You Must Like Pain
What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? 1 Corinthians 4:21
The addict often doesn’t understand why his life is so miserable. It often seems that bad things just keep happening to him for no reason. He can’t catch a break and everything he touches crumbles. To the observer, it’s obvious that drugs are the problem and it’s confounding that the addict cannot see it. It almost seems that he must enjoy pain. To the addict though, life is just terribly unfair.
I remember feeling like that. It wasn’t that I didn’t know my drug use was destructive. It was just that not every misery was directly connected to drug use in my mind. I didn’t just get up one day and decide that I wanted to be depressed and hate myself. I didn’t consciously choose to gain 40 pounds and turn my back on my faith. Looking back, I can see that those were obvious consequences of my addiction, but at the time, I was unable or unwilling to admit the connection.
Even when I lost my job and had to go to treatment, I blamed those who confronted me. It wasn’t that I had a drug problem. It was that they couldn’t mind their own business. That was absurd of course, but at the time, it made sense. It took a tremendous amount of pain for me to finally connect the dots between my behavior and consequences.
This seemed to be Paul’s message in today’s passage. In it, he admonished those in the Corinthian church who arrogantly claimed to be spiritually mature, while failing to follow Christ. He told them he was coming with either the rod or with love. The choice was theirs and their behavior would determine Paul’s demeanor. If they humbled themselves and followed Christ – gentleness. If they continued rebelliously down their path of pride – the rod. Paul unambiguously connected the dots between the Corinthian’s behavior and consequences.
We need to be reminded of this from time to time. It’s not that every bad thing that happens to us is our fault. Horrible things do happen over which we have no control. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the misery and anxiety that we cause ourselves when we follow our own way instead of Christ’s. Daily, if we want to know hope, joy, and peace, despite life’s trials, then we must connect the dots between our self-destructive behavior and its painful consequences.