Why do guys hide aches and pains, rather than go to the doctor? Here are some responses I got from that question on Facebook: “It’s a man thing.” The time it takes “only to find out that there is most likely nothing wrong with them that a good nights sleep won’t cure.” “Big wussy babies." “Pride. And a fear of needles.” “Denial, worried it could be something he’d rather not know about. ”
Doctors are one thing. But what about when you are spiritually out of balance? Something is terribly wrong and you try to ignore it, put it off, or hope it goes away on its own.
Good news or bad news, going to the doctor and getting a diagnosis is always a good thing. In 1993, after a trip to Israel, my father got a routine blood test at the senior center. That’s how they found his leukemia. He’d been extremely tired on the trip, but mom and dad thought it was the travelling, the time change, or the food that you were not used to. It never occurred to them it was a life threatening illness. The news was bad, but it was so much better to be real. In the three years he lived, my father did what he could to fight it, and just as important, he found a measure of peace. Good or bad, only if you know truth, can you do something about it. I’m not here to talk about your health, that’s just a silly little parallel, I’m here to talk about God, some of you are out of sinc, frustrated, or uncertain.
A plumb line. That’s what Amos saw. A plumb line enables you to get everything in alignment, to set right that which is wrong, and to have a standard by which to measure. It’s as if God is saying to his people, it’s time to go to the doctor and see what’s wrong with your life. As Jaime said, “The ironic part about behaving in such a manner [putting off going to the doctor] is the inevitability of the situation to worsen with the time spent being "strong."” “The ironic part about trying to ignore your spiritual pain, is the inevitability of the situation to worsen with the time spent being ‘strong.’” Good news or bad news, it’s good to go to the doctor, a proper diagnosis. For those who love the Lord, good news or bad news, the judgment of God is good, for there is no other way to find a true measure of where you stand. For the people of Israel in the days of Amos, they never did get over the resistance of judgment. They did not want God to judge them because they thought they were fine just the way they were. They did not want to hear the news, hoping that if anything is wrong, it will just go away. But it got worse.
Three times God says to Amos, it’s time for a check-up. The first time is the vision of the locusts (Amos 7:1-3). Amos says, no Lord, I don’t want to send the people to the doctor. That would be too painful. They don’t like shots. They are big baby wussies. They don’t want to hear any bad news. They might not survive. The problem with this approach is that nothing changes. If you try to ignore the heartache in your life, if you are struggling with God in any way and hope the struggle just goes away on its own, it won’t change. Without judgement, there is no repentance.
The second vision is a judgment by fire. Amos says, I know the people are hurting, but if they get the bad news, they might not live. Years ago, when I did a hospital chaplaincy at USC Medical Center in So. Cal., in the cancer ward, the doctors told us about a policy that they will not treat patients unless they knew what they were being treated for. Too many families wanted to protect grandma and not let grandma know the truth. The doctors, ethically, could not do it. It’s as if Amos is saying, God, let’s protect the people a little more, do they really have to know, do they really need to be purged by fire to expose their sins. They are so small and frail. There is no situation you cannot take to God, nothing. Nobody is beyond help. Nobody beyond hope. Nobody beyond redemption.
And God says, all right Amos, we’ll wait. But the problem: nothing changes. The pain does not go away. Something is terribly wrong, but there is no plan to fix it, no medication prescribed, no surgery. The problems and sins persist and grow worse. When you need a doctor, no matter what the news, it’s a good thing. The judgment of God is good. I ran across this line in my devotional reading this week from 1 Peter 4:16, the Message translation: “It’s judgment time for Christians. We’re first in line.” Ask the Lord to examine you. Ask the Lord to set things right. Expose your hurts and pains to the Lord. Expose your sins.
The third vision is the plumb line. This time the Lord does not even give Amos an opportunity to stave off judgment. If you ignore the pain too long, you will not have a choice but to get help. The Lord says, it’s time. It’s time to measure the people against the true plumb line. For those who are determined to resist the Lord, judgment is put off as long as possible. For those who love the Lord, judgment is good and necessary. We need the Lord to judge our hearts and our lives. The plumb line is an awesome picture of what it means for the Lord to judge us against his standard, his perfect wall.
I’d like to end with a letter from an out of state friend. This is a painful letter from a mother and the necessary judgment he needs to turn his life around so that he once again has hope. It's almost as if the mother is pleading for judgment for her son so he can come out the other side a changed person.
Dear [friends], … Mark has now pled guilty to possession of child porn on his computer, and indecency with a minor. There were extenuating circumstances and the actual events are relatively minor. However, I am not here to make excuses for Mark. As you can imagine, as a mother, I have been having a lot of trouble coping with learning that my son is a lot more disturbed than I ever thought. Though I love him very much, recently I have a hard time relating to him…Mark will be going before a judge for sentencing on January 26th. Even if the judge is very lenient and lets him go for time served, over a year by that time, Mark's life is forever altered with a felony conviction and sex offender charge over his head. In the meantime, he will be spending his 30th birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas alone. Whatever your thoughts are about Jesus, he is the one who taught the world what the power of loving someone first, without reservation, judgment, or thought of a return could do. Mark is definitely one of those who struggles, questions, goes astray, and right now feels he is without hope. Perhaps a show of Jesus’ type of love could work a miracle in his life.
The Lord says, I am setting a plumb line among you. It’s time to be measured by my perfect wall. If you resist saying I don’t need a doctor, I’ll figure it out myself, I don’t want to know the truth, then things will only get worse. Your life will continue to spin out of control. Your pain will only intensify. Without judgment there is no repentance. But if you accept, then we can begin to work, setting you back in alignment, and turning the bad news of judgment into the good news of salvation.