When Passion Turns to Pain

By: Stephen Hightower
Saturday, June 12th, 2010

There is something inside of you that wants to come out. That sounds like an intro voice-over for a cheesy sci-fi movie, but I’m actually talking about something good. It’s called passion, and I believe each of us has something we’re incredibly passionate about. It’s that thing that makes us come alive like nothing else–and the thing that can break our hearts like nothing else. I think you know what I’m talking about. Maybe your heart is ready to skip a beat as you read this…

For me that thing is preaching and teaching the Word of God. There is absolutely nothing in this world that gives me more joy to do than communicating the Word. Virtually everything I see is a potential sermon illustration – a song, a video clip, exploding fruits and vegetables (yes, I did use that). I’ll do anything it takes to communicate the message. I’ve been known to set things on fire, rappel from the balcony, break chairs… As Dr. Jim Flynn once said in one of my homiletics classes, “I’ll stand on my head and spit nickels if that’s what it takes for someone to hear the Gospel.” So, yeah, that’s my passion…can you tell yet?

One problem…I haven’t had much opportunity to express that passion in the past few years. I moved here to Virginia Beach four years ago and went from preaching anywhere from three to seven times a week, to preaching once in three to seven months. To make a tremendous understatement, it’s been incredibly depressing. Now, when I do get an opportunity, the passion wells up within me again and my hopes are flying. But when a consistent venue doesn’t materialize, I find myself sinking back to into that depressed state.

In addition to not having a venue to express the passion of my heart, in the past year I’ve experienced some other major setbacks. I won’t bore you with details, but those who know me well probably recall some of them. As I was looking over the last year I realized that I had a very negative attitude about a lot of things. I tried to attribute it to the pain I felt at burying my best friend, or the rejection of having the door to the Navy Chaplain Corps closed just a few months before I was to report for training, but there was something deeper that I couldn’t put my finger on. Recently I think I figured it out. I lost my joy.

It wasn’t one thing, but the culmination of many, and the results have been a critical spirit, particularly an antagonism toward church and pastoral ministry. In short, my passion turned to pain…and then it turned to poison. I heard Bob Johnson explain this recently in a message:

When you lose your joy, you get stressed. You worry. You’re anxious. Hopelessness creeps in. You become critical, and that leads to being jaded. Then you just hate things.

Preach on, Bob. That was me. So why am I telling you this? Two reasons:  1) I don’t want you to lose your passion and your joy, and  2) I want mine back. I figured the best way to do both is to reverse the process that got me here. I want to turn the pain back to joy, and I plan to do it by praying – not for myself, but for you – and I’m starting right now. I’m praying for those reading this blog:

Father, I cry out to you for those who have a deep passion in their hearts longing for an outlet. I praise You for igniting it in their hearts, and I praise You for how You are going to bring it about in powerful ways. I pray comfort for those who are weeping right now as they read these words because they understand that longing and waiting and hoping. May the presence of the Holy Spirit be evident for them right now, comforting them and building their faith that You have not forgotten them and that the passion in their hearts is not in vain. As Proverbs 13:12 reminds us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” I pray for those longings to be fulfilled as a tree bearing life-giving fruit for many to receive. Books will be written, churches will be planted, physical and spiritual children will be birthed, finances will expand, ministry will explode, and all for the GLORY and MAJESTY of YOUR NAME!

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Stephen Hightower
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One Response to “When Passion Turns to Pain”

  1. Andrea Dankone-Barna says:

    Having the same passion and fire since the first day I met Him at age 23 in a post-communist country. I can absolutely relate to your inner struggle.

    Our Father, I feel, has two “kinds” children. In one group are those, who are like “wild horses,” who are full of passion and fire. The other group starts out as “mules” – they seem to be out of touch yet with this inner passion. The problem is that we both need our Father’s help and discipline. The “wild horses” have to be tamed and they have to learn to obey the one who holds the rein. The “mules” have to be encouraged and “ignited,” to regain their inner drive. It is also possible that we have areas in our lives where we are “wild horses,” but have other areas where we behave like “mules”…

    NAS Psalm 32:9 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 to you.

    We both have to be changed and trained that we could follow the Holy Spirit perfectly. We cannot run ahead of Him and we cannot lag behind Him. We are supposed to be sheep that follow. So in order that our inner fire would be completely under the rein of the Holy Spirit we are sometimes put behind fences- “fenced in all around.”

    In our confinement our passion crystalizes. We surrender and learn to follow. Our motives are purified. We die to our own selves that He could live in His fullness through us.

    Imagine having the same fire for souls inside but being fenced in by a loving but unbelieving husband, who forbids you to go to church, or just to mention the word “God” in your home? You are called to the nations yet you live in one of the tiniest countries of the world and speak a language that maybe 15 million people speak in the whole world. This was my situation.

    Whenever and wherever I opened my Bible and read just one scripture I found myself “preaching salvation” based on that one scripture to “multitudes.” Behind closed eyes I would even see the faces… Then after “the altar call” I would open my eyes and see where I really was. I thought first that I was just “daydreaming” but later the Lord opened my spiritual eyes that I could understand: NONE of His words returns void to Him. His words were released into the spirit realm as I spoke them in my bedroom and He made sure they found their “target.”

    I have learnt to lay down my life for one person: my husband. I have learnt to pray, to cry out for souls between the porch and the altar. I also had the joy to lead others to Him where I worked, at the store, on the street etc.

    I have found Him in my limitedness. Since I had no other human being around me I could talk to the Holy Spirit became my constant companion and teacher. What a joy it is just to tarry with Him, to sit in His Presence, to behold His beautiful face! To sing songs of adoration, to love on Him constantly! And there is so much JOY in the Holy Spirit! He took all my sorrow, my pain, and gave me His love and joy!

    My passion is still the same. In some ways also my circumstance since even after 17 years of prayer my husband hasn’t surrendered his life to Jesus yet. He is closer than ever before though! I can go to church. Even our children can come with me. And I have just returned from the Philippines where I went with the permission of my husband. Yes, I preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and He confirmed it with miracles- the mute spoke, the lame arm moved, lupus, asthma, ulcers, pain left… I shared the love of God in the slums with the poorest of the world. I am going to Central -Europe in a few weeks. In the fall to Africa.

    What could have been perceived as limitation was actually His training field for me. Maybe you are in the same situation.

    NAS Isaiah 51:3 Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.

    NAS Hosea 2:14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness, And speak kindly to her. 15 “Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.