Among counselors and chaplains, an old saw goes like this this, da nile (A.K.A. denial) is not just a river in Egypt. Normally when repeated, everyone would have a good laugh. Why? Psyche wards and prisons are full of people in denial. And they are not alone.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, who begged at the gates to his house. Both men died. The rich man suffered eternal damnation to hell, while Lazarus went to heaven. Interestingly, part of the rich man’s punishment was to be able to see Lazarus enjoying life in heaven—talk about a role reversal—it’s like a bunch of hard-partying celebrities in hell being forced to watch livestreams of street people in heaven!!! So the rich man asks God to send Lazarus with a taste of water to him in hell. God refuses. The rich man then panics and makes one more request:
And he said, Then I beg you, father, to send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. But Abraham [God] said, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. (Luke 16:27-31 ESV)
In other words, the brothers’ denial is so strong that they would not believe and change their behavior even if confronted from a resurrected Lazarus. Interestingly, Jesus later raises his friend Lazarus from the dead in John 12:17.
This problem of denying fairly obvious advice, like wearing a mask during a pandemic, can be life-threatening. When I worked in the emergency department at Providence Hospital, about half the patients that I met were admitted with totally preventable ailments. Many medical problems are related to obesity and addictions, even if like smoking they are difficult to give up. Suicide is another preventable ailment that routinely kills thousands. I will never forget the 400 pound man in the emergency department who was covered with cotton balls—ouch!—because the nurses and doctors could not find a vein with which to insert his IV.
Because God frequently uses other people’s voices to speak grace and truth into our lives, how do we know when to listen? Consider these tests:
- Is this advice consistent with Biblical teaching?
- Are more than one person we trust giving us this advice?
- Do these people have our best interests in mind in offering this advice?
It is truly difficult to get good advice sometimes and many people employ professionals to tell them what they might have learned from a well-intentioned, ten-year old.
Frequently, the advice that you get is a bit off-center, but it may alert you to a related problem, especially when pain is involved. Whenever pain is involved, a good place to start is to pray to God and ask—Lord, why did you bring to this time and place? In other words, what, Lord, would you have me learn here?
Let those who have ears listen and learn. In the meantime, wear that mask!
Other ways to engage online:
Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.