The Ultimate Suffering and Punishment

Chapter 3 in Hearing God is entitled “Never Alone” but Dr. Willard talks a lot about what can cause us to be alone.

We can work hard at being social and can have friends that surround us. Of course, if we are reasonably tolerable, family will allow us to hang around. The old adage of “get rich and you will never be lonely” will cure your loneliness problems but what about loneliness from God?

What can cause loneliness from our Father?

Dr. Willard points to Psalms 51:11 as an example of terror in the face of loneliness from God: “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”

What can cause this to happen?

Sin.

There are many areas of human life where temptation and sin come into play.

First of all, since Adam and Eve ruined man’s relationship with God by choosing to sin, man and woman have had sin as part of their human makeup. We have a natural tendency to sin and to be honest, it is impossible to avoid it.

Now that may offend you.

But it is true.

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.   For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” [Romans 7]

In the context of being alone and away from God, read Paul’s words carefully.

Are they excuses?

Are they explanations?

Are they just a “cop-out”?

Or is Paul just being honest?

I go through periods where I feel ok about my behavior. Sometimes I feel like I am getting somewhere. And then I “act up.” What causes it? Feeling too good about myself can cause it. Things going very well can cause it. Things going poorly can cause it. Feeling badly can cause it [physical feelings and mental feelings]. It seems that temptation and sin come at the time of the greatest highs or the lowest lows. Hardly ever in the “in-between times.”

When I am “on a high” I feel “bullet-proof” and when that happens, the devil knows I am easy pickings. He knows what to do to steer me in a sinful direction. Of course, I am never “bullet-proof.” I always have to give God the glory for whatever good happens in my life. Yet I don’t. I want the credit. I actually get in God’s way. I forget that I am not the trunk, I am merely a branch and through me I may have a chance to bear fruit but the fruit comes from God, not me. God is the energy that grows the fruit. I am merely the channel to send energy to the fruit.

When I am “on a low” it feels like very little matters. I get depressed in a short-term way and lose my ability to care what happens to me. I can get very selfish when I throw a pity party and I feel like I deserve something to “pick me up.” So I indulge. Do you ever give yourself a little reward to lift your spirits? What if that reward is a sin?

Guess what? Short-term depression can become longer-term depression because you know you have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

I am going to be honest here, like Paul.

When I sin, I am ashamed.

I have a hard time facing up to God.

My prayer time is difficult.

I beat myself up and feel guilt-ridden.

I feel alone.

I have disappointed my best Friend.

I ask “why would He want me?”

Too often I answer the question with “He doesn’t want you. He doesn’t want anything to do with you.”

This is the essence of loneliness.

To compound the problem I sometime don’t want to be around other people because I realize I am a fraud. I put on a “righteous act” and that is what it really is—it is an act. I can’t stand to do this when I sin because I feel so hypocritical.

Then I realize that maybe I have set the bar too high. God realizes I am a human and He knows my weaknesses better than I do. He created me and knows my heart. He knows the areas of my life where I am weak.

I don’t want to keep on sinning. I realize that it is a “dead end road” that can lead to spiritual death.  Spiritual death is greater than separation from God through sin. When Adam and Eve heard the voice of the Lord, they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God.” The fellowship had been broken. They were spiritually dead.

When we sin and don’t want to turn back from it, we can begin to fall so deeply that we don’t even want to hear of Christ, read about Christ, or even think about Christ. All we want is the pleasure of sin [we think it is pleasure].

But things of this world cannot measure up to the love and acceptance we can feel from God’s love. I want to repent and turn away from sin. I want to reestablish my relationship with God. I hate being alone.   I want Him back and I know He wants me. He offers me an avenue back to Him; His forgiveness. This is motivation for me to turn away from sin, believe in Jesus Christ once again and receive His Grace by Faith. This reconciles me back into fellowship with God and His Love.

I can stand to be by myself and away from people for short periods of time but I don’t like it. I definitely don’t want the ultimate suffering and punishment, spiritual death.

The bottom line: I can’t stand to be away from God.

When I sin and feel far from God, I really feel alone…and I hate it.

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