A Bad Taste

I am having some medical tests, and my normally prolific staff of writers has badly failed me, so here is one from the archives – published at my personal site “Word Processing” about a hundred years ago. Today, it meets a need for me, if no one else gets anything from it. 

I sucked my thumb. There, I said it. My deep, dark secret is now out. I loved that thumb. It gave me security and pleasure. But my mother had a different opinion. She knew that my thumb-sucking needed to stop. So, she put “Thum” on my thumb. Thum tasted bad. Really bad. It wasn’t poison, but it tasted like it. Every time that thumb went into my mouth, the bitter taste of Thum ruined the experience for me. The pleasure gone, I stopped sucking my thumb.

“Do not love the world, or anything in the world.” John, in his first epistle, gave us this command. We are not to love this world, or the things this world offers. Jesus said we could only have one master, and we must choose between God and Money. We are to love God with all our heart and not devote ourselves to the things of this world.

But, to be honest, I like this world. Sure, turmoil and evil abound; hardships come. But I have a wonderful family, a great job, a nice house; I have a great life. I have never had to miss a meal (it shows). I am healthy. For someone like me, like most Americans, it is hard not to love the world.

But then, trouble arises. Years ago I was going through some very dark times. I was discouraged, even depressed. Some Saturdays I would read the local paper trying to figure out what I could do to feed my family if I gave up this whole preaching gig. The world was much less appealing. The fun was gone.

It was during that time that I found myself longing for heaven. It is not that I was considering ending my life, but when all the joy was gone from this world I found myself longing to see Jesus and rest from my troubles. Scripture sets out so many purposes that suffering and hardships have in our lives. Could it be that suffering acts as God’s “Thum” to break us of our love of this world and the things that are in the world?

Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

The redeemed have a glorious future awaiting, so glorious that it makes the worst of our suffering seem inconsequential. It is when our suffering on earth magnifies that we begin to contemplate the glories that await us.

God gains no pleasure from inflicting pain on his children, but is willing to allow suffering in our lives to accomplish his sovereign redemptive purpose. We seldom know for certain why God allows any particular trial to come our way. But maybe, sometimes, the pain comes so that we will remember the words of the old song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.”

Jesus went to cross to “prepare a place” for us in heaven. One day he will come to complete his redemption and bring us to our eternal home – the place he prepared for us. Here and now, you are citizens of the Kingdom of God and Ambassadors of Christ in this world.

Don’t let the good life you enjoy by God’s grace seduce you into forgetting your real home.


  1. Dave Miller says

    James, I sometimes think wistfully of those days when I wrote at WORD Processing. Almost no one read it. Almost no one ever got offended at me. It was mostly devotional.

    • dr. james willingham says

      Dear David: The reason why they did not get offended at WORD Processing and the devotionals is, perhaps, because you were writing where you and they and every one of us lives. The Bible says, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks that fly upward.” I don’t recall the reference, and I have yet to find my Strong’s Concordance, but the thought of sparks flying upward is kind of suggestive I think. Our troubles can take us “upward,” indeed, they will, if the Lord Jesus rules in our lives.

      Having him rule, however, reminds me of a preacher visiting a mission field, where his missionary escort and pilot had to fly the small plane out short runways. Nearing the end of the tour, the plane had to fly out of an exceedingly short runway, a mere path wide enough for a plane in the jungle. The plane was heavily loaded, when the pilot began to accelerate. As the preacher watched the trees at the end of the runway draw nearer and nearer, he could finally stand it no more and reached out and yanked the controls back. The plane crashed. By the grace of God no one was hurt. The pilot was very upset. He said, “Why did you do that? I knew how much speed we would need, when to pull back on the controls, to get enough lift to clear those trees. Pulling back the controls too early meant that we would crash.”

      It is difficult to let someone else run in your life. Like that preacher, we see the problem coming at us and we reach out to grab the controls, because we think the pilot is not going to respond in time. However, he knows what he is doing. I speak, of course, of our Heavenly Pilot, the Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. dr. james willingham says

    Yes, I think God allows “thum” to enter our lives. In fact, some of us (namely, me) are kind of dense, so He allows a generous helping of “thum” to get on our thumbs, er- enter our lives. Just this past Dec. 29, 2013, we celebrated the 17th anniversary of being fired from our last church. As the Moderator of the business meeting that Sunday Morning (held after they had sung Happy Birthday to me (my birthday was the next day, and their practice was to sing Happy Birthday for all with birthdays in new week)) said to me, “Well, we couldn’t find anything wrong with you, but we fired you anyway.” The vote was, supposedly, unanimous. However, an elderly lady asked my wife what unanimous meant. Upon being told that it meant every one voted to fire the pastor, she replied, “But I voted to keep my pastor.” Seems that they used a little known political trick of putting a positive for a negative and vice versa (mostly vice I suppose). For the pastor to go vote yes, for the pastor to stay vote no. Ain’t no way one can win against odds like that. Besides they could count like they wanted, since no one was there to observe the fairness of the count.

    Think of it: seventeen years without a church or a full time job. But we survived and God provided for our needs. Praise His holy name, though I have to confess to my shame that I felt a lot of anger and bitterness. However, such has been the story of my life. A broken home and the loss of both parents due to divorce in my third year. Counting the move to live with our maternal grandparents, my sister and I moved five times in 11 years. Even so we did spend 8 years on one sharecropping farm.

    I could continue, but the point is the “thum” does have a tendency to wean away from the world. It is mind-boggling to think how difficult it must be for someone who has had practically unbroken record of prosperity and success, of smoothness and freedom from trouble, to suddenly encounter poverty, failure, the jolts of a corrugated, bumpy gravel and dirt road, and the trials of losses, defeats, miseries, and sufferings. God grant that His children do not need such painful difficulties to wean themselves away from this world.

    Our best response, one that surely we have to deliberately choose, would be that of Job, 13:10, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:….”

  3. Christiane says

    “As soon as I lie down,
    I fall peacefully asleep.
    For You alone, O Lord,
    bring security to my dwelling”

    (from Psalm 4)

    sorry to hear about your medical troubles, DAVID . . . take one day at a time and find your rest in the peace of Christ in the midst of all earthly problems . . .
    prayers that you will be well are being said,
    and in the interim, do not be troubled or anxious . . . try to rest in Him now