Escapism Brings More Pain

In the spring of 1999, a dear older friend told me she had a word from God for me…. “You are a wild stallion.”

Ummmm…. thanks?

She read Psalm 32:9 to me... “Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near you.”

Ummmm…. thanks again?

No one who knows me, would ever accuse me doing things half-way. I am 100% or 0% most of the time. I come at life with intensity and passion. And no one but God has been able to wrangle that in.

Ummmm.... perhaps my friend was on to something?!?

13 years after she told me that word from God, He would bring it back to mind.

I had gotten to a place in life and ministry where I was just burnt out. I had lost all joy and everything spiritual just seemed like drudgery. My heart was getting ever harder and my mind was preoccupied with everything but God. My goals and pursuits became about me and what I wanted. It was not a pretty sight.

All I wanted to do was escape. The avoided pain and disappointment of life, marriage, and ministry had all come to a head at the same time. It was like a tsunami that took me under. I was tired, I was hurt, I was angry, and I was running as fast as I could.

You been there?

Where everything you do just seems to get you nowhere and you are left disillusioned, discouraged, and disheartened. You feel like the pain of it all has left you no alternative but to escape in some form or fashion.

One particular day, in the midst of my running, that "wild stallion" word comes to loud and clear!

I knew God was speaking to me, which was surprising since I had essentially stopped listening to Him for some time now. That is what happens when you are busy running instead of trusting and resting, you stop listening.

And then I heard more... “You can run as far as you want Heather, but I own all the land you are running on.” Seriously?

It both infuriated me and relieved me!

I was mad that I could not escape God, and I was glad that I could not escape God.

Even though I was trying to outrun Him, I was grateful that He was still pursuing me!

Through the years of my life, I have used a myriad of things to escape life and pain... or at least numb it enough so I don’t feel it. Food, alcohol, sex, entertainment, busy activity, work, fitness, blinders, and fantasy… just to name a few. And, yet, despite my best efforts, the pain remained.

And you? What tactics have you used or are currently using to escape? If you are not sure, pray, God will show you.

Escapism does nothing but create more suffering. Instead of dealing with the pain of something, we escape to something or someone else we think might make us feel better. And it may... short term.

But long term we may end up depressed, anxious, checked-out, isolated, empty, addicted, regretful, and so on. The strategies we use to escape pain end up creating more pain.

Escapism is nothing new. A Bible character that comes to mind that did a ‘whale’ of a job trying to escape is Jonah (yes, pun intended).

Why was Jonah running? Escapism usually boils down to just a few things: fear, sorrow, pain, the past, and disappointments.

Jonah was angry and afraid. And doing what God had asked him to do would mean he would have to face both. It can be painful to obey God. Surrender, with trust, rarely feels good at the time.

Jonah didn’t want a wretchedly horrible nation that had caused him and his people so much pain to have the mercy of God! It would be like asking a Jewish person to go to Nazi Germany with a repentance message.

And, the fear that these evil people would mock him at best and probably attack and kill him at worst just added fuel to the fear fire. So he ran. I can’t say that I blame him. Can you?

Now Jonah didn’t just run a town or two over. It's as if he asked himself, "Where do I need to go to be the furthest point away from where I am now?" Then he booked a boat ride to get him there. Until God intervened.

Escapism takes us places we never really intended to go to. We think we are getting one thing and we end up with another. Classic bait-and-switch.

The enemy of our soul is right there helping us to map out the escape route with some added pit stops along the way. He doesn't care where we head as long as it is away from God!

Once we arrive at our destination, it doesn't live up to what we thought it would, which just deepens the pain. And now shame gets piled on top. Life brings pain and running from it brings more pain.

Escapism has never brought good things in my life. It has, however, been detrimental to my relationships (with God and others ) and my health (both physical and mental).

In Ephesians 4:22, Paul speaks of putting off the old man, the former mode of life, the unregenerated self prior to salvation. The old man is corrupted or spoiled.

That rotting part of us is easily and readily sucked into running towards deceptive and polluted desires. Those flesh-driven escape routes seduce us into going the wrong direction, aka sin, and leads only to disappointment.

But we have choice! And the power to make it.

When we put off that old, stinky, rotting flesh, we gain spiritually vitality.

We live according to who God has created us to be and the end of that path is much sweeter.

We see and experience the unveiled reality of the righteousness and uncontaminated holiness we have in Him. This is who we are now.

Here is some good news, which might be unsettling when you are running in the opposite direction from God... He pursues us! He is relentless in His love. We are never too far from His reach.

So God, in His mercy, will send a myriad of things to get our attention and let us know we need to turn around, right now.

For Jonah, He brought a crazy storm and an even crazier whale. Seriously, God doesn't play.

For me, it was God’s voice telling me He owns all the land I’m running on.

Will I heed His warning and stop running from pain?

Will I trust Him and yield myself to Him and watch Him work in and through my pain? Or will it take swallowing me up in some crazy whale to stop me dead in my tracks?

What about you?

Are you running or resting?

Are you escaping, numbing out or engaged in your life and engaged with God?

God may be pricking your heart in one area or many. He knows facing whatever you are running from will be far less painful than the consequences of avoiding it. He simply has better!

So, if you are running or escaping, then please stop. Turn around.

"Do not be like the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle (force) to hold them in check, otherwise they may not come near you." Psalm 32:9

Psalm 32 was written by David after he had wrecked his life and the life of others by escaping... by running straight to sin with incredible fervor.

He hid it for as long as he could. He got called out, swallowed up, and had no more real-estate to run on. He repented. And he writes of the joy of forgiveness and the safety that is found in running and hiding in God instead.

Wherever you find yourself... from that place... get up and move towards the Lord. He is ready with arms wide open.

~ Heather

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Who made heaven and earth,

The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever.

Psalm 146:6