In the instant before I was born again, during what I now call “the moment outside of time”, God imprinted on my soul this one simple truth: The pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned. It was reminder of the “cause and effect” principle that I’d ignored or pretended didn’t exist up to that point in my earthly life, but its impression on me was indelible from then onward. Now, whenever things go a bit south in my life, I immediately remind myself: “The pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned”, and I do whatever is necessary to bring my thinking and doing back in line with God’s will.
Most Christian pastors side-step the principle of cause and effect when teaching their flock, instead referring to God as “a Great Mystery” who works in ways that we cannot possibly fathom. Granted, we can’t know God’s mind perfectly (we just don’t have that capability in our current form), but we can very definitely know the principles he has established for us to live by, the main one being “the pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned”, otherwise known as “cause and effect” or “crime and punishment” or “you get back what you put out”. This principle is deeply embedded in the writings of the Old Testament prophets and Jesus reminds us of it several times as well. It is not enough just to “believe” or “have faith”; you must genuinely talk the talk and walk the walk. In other words, you must not only love those who love you but also love your enemies.
Scratch a disenchanted Christian or one whose life is a mess, and just under the surface you’ll find someone who is treating other people badly. Maybe that person is breaking one or more of the Commandments or is gossiping about other people or holding resentment and unforgiveness, but there’s definitely something going on that is negatively affecting that person’s life. Unfortunately, afraid to alienate a paying customer, most pastors would rather blame “the devil” or “the Great Mystery of God’s ways” for the person’s misery rather than point the finger at the person him or herself.
This stuff drives me crazy. How difficult can it be for a pastor to say to someone: “Look – I know your life sucks right now, but maybe you should consider what you’re doing and how you treat other people because that’s the source of your misery.” Yes, the person might stomp out of the church in a huff, but it’s better to be honest with people and point them to repentance than to lie to them and keep them wallowing in their sin and misery.
God requires us to be honest with people, even if it hurts.
He also tells us that he requires mercy, not sacrifice. Forgiving someone goes a lot further than showing up at church every Sunday or volunteering at soup kitchens. Forgiving means to forget (meaning, you don’t talk about the issue anymore, and if it comes up in your mind, you say a prayer for the person who hurt you), though it NEVER means to put yourself back into the same position to be hurt again. God gave us a brain for a reason and expects us to use it.
Consider your life now. Are you close to God, or do you feel something has come between you? If you feel there is something keeping you from getting really close to God, it’s because of something you’re doing, not because of something someone else (including God or “the devil”) is doing.
I find the easiest way to clean the slate is simply to say “I choose to forgive everyone who’s hurt me”. I sometimes say that several times a day, if the situation warrants it. Choosing always to forgive, no matter how great or how small the offence, wipes away any lingering resentment I may be holding onto and helps me to see the people who’ve hurt me as hurting more and in need of prayers, not curses.
I know that if I go against God’s will, things will go badly for me. If I break the Commandments, things will go badly for me. If I do what is evil in God’s eyes, things will go badly for me. If I hate my neighbours or hate my enemies (even by thinking or speaking negatively about them), things will go badly for me.
It’s really that simple.
If you want things to go well in your life, stop gossiping, stop holding resentment, follow the Commandments, love your neighbors, and love your enemies. Yes, it may seem like a tall order (easier said than done), but it’s doable with God’s help.
And if a Christian you know if having a rough go of it right now, tell him or her to stop gossiping, stop holding resentment, follow the Commandments, love their neighbors, and love their enemies. These simple “to do’s” and “to don’ts” need to be better known and practiced, as they are at the heart of how well or how badly our lives go, how happy or unhappy we are, and how close we are to God.