It takes real pain for change

To help others, show patience, wait, pray

By Terry Pluto

Are you waiting for God to touch someone’s life?

Most of us have been there. We have a child who is now a teenager, and seems determined to self-destruct.

Perhaps it’s a child who is now an adult, made a mess, had some bad breaks, and now is living at home with you — only not living life the way you’d like.

Or maybe you have a parent, a sibling, someone close to you who just seems to keep getting farther from God each day. You fear for them. You pray for them. The hardest thing to do is change them.

When we truly are honest to God, most of us know it’s so hard to change ourselves — and really impossible to change anyone else.

Some of us might have forgotten how long it seemed God was waiting for us to get a clue about life. Or how long some friends and relatives were praying for us to quit trying to kill ourselves — if not physically, then emotionally.

I didn’t become serious about my Christian faith until I was in my early 40s. Before that, there were plenty of trips to church. There was a life that seemed successful on the surface: good job, a marriage seemingly steady, no trips to jail.

But I had been hiding a pornography addiction. I gave far more of my time and heart to my job than I did to my wife or others in need. I said all the sincere things — and then searched for ways to not follow through.

Now that I’ve been clean of porn for nearly nine years, I wonder why others don’t see the mess of their own lives and commit to change.

I forget about all the pain it took for me to change. I forget about how people told me that they had been praying for years for me to shape up spiritually. I forget about all the people who tried to point me in the right direction, and I smiled and ignored them. I forget that most people don’t change until their pain becomes much greater than their fear of change.

That’s a concept that I first heard from Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life. I don’t know if it originates with him, but whoever came up with the concept is correct.

For most adults, real change comes out of real pain.

Perhaps you know the parable of the prodigal son, which is from chapter 15 of Luke. Part of the story told by Jesus is of a wealthy father whose son takes all his inheritance, runs off and trashes his life.

He ends up working in the pig pen, the ultimate insult for a Jew who is supposed to stay away from pork. He eventually comes home to the father, apologizes and the father throws a party. There are other side issues, but this is what struck me the most: The father lets the son go, knowing it was going to get very ugly for the beautiful son he loves so much.

The father waited until the pain was great enough to bring him home.

The key line in the story is “the son came to his senses.”

That’s when real change begins, when we come to our senses. No one can really do it for us. In fact, those who push too hard for someone “to get right with God” tend to shove that person in the opposite direction. Taping Bible verses on the bathroom mirror or serving “turn or burn” hell-fire passages with dessert just might not ignite the intended result.

We can’t just ignore loved ones ready to make a terrible decision. But when we do approach them, it has to be with patience — not like Moses coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.

This never works: “I can’t believe you’d be so stupid to do that. Is the devil in you, or just what is your problem?”

It’s wiser to show a person patience, to talk about our own pain, our own frustrations and mistakes during our own spiritual journey. Our words should be sprinkled with humility, not self-righteousness.

Then wait and pray. There really is no other choice.



  1. Donna Said:

    This really speaks to the heart of Christian love. Loving someone enough to share what finally brought me into a true relationship with Jesus, lover of my soul.

    Thanks Jim

  2. Kodiak Said:

    When I was a counselor out in Denver, I was instructed never give someone the answers to the pain they are in. Rather gently lead them and allow them to see the way out from pain or what ever mess they are in. Great post Jim!

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