It was just after 9 o’clock at night and I was heading west from Yorktown back to Lynchburg when I stopped to get gas. That’s where I jammed by thumb in the driver’s seat door of my car.
In the seconds and minutes that followed, I know I looked like a crazy person. I circled my car silently, biting down on my tongue, trying my best to stifle whatever noise was aching to escape through by gritted teeth.
After a few laps, I begrudgingly walked into the gas station convenience store and told the clerk I just jammed my thumb in the door and asked her if I could get some ice from the drink machine. She smirked and nodded.
I suppose I should back up to say it was just the tip of my thumb and the bruise I now have is quite small, so in the grand scheme of things, it was nothing serious. But when it happened, I can assure you it didn’t feel very good.
Nevertheless, with a handful of ice, I walked back to my car, still sitting under the lights next to the pump where it all happened. I gingerly opened the door, grabbed a napkin from my glovebox and wrapped it around the ice, which I then held on my thumb as I drove off, steering with my left hand. The moral of this story is twofold: I clearly have a very low tolerance for pain and it reminded me of how we should address the sin in our lives.
When we sin — which is just a three-letter word for anything that puts us at odds with God’s character revealed in the Bible — it hurts us; the consequence for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). And over time, if we continue sinning, we become immune to our own wrongdoing.
The 20th-century evangelist Oswald Chambers once wrote, “The penalty of sin is that, gradually, you get used to it and do not know that it is sin. No power, save the incoming of the Holy Ghost, can alter the inherent consequences of sin.”
Much like holding ice on a throbbing bruise, the process of healing isn’t comfortable. Sometimes it aches. But it’s ultimately preventing even greater pain. Healing from sin is necessary because, left to its own devices, it “gives birth to death” (James 1:15). So, as the psalmist wrote, Scripture “gives light so even the simple can understand,” illuminating our imperfections and errors (Psalm 119:130). And those who have found salvation in Jesus have been spiritually circumcised, which is “the cutting away of your sinful nature” (Colossians 2:11).
It shouldn’t stop there, though. The pain of the sin and the frustration and hurt that often accompanies healing should teach us a lesson. If we’re listening and watching, the consequences of our wrongdoing should remind us not to go back to those vices. Motivated by our love for the Lord — instilled in us by the Holy Spirit — we should steer away from the things that hurt us, because they hurt God, too.
When we continue to make decisions that put distance between us and God’s ways, our hearts “will be filled with the fruit of [our] ways,” which only lead to destruction; but the hearts of those who seek God and his character “will be filled with the fruit of his ways” (Proverbs 14:14).
I’m more cautious now. I know the snare that has become my car door, and I’m mindful of it. I also know places where I’m weak; I know what temptations are all too enticing to me, so I do my best to avoid them, because I’ve seen the pain that comes when I sin by indulging my fleeting desires.
Don’t waste the pain in your life; use it.
While I wish I hadn’t closed my thumb in my driver’s side door the other night, I’m grateful for the reminder it was to steer clear of the sin that “slows us down” and “so easily trips us up” (Hebrews 12:1).