“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?” …As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “you do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:60-61;66-68
Music is an amazing expression of the soul that often communicates our feelings in a way that nothing else quite can. A song from the early 70’s Jesus movement has been on my heart lately. It was written by a Christian folk rock group called Children of the Day and the lyrics, based on the above Scripture passage, went something like this:
Sometimes I forget just how much
He changed me with a single touch
And when I start remembering, I see His eyes.
And then I see the differences in my two lives –
Remembering makes me cry,
Oh, Lord, where else would I go
If I sought to leave your path behind?
If I look around, see the pain abound,
No one else would take the time to find me,
No there’s no where else to go.
Intense emotional pain, whether it is because of a fractured family relationship, the loss of someone close to us, a physical or mental illness, financial hardship, job loss, or many other factors, can cause us to get to the point of just wanting to quit. Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off right now. With many of Jesus disciples, it was something He said that caused them to give up following Him. But even though that thought of quitting, to stop the emotional trauma, may be understandable on one level, it isn’t a rational decision. Because the truth is that pain is a part of this world whether we are believers or not – “it rains on the just and the unjust.” In matters of faith the question really is, “do I want to walk through this pain with Jesus, or without Jesus?”
Some of the disciples in the Scripture passage made the tragic choice to give up. Now, God’s plans always go forward. We can see vividly all through the Old Testament that when people made themselves unusable because of a bad attitude, poor choices, or a “hardness of heart,” God’s plan still went forward. God can use anyone He wills to further what He has determined will happen. If we get sidelined spiritually, tragically for us, we miss being a part of the blessing of being used by God. The disciples who quit missed out.
One of my professors said, “I would never want to relive my childhood. But neither would I want to give up the lessons I learned from having lived through it.” And so it is with most emotional pain. We would certainly not want to relive that which was so agonizingly difficult to go through – yet again. But if you walked through that experience with Jesus, no doubt you can say with confidence that you would not want to give up the incredible life lessons and answers that you now own because of having lived through the pain.
It’s not on a sunshine filled day at the beach when cares are far away that we question the goodness of God. It’s in hard places. God is always good, but sometimes He is good like a surgeon. There has to be some cutting away and some pain going on before we are healed. But the Great Physician is a good doctor with hope and a future plan for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11