(Photo source here)
When we were kids, there was a story told us over and over about a little girl and her ring. This girl loved to lie. She would lie to her parents, cousins and friends. She would lie just about anything. One day, her mother gave her a little ring that just fitted around one of her little fingers. She was so happy with her ring and she went about prancing and gazing at her ring.
One time, she did something that her mother forbade her to do, and when her mother confronted her about it, she didn’t tell the truth. Just as she had finished speaking lies to her mother, the ring on her finger tightened until she cried out in pain. When she could no longer endure the pain, she confessed her fault to her mother, and instantly, the ring around her finger loosened its grip.
And so it was, that every time the little girl lied, the ring would tighten around her finger and she would be reminded and compelled to tell the truth.
I was often reminded about this story during the time when I was recovering (and even until now), that every time I felt a discomfort or struggled with uncomfortable breathing, I would immediately search my heart where I had done wrong. I would always associate my physical suffering with my spiritual life.
So when I would suddenly feel pain or discomfort, I couldn’t help thinking, “The ring is tightening around me again. O my Lord, what have I done this time?” And I would be reminded in my heart of those little faults that displease the Lord. And I would silently repent and pray hard that the Lord would remove from me those things that offend Him.
It’s not that I lied, like the little girl in the story. Lying is one of the big things in my life that the Lord Jesus Christ has removed from me totally when I received Him and was baptized in water in His name. By the grace of God, I just couldn’t lie anymore, and for me, that’s a gigantic deed that the Lord has wrought in me.
There were other important lessons that He wanted me to learn. And I found out that the most valuable lessons are learned in the hardest of times or trials, like a ring tightening around our lives.
And make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. (Heb. 12: 13)
It’s God correcting us and straightening out our paths, so that where we do wrong, we would learn to do right. It’s Him stretching, tossing and turning us so that our weak parts will not get worse and become disabled, but rather, they will become whole and strong and be of good use.
And through those really painful pinches and constant chastisements, I have finally learned these:
Stop complaining and embrace humility
Complaining [endless grumbling and whining] is an ugly thing and should not be in any way a part of a Christian’s life. It greatly displeases the Lord. And just as the Israelites spent forty years wandering in the wilderness instead of forty days to reach the Promised Land because of their constant grumbling, so it would be to one who awaits answer to prayer with constant complaining: it would come a long, long time.
Here are some synonyms of complain: accuse, attack, bemoan, criticize, defy, deplore, disapprove, fret, fuss, lament, wail… *(and the list doesn’t end here). They come in different spelling but their meaning is one and the same thing.
Complaining is a precursor to rebellion. When we complain, we are rejecting God’s judgments, provisions and graces. We are rejecting Him and rebelling against His will.
Thanksgiving instead of whining
Now this is an honorable act and something that God greatly delights in. Thanking Him in everything at all times will surely usher in God’s favor in our lives.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Heb. 13: 15)
Be not easily provoked
When one gets easily provoked, one dwells more in anger than in love, and the Holy Spirit cannot stay in a heart that’s easily angered. He who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in Him (1 John 4: 16). Love is a fruit of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit grieves and leaves, we cannot bear its fruit and we remain barren.
Love is patient and kind.
These are things that although we may think of them as “little” sins, they offend the holy God, and so, He chastises us. He wants to purify us of these little sins that are ingrained in our hearts and are hard to let go.
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. (Heb. 12: 5)
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12: 11)
So I thank God for chastisements however painful. For in this way, I learn tough lessons that can’t be learned any other way. Chastisements are His acts of love, that I may grow to be more like Him, and to be nearer to Him.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Rev. 3: 19)