CLIMBING OUT OF A PIT CALLED PAIN.

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Some months ago I received a letter that said, “I just finished reading an article you wrote in the Evangel.  Please help me.  After years of marriage, my husband recently left me.  Currently my son is in jail.  I have a beautiful house and plenty of money, but who cares?  I have so much pain in my heart.  What should I do?”

Then a few days ago, my wife went to a floral shop to buy flowers for a friend.  She didn’t know the clerk, but the lady opened up and said to Sandi, “I owned my own shop, but I lost it due to the economic downturn.  Then my son-in-law was killed in a car crash.  Our financial problems caused my husband and me to argue regularly, and he recently walked out.  Now I’m facing eviction from my apartment.”  There’s lots of pain in our world today.

The pit called pain is nothing new.  3,000 years ago, David wrote Psalm 56 as the Holy Spirit inspired him.  The inscription tells us from where he wrote it:  “A Psalm of David, regarding the time the Philistines seized him in Gath.”  Now, those words were not added by the translators; those words are verse one in my Hebrew Bible.

Remember David’s life?  We first meet him as a shepherd-boy.  When he takes down Goliath, he receives national fame.  That fame causes jealously to rise in King Saul and he tries to kill David.  So David runs for his life and hides in a cave for several months.  He’s so lonely and discouraged.  When he feels it’s somewhat safe, he flees from Saul to a city called Gath—only to be captured by some other enemies!  You talk about going from the frying pan to the fire.

It’s at that point in his life David writes Psalm 56.  He’s in a pit called pain, but the Psalm is more than a complaint; it’s also a how-to manual on how to climb out of the pit.  So, what should you do when…

You’re in pain due to a broken marriage?

Financial pain stares at you daily and you cannot take it anymore?

You’re under pressure at work and it hurts?

Your children are ignoring God and that hurts so badly?

Etc, etc, etc,….

To begin, Release Your Frustration.  David sure did.  Many wrongly think God’s plan to handle pain goes like this:  push your pain deep down inside, put a smile on your face, pretend your pain isn’t that bad, and tell everyone you’re doing great.  That’s not what David did.  He released his frustrations and pain.  Just read verses 3 & 4.

Notice to whom David released his frustrations.  To God!  When you’re in the pit called pain, I’m not suggesting you tell everyone nor wear your pain on your shoulder, but I am urging you to tell the Lord Jesus about it.  “Cast all your care upon Him, because He really does care for you,” the Bible says.  That’s what Peter did.  That’s what the Apostle Paul did.  And so can you.

I recently visited a lady in the hospital.  She was hurting physically and discouraged emotionally.  I pointed to a plaque the hospital had on the wall:  “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55.22).  I told her that word “cast” can mean “to roll.”  I said, “Sometimes our pain is so heavy we can’t lift it; that’s when we can roll it, push it the Lord’s way.”  That day we prayed and she handed her pain and frustration to the Lord.  Believe me, it helped her in a big way—and it will help you too.

Next, Receive Help From Friends.  David sure did.  He had some good friends who helped him shoulder his pain and who encouraged him.

It’s so common when you are in a pit called pain to hear a voice inside you whisper, “Keep it all secret.  Go it alone.  Don’t tell anyone about this.  Isolate yourself until you get better.”  Let me clear something up for you—that voice is NOT the Holy Spirit!

For example, not long ago I was eating popcorn.  An un-popped kernel cracked one of my back molars.  It hurt and I was in pain.  Did I keep it secret?  Did I stay away from my dentist till things became better?  No way!  I immediately called my dentist, for I knew he was my source of help.

When you are in the pit called pain, reject that whisper that says go it alone, isolate yourself until you feel better.  Mark my words, that’s neither God’s way nor is it wise.

I really hope you have two or three spiritual, trusted, prayerful, confidential friends to whom you can talk and lean upon when needed.  If you don’t, get active in a good church and ask God to bring friends into your life.  Remember, whenever God plans to bless you, He will send someone into your life.

Third, Resist All Bitterness.  David sure did.  You see, David was in a mess and he was hurting inside.  And remember, he didn’t cause the problem nor was it his fault.  At a time like that, it’s easy to become bitter.  But he didn’t!

How do I know that?  Because God labeled David “a man after My own heart,” and God doesn’t say that about bitter people.   What’s more is the fact God helped David out of his pit called pain, and God rarely answers the prayers of bitter people.

One of the sharpest tools the devil uses against us is bitterness.  I’ve watched people in pain get bitter at others.  All it does is dilute their faith and hinder their prayers.  I’ve observed adults in pain become bitter at God.  I’ve heard them say, “God could have stopped this from happening.  I’m angry at God and I’m not going back to church.”  The enemy smacks his lips and says, “My strategy worked.  I’ve distanced them from God Almighty who could help them.”

Learn something:  bitterness in your spirit is like an infection in your body.  I once had an infection in my body.  My temperature soared to 104.4° and one of my fingernails turned lime green.  Oh, was I sick.  My wife called our doctor and he said come immediately.  He froze and then lanced my finger, pushing the infection out.  Within a matter of hours I was feeling much better.  But when that infection was in my body, I was so weak and that’s all I could think about.  When bitterness is in your spirit, you’ll be spiritually weak and that’s all you’ll think about.  That’s not God’s plan for you and it’s sure not the way to get out of the pit called pain.  Resist all bitterness and let faith in God rise in your life.

Last, Refocus On God.  David sure did.  Just read verses 10-13.  Pain—we all face it and none of us wants it.  Here’s the challenge with pain:  how we handle it.  For example, the girlfriend of one young man leaves him and he jumps off a bridge; the girlfriend of another young man drops him and he writes a country western song that makes him $3 million.  It’s all in your focus.  As a child of the living God, the key is to refocus on God.

Let me tell you a story.  I had a good friend.  He was an electrician.  One day he went to work and never came home—he was electrocuted on the job that morning.  His foreman called to ask if I would go and inform his wife of the tragedy.  My friend and his wife had four young children.  When I told her the terrible news, I literally watched a wife slide into the pit called pain.

But the Lord Jesus was so faithful and this young wife was so wise.  She leaned hard on the Lord and focused the eyes of her heart on her faithful God.  (You see, when you change your focus, God will change your feelings.)  During the next several weeks and months, God lifted her above her pain.  Today she is healed and healthy.  And what God did for her, He can do for you—that’s a promise!

Now, let’s pray.  “Lord Jesus, please come and help me.  I need Your assistance.  March into my life and be my Lord.  Give me uncommon strength so I can climb out of the pit called pain.  Empower me to focus on You.  I’m thankful nothing is too hard for You.  In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.”

I WANT TO CHANGE MY LIFE – BUT HOW?

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“Are you Dr. Tom Lindberg?”  That’s what the man asked me as I answered my phone.  “Yes, can I help you?”  “You don’t know me.  I live in Oklahoma.  I read an article you wrote in the Evangel and I need help.  There are some things in my life I need to change, but I don’t know how to change them.  Can you help me?”

Can you identify with his question:  There Are Some Things In My Life I Need To Change, But I Don’t Know How?  Now some people think God does it all.  They assume if you give yourself to God like a lump of clay, He will totally refashion you.  People who think like that are half right, but they are also half wrong.  God does change us, but we must cooperate.

There’s a strategic verse in Philippians 2 which says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2.12-13).  Notice you are to “work out.”  In other words, you give it all you’ve got and work on the outside.  Then the Bible promises God will “work in,” that is, He will work on the inside to change you.  Weigh carefully four principles in order for your life to change.

To begin, What You Do Daily Sets What You’ll Become Permanently.  The Bible says, “Whatever you sow you will reap” (Gal. 6.7).  Do you realize that’s an unbreakable law of God?  It’s true in the garden in your backyard, and it’s also true in your life.  You really want to change?  Start planting good seed this week and it will change you next month.

I heard an amazing testimonial from a lady.  She was haunted by her painful past.  She just could not get over it nor away from it.  Then she made a decision.  Every day she began to write down on paper something good and positive about her life.  And when those haunting thoughts came, she wrote them down too.  But those terrible thoughts she took outside and literally burned the paper with a match.

She did that daily.   In a matter of weeks, her life began to change.  You see, she discovered what you do daily sets what you’ll become permanently.  God will work in you to change your life.

Now somebody reading this right now feels unworthy.  You don’t feel you’re good enough for God to help you; you just don’t feel worthy.  Listen, God’s eye is on you!  He will empower you to take the right steps and thereby change.

Next, What You Think About Longest Will Become Strongest In Your Life.  The Bible teaches, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23.7).  Could that verse be any more clear?

For example, King David had a son named Amnon.  Now Amnon had a half-sister named Tamar.  The Bible says she was beautiful.  Amnon thought, “I want her!”  As a matter of fact, he thought that way so long that he became sick (see 2 Samuel 13).  You see, he thought, thought, thought about wanting Tamar so long that one day he raped her.  That’s why I say what you think about longest will become strongest in your life.

But praise God it works positively too.  I had lunch with a man recently.  He confessed to me about his foul mouth.  “I thought about it over and over and over—how my foul mouth displeases my wife, disheartens my mother, and dishonors my God.  I thought about it a long time.  Then I asked God to change me.  He did!  My mouth has changed.”

Your thoughts are like fertilizer.  That’s why the Bible says, “Whatever is good, holy, pure, and righteous, think about those things” (Phil. 4.8).  Remember, what you think about longest will become strongest in your life.  That’s how to change your life by the power of the Lord Jesus.  Let the Holy Spirit fill your mind.

Third, Who You Associate With Today Will Decide Changes In Your Life Tomorrow.  The Bible says, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble” (Prov. 13.20).  There’s a man in the New Testament named Demas.  When we first meet Demas, he’s with Luke the Apostle and things are going well for him.  Then Demas began hanging around the wrong people.  The last we read of Demas is when Paul wrote of him, “Demas has left me, having fallen in love with this world” (2 Tim. 4.10).

Now read the next words carefully:  Every friendship you have either nurtures a strength in you or feeds a weakness in you.  You see, who you associate with today decides changes in your life tomorrow.

Several months ago, I began missing a man in church.  I had personally prayed with this man to receive the Lord.  I had laid hands on him when he was baptized with the Holy Spirit.  As I checked on him, I discovered he had made some new friends.  They led him away from church and now he doesn’t have much time for God.

But thank God it works the other way too.  A man told me, “My life was pretty messed up.  I began spending time with so-and-so (a great man).  He brings out the best in me.  Praise God my life is changing for the good since I’ve begun spending time with him.”

Is God talking to you right now?  Are there good friendships you need to develop?  Are there bad friendships you need to stop?  “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble” (Prov. 13.20).

Last, What You Are Willing To Let Go Of Determines What God Will Allow You To Hold Onto.  When the Lord Jesus first met James and John, they were running a small fishing business.  He said to them, “Come and follow me.  I’ll make you fishers of men” (Mark 1.17).  The Bible records they did what Jesus offered—they left their fishing boats and followed Him.

Now, think what they let go of that day: a small fishing business.  Think what they gained: the opportunity to become Apostles.  You see, what you’re willing to let go of will determine what God will allow you to hold onto.

I’ve talked with people who told me, “I want to change, but I’m not willing to let go of such-and-such.”  Remember, if your hand, heart, or mind is filled with something, God cannot give you something new.  And never forget that God has something better for you in the future.  Allow God to transform you by the power of His Spirit.

Today, don’t ignore things that need to be changed in your life.  Don’t pretend that everything is OK when deep in your heart you know you need to change.  Let’s settle it today.  I challenge you to bring it to God right now and ask Him to change you.  “Lord Jesus, help me.  I admit I need to change.  I cannot do it by myself.  Thank you for hearing my prayer and working in me today.”  That’s a request God will ALWAYS answer.

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Thomas Lindberg, D.Min., is the Lead Pastor of First Assembly Memphis