by Mike Genung
On July 5 of this year, my wife’s 80 year old father passed away from congestive heart failure. Just six weeks later, Michelle’s Mom also passed away, hitting our family with a second wave of grief.
As I’ve walked through the grieving process, it brought to mind how I dealt with pain, sorrow, or trials in the past, especially while I was ensnared by lust. In those days, emotions, especially unpleasant ones, scared me. I didn’t want to feel pain. I didn’t know how to deal with trials, stress, or loss; they were unwelcome visitors I refused to let in.
Part of the problem was that when I jumped into sexual sin in my teens, I stopped developing emotionally. I was stuck there for a long time, well into my 30s, until I stopped coming off the lust-drug and started facing life on life’s terms.
That first month of abstinence from lust was miserable. After being shut down and layered over with lust for years, my heart and emotions went haywire. I yo-yoed between anger, depression, and anxiety; it felt like I was going crazy.
Facing my heart was like peering into a black hole. Would pain or sorrow engulf me? How would I get out? What does coping with pain look like? I couldn’t stand staying in that place and dealing with my emotions for long and was dying to check out… if lust wasn’t an option, workaholism, ministry or some other broken coping mechanism would do.
Maybe you’re asking “if facing your heart is that hard, why bother?”
Because the depth you experience pain will be the depth you experience love, joy, and peace. You can’t shut your heart down when the trials hit and expect to experience deep joy when love comes. If you want a heart that’s fully alive, you have to accept the love as well as pain.
This is why many are faking the Christian life, including pastors. They quote verses, preach, or try to spiritualize their problems away, but inside their heart is empty, devoid of life.
Every guy I’ve worked with who’s in bondage to sexual sin is in that place of emptiness. Many have hard hearts. Porn alone has a heart-hollowing effect. It’s impossible to experience deep, lasting joy while you’re worshipping the evil goddess of lust. She drains you of life every time, leaving you more parched than before.
Today, I want all of life; good parts and the bad. I don’t enjoy pain, but I will accept it when appropriate. God uses pain to deepen my walk with Him, keep me on my knees, and mold me. Heart surgery hurts, but that’s the good pain that leads to more healing, life, and peace. Bad pain comes from the guilt and shame from a sin hangover.
As we accept pain and move through it, eventually there is healing and freedom again. It’s when we silence or stifle pain that it turns into a nagging sore that compounds with interest.
While grieving the loss of my wife’s parents has been hard; the grief has been interwoven with moments of joy. There is healing as I go, and it hasn’t dragged me down, not by a long shot.
Photo credit: Stefano Lunardi