Dr. Paul W. Brand was a noted leprosy expert who was especially famous for his surgical accomplishments with lepers in India. One night he became terrified when he noticed he had no feeling in his heel, a sign that he might have contracted leprosy. “He rose mechanically, found a pin, sat down again, and pricked the small area below his ankle. He felt no pain. He thrust the pin deeper until a speck of blood showed. Still, he felt nothing… All that night the great surgeon tried to imagine his new life as a leper, an outcast, his medical staff’s confidence in their immunity shattered by his disaster, and the forced separation from his family. He waited until morning, then with steady fingers he bared the skin below his ankle, jabbed in the point–and yelled. From then on, whenever Dr. Brand cut his finger, turned an ankle, even when he suffered from agonizing nausea from mushroom poisoning, he was to respond with fervent gratitude” (Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Ten Fingers for God, pp. 142-145).
What an awesome perspective! While pain is certainly no fun, the alternative is to be paralyzed or to have something wrong with us. Feeling pain is normal. Feeling pain means we are alive. Feeling pain helps us to fix the problem.
The same is true for spiritual pain. When we sin, we are supposed to feel guilty and be appalled with ourselves. This is the reason God gave us a conscience. Guilt often produces change. Consider David’s emotional words of guilt, “O LORD, rebuke me not in Your wrath, and chasten me not in Your burning anger… For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me… I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart… For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin… Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, do not be far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! (Psalm 38:1, 4, 8, 18, 21-22).
Sin should produce guilt in us. The real problem is when people stop feeling guilty. In Jeremiah’s day, the people reached a point of spiritual numbness where they “no longer knew how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15). They were no longer embarrassed or felt guilty by their sins. Amazingly, in Noah’s day, the people reached the level where “…every intent of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
The more we ignore our guilt and spiritual pain, the more numb we become to sin. What a sad day this is when it happens. Whether it is physical pain or spiritual pain, God gave it to us so we can know when something is wrong and fix it. Don’t ignore the spiritual warning signs. If something hurts, take care of it.