righteousness like the waves of the sea’” (from Psalm 91:1-2 & Isaiah 48:18).

One whose eyes are clouded with hurt and despair might ask why God doesn’t just do something. But he or she should take heart… God IS doing something:  He’s reaching out with mercy and grace, calling us to trust Him and to step out of the poisonous vapors of bitterness and despair.  And He’s calling us to lift our hearts and voices to Him in prayer, seeking His help in an age where the only help we can truly have can only be found in Him.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Engaging the source of pain

Don’t just run from pain; engage its source!

The problem with masking painful hurts, running from painful memories, and avoiding painful situations is that the pain is still there, injecting the poisons of bitterness, fear, and despair into our spirit. We can neither live fruitfully nor fellowship fully with others as long as pain is allowed to control our choices. Simply put, we cannot enjoy God as long as our pain is unaddressed.I do not want to oversimplify things, but let’s recognize that addressing pain (victoriously) begins with engaging the source of the pain itself. Acknowledging the pain (and its source) is essential to recovering from it. We then trust in God’s admonishment to forgive (Matthew 6, Mark 11, Luke 6, 2 Corinthians 2, Colossians 3, etc.).

When we forgive (because He told us to) we find that we are ourselves set free from the weighty obligation of taking folks to account for their sins against us (which has us rehearsing painful events over and over thereby keeping them inflamed within our hearts).

We then move on to the new things in our lives that God has in store for us. We let go of the former things (even our broken dreams) and press on (Philippians 3:13) allowing these new things (and new dreams) to fill up the empty spots in which our past experiences try to keep us trapped. This applies to even our own mistakes, failings, and sin… we set right what we can but we know that all the rest is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Walking obediently with Him (in even our attitudes as well as actions) allows His healing to become effectual in our experience. The more of God in your mind, heart, and experience, the less room for the bitter fruits of the past.

Healing takes time, by the way, and only the faithful and patient application of “waiting on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) allows us to experience the reality of recovery.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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