Pain transformed into Joy
“We were entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character.” Step Six of the Twelve Steps from AA, CR etc.
To be honest, I struggle with this one. Why? Well, because some of my character defects work themselves out in sinful behavior that helps to cover up or make more tolerable the pain inside. What to do? Two encouraging things this morning.
1. I don’t have to be free from all ambivalence. Christian 12 step programs have referred to James 4:10 or Psalm 139:23-24 to support this step. John White writes helpfully about this step.
Inner dishonesty is our enemy (Jer 17:9, 10). We do not have to wait until our hearts are cleared of all ambivalence (uncertainty). God’s first objective in searching our hearts is never judgment but always HEALING. Judgment follows our persistent evasion of His revelations.
From Psalm 139:23, 24: Lord, I want to be entirely ready for you to remove every sinful tendency in me so far as I know. I am ready. But go on testing me, showing me where my motives are phony.
2. My pain can be transformed into joy. Pain is transformed into joy by obedience. John Piper shaped my thinking here when he writes about the “Call for Christian Risk”:
Christ calls us to take risks for kingdom purposes. Almost every message of American consumerism says the opposite: Maximize comfort and security—now, not in heaven. Christ does not join that chorus. To every timid saint, wavering on the edge of some dangerous gospel venture, he says, “Fear not, you can only be killed” (Luke 12:4). Yes, by all means maximize your joy! How? For the sake of love, risk being reviled and persecuted and lied about, “for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).
After giving a number of illustrations of biblical risk-takers (Joab, Esther, Shadrach, Paul), Piper writes,
To become a Christian was to risk your life.
Tens of thousands did it. Why? Because to do it was to gain Christ, and not to was to lose your soul. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:25).
Lest I (David at ruach), be misunderstood, pain (like the desert being changed into springs ala Psalm 107: 33 ff) can be transformed into joy by obedience but God is the one who does the transforming. He is the one who provides all the incredible transforming power. My role: take the first step in obedience. I open the door and put up my sail and God does the rest.
Comments? How have you seen God transform your pain into joy?