Burning on the Inside

Burning on the Inside

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Thanks to an autoimmune disease, I had an organ within my body constantly described as “friable” when I had cancer screening. Used in a medical context, friable means the tissue was easily irritated, making it more prone to inflammation. Perhaps you can deduce from the word “inflammation” its origin from a word denoting flames. Indeed, the Latin root for “inflame” is inflammare or “into flame.” Hence, a description of my organ’s tissue as something having the appearance of being burned with fire! Even now, I combat inflammation. In some respects, then, I am a man burning from within.

Obviously, that’s not good. I’ve sought to proactively do things to quell this inflammation within. I cut out sugar and reduced my carbohydrate intake. I’ve tried to keep myself stress-free. I have avoided the types of pollutants reported to cause inflammation. Even so, I’m still a man burning on the inside. As it turns out, sometimes current medical science just cannot figure out, in certain cases, why inflammation occurs.

This truth has caused some to look to unlikely places for the answers. For example, I’ve known some who looked to questionable sources of wisdom, such as the stars. One new-age acquaintance announced to me my problem stemmed from self-denial. Evidently, I’m not true to my fiery Moon sign but obey the urgings of my watery Sun sign. In other words, I quell my spirit.

Obviously, that’s not true. Firstly, self-denial is essential to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ (Luke 9.23). We give God’s Kingdom and Righteousness primacy in our lives (Matthew 6.33). Being “true to myself” would mean giving in to my lusts and becoming a friend of the world (1 John 2.15-17).

Secondly, as Cassius told Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.” In other words, Cassius was telling Brutus that the stars destined nothing. All they needed to do was to decide not to follow Caesar. Through their strength of will, they could overcome him. Whether or not someone says the stars say this or not, that’s not why the inflammation within burns.

Recently, though, I stumbled across something of interest that you might find beneficial as well. It’s possible for shame to cause inflammation since it causes the body to release cytokines. 1 Researchers at UCLA detected these cytokines in a blood test after the subjects related a shameful experience. 2 Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. maintains a difference exists between guilt and shame in that the former relates to others while shame relates to self. 3 In other words, with guilt, you recognize you’ve done wrong, perhaps injuring another. With shame, though, you feel distressed because you’re conscious of what you’ve done.

Shame is what Father Adam and Mother Eve felt when the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil opened their eyes. Yes, they recognized their guilt, but shame led them to hide from God, something impossible to do. Despite its negative implication, however, shame can elicit the godly sorrow Paul states leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7.10-12).

Now, I’m not saying that if you burn from within as I do, that you’re needing to repent of some sin causing you shame. However, I do want you to realize that when you try to live with the shame of sin, you do more harm to yourself than you realize. Most importantly, you jeopardize your soul. Consequently, though, you may set yourself on fire within and sicken yourself by doing nothing to properly rid yourself of the shame that should help repentance.

I close with the words of John: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” (1 John 2.28 NASB).

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