Ed and Lisa YoungBy Ed and Lisa Young4 Minutes

One morning, my friend and I (Ed) launched a boat out onto a beautiful, dark lake. The water was coffee black, and lily pads and moss floated on the surface. As we motored across the water, we noticed some crazy creatures on the banks—water moccasins, nutria, alligators, and snapping turtles. We were so distracted by looking at everything on the shore that we missed a hazard right in front of us. Wham! We hit something beneath the boat. In a swampy body of water, hitting something is not uncommon, but this something felt substantial.

“We’ll keep going,” I thought. But we didn’t. When I looked around the boat, I saw nothing but the seemingly bottomless muck that surrounded us. We rocked the vessel back and forth, but nothing happened. We paddled, but nothing happened. We cranked up the motor, but nothing happened.

“Oh no,” I thought. And I probably said this part out loud: “We’re really stuck!”

Outwardly, I acted like it was no big deal. But inwardly, I shuddered because I knew what I had to do next. I curled my toes over the transom of the boat and jumped in. I swam beneath the hull, feeling around with my hands for what was messing with us, which was slightly terrifying. What if it was a massive alligator? But I had to keep going; I had to figure out why we were stuck if we wanted to get unstuck.

Finally, my hand brushed against something solid with a rough exterior. Bubbles floated to the surface as I groaned. Our problem was big. Massive, actually. It was a big, ol’ tree stump that had literally impaled our boat—we were a floating shish kebab. The stump had penetrated the boat’s fiberglass exterior through to the Styrofoam insulation, so the more we rocked the boat, the more we bored a deep hole into the hull. If we had continued rocking the boat, we would have sunk.

It was a harrowing experience, but also a vivid analogy of what it’s like when we get stuck in the dark and murky waters of pain. We do what we can to free ourselves, but we’re not getting anywhere. Something beneath the surface keeps us from moving forward. We’ve hit a stump. And while a stump might take any number of forms in our lives, one stump often underlies them all—the stump of pride.

While much of the emotional turmoil and hurt we experience comes from painful circumstances that happened to us, sometimes our pain is caused by us. We suffer because of decisions we’ve made. It takes courage to admit that and to own our regrettable behavior and poor choices. Even if our decisions were understandable at the time, that doesn’t make them acceptable. But no matter what we’ve done, we can rely on this promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).

If your pain is a result of your own decisions, know that your suffering is not punishment from God. It is simply the natural consequence of going your own way. God forgives you. But, like a good parent, He loves you enough to allow you to experience the consequences of your decisions. This is how all of us learn and grow.