Turning Your Painful Road Into Hope: Three Mindset Shifts

Roads are blessings.  They are connectors.  They connect place to place, people to people, ideas to ideas, and allow for interaction and personal growth that we would never experience without them.

Some, like the one above on my Grandfather’s farm, lead us to long for a quiet, refreshing, lazy, and restful walk.  Others are harsh and hard — hot blacktop thoroughfares that are stressful to undertake. 

Many are traveling a very painful road.  If you’re traveling this road because of a past or present failure, the grief, hurt, and pain feels like it will never leave. 

It may be that your present struggle is the loss of a beloved family member or loved one.  Death carries with it a great deal of misery not only for the one dying but also for those who remain.

Regardless of the cause, Keep Walking.  With God, it certainly does get better and, what’s more, you can find joy in the journey!

Having traveled a number of painful roads in my own life, I’d like to offer you some understanding from experience.  Everyone walks painful paths from time to time.  Many walks take those journeys victoriously.  Many don’t. 

  • Don’t Hate Your Journey. 

As I mentioned above, roads are blessings.  They connect places, people, and ideas.  But there’s another exciting reality about the road you are on that you haven’t realize yet.  It is taking you farther and farther away from your past or your failure.  Each step moves you toward your future.

In Philippians 3 Paul gives us some great hope.  Look at the hope in these words, “…I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.  So let’s keep focused on that goal…”  The goal Paul is referring to is Christ Himself!

The great apostle had a sordid past and many failures, to say the least.  Pharisee of the Pharisees, holder of coats for killers of innocent men, imprisoner of innocent believers, abuser of fellow Jews and others who followed Jesus, and maybe even murderer of some who followed Christ.  He had failed with a gusto few of us today know anything about.

This miserable road you are now traveling is all about God purging and purifying you to be the man or woman of God He has planned you to be.  If you hate the road He has you on, how can He accomplish His great goal?

  • It’s Not About You. 

That’s right, and that’s exactly what I mean to say.  This pain, suffering, guilt, shame, remorse, and anger that you are now experiencing day to day is not about you.  As Paul said in Philippians 3, “…the goal, where God is beckoning us onward–to Jesus.”

All the pain and shame that you experience now is not about you.  It’s a path taking you toward Christ – toward your true-self…if you allow it.  God has allowed for you to enjoy a free will, so it’s your choice.  You probably don’t feel like it’s your choice, but it is.

Paul had a choice.  He could have stayed isolated and alone, regretting for the rest of his days what terrible acts he had committed in the name of God.  If he had done so, then it would have been all about him.

Instead, Paul realized that he, like you, possessed the freedom of choice in the matter.  He could choose his path.  So can you.  Be like Paul.  Make your journey about Christ opening you up to your true-self.  Always choose Christ in everything!

  • God Is With You and For You, Regardless of How You Feel.

As I traversed my road away from failure and a painful past and toward an ever-brightening future, there were times I felt alone, absent from the presence of my Loving Abba more often than I felt His beloved presence.  It is a feeling of unworthiness and aloneness, even condemnation that can become so overwhelming that it is a challenge even to take a breath.

In Romans 8:1 the Apostle Paul writes, “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  As a believer, even with a sordid past or a present failing, God does not condemn you. 

You’re set apart from condemnation.  Christ has carried all of that condemnation that you now feel, whether you are guilty of mistakes, sin, or have been the recipient of terrible abuse.  He carried the weight, so you don’t have to.

Release these invalid feelings to Him.  This release is not a one-time act.  Why?  It’s a part of self-forgiveness.  When God forgives, it’s done, gone, and forgotten. 

When we forgive, however, it’s virtually always a process.  Repeatedly the self-loathing words of shame and guilt will return to attack your ever growing confidence in the truth of your present reality with God as it attempts to drag you away from God and back into your past reality.

Release it and reject it every time it returns to rear its ugly head to defeat you.  Begin by seeking God’s mercy through confession.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession is simply agreeing with God.  “You’re right God, that was wrong.”

Once you’ve acknowledged to God your part in the matter, it’s forgiven and not remembered by God anymore.  Now, every time it returns to haunt you remember something important – Don’t wallow in guilt.  It’s forgiven.  Accept God’s forgiveness and move forward.

Actually, I try to turn those events (and they can happen a lot) into opportunities to praise my God for His amazing mercy and forgiveness.  I will say something like this, “Father, I want to thank you for forgiving me for that and for knowing that I don’t have to wallow in guilt anymore.  I praise you that you have made my life a trophy for your Son Jesus Christ, and I now bask in the glory of your grace.” (This “trophy” concept is not my own. Rick Warren used this concept in an email I received from him years ago.)

When you do this, you defeat your three greatest enemies:  Your world system, your adversary, and your own sinful nature.  Praising God always defeats the world’s power over me.  Offering thanksgiving to the Father always causes your enemy, Satan, to cower in defeat and sulk away.  And rejoicing in God’s salvation and forgiveness always defeats our sinful, self-centered nature.

In other words, the road you’re now traveling is not traveled best by feeling, but by faith!  These facts are the vital and vibrant truths of God’s Word.  These truths that I’ve mentioned are contained in God’s Word.  They need to be your guide more than ever now. 

As you read the Bible, seek out promises that He makes and hang on to them for dear life.  “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light unto my path,” writes the Psalmist.  Live those words as you traverse what may now be a dark and painful road, and remember, it’s taking you farther and farther away from your failure or past and toward a much brighter day.

Peace,

Pastor Mark