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Pain or Vision?

“Without a vision from God, people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, paraphrase).

We say that we want to make changes. For instance, probably you’d like to de-clutter and get more organized or lose weight. Or maybe you think you need to get help with your depression, improve your marriage or a friendship, or grow spiritually.

Sadly, most of the time we don’t actually make the changes that we say we should make. Why not?

Almost 30 years ago, my first counseling supervisor told me: “Pain pushes and vision pulls. Those are the two ways people are motivated to change. Most people need to be pushed by pain to get help — it’s a rare person who is pulled by vision into a better life.”

Are you Stuck in a Rut?

Like many people you may slide down in a rut and not even realize it. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by your responsibilities and feel you just can’t deal with things. So your problem goes unnoticed until it causes you pain — you can’t find an important document amid your clutter, the doctor says your health is in danger, your depression causes you to lose your job, or your spouse has an affair. Then because you’re dealing with some emotional pain God is finally able to get your attention — the pain pushes you to get help.

“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world,” C.S. Lewis said.

But as my mentor taught me, much of the pain we experience in life could be avoided if only we would have caught God’s vision for our life and taken care to implement it. Vision can you to become a better person.

The Choice is Yours

Generally, the vision that God has for you and I is the same: to become an apprentice to Jesus and to learn how to bring your life into God’s kingdom. Orienting my whole life around being with Jesus to become like him has filled my soul with more of heaven than I thought was possible in this world. Problems I couldn’t solve before have dissipated. I’ve observed the same effect in other people’s lives.

Of course, implementing the vision to be like Jesus requires that you get help — you can’t do it on your own. “Self-help” is a mirage. Reach out to a soul friend, small group, mentor, or counselor. Practice disciplines to help you grow in the grace of Christ.

Yes, healing means dealing with pain and unwanted emotions. Yes, learning requires discipline and isn’t easy. But the divine life that you grow into is delightful and easy. Over time, life in Christ solves all the problems you had because your only real problem becomes dealing with the part of you that wanders from God.

The vision to be with Jesus and become like him can pull you into an increasingly wonderful life with God. Or you can wait until more pain comes along and pushes you to get the help you need.


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