“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
– James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States
We have heard the Bible quote and read the verse where Jesus says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8 :32 KJV) and it’s the tail end, “the truth shall set you free”, that is quoted the most. From the sincere and sobering speeches of Martin Luther Kings Jr. to the hysterical Jim Carey in the movie Liar Liar, this quote is so widely known that you’d have to be living under a rock on Mars to not have heard it.
However popular the quote, I have only recently heard this version of it from President Garfield which adds the idea that first it will make you miserable. So there are two sides to the liberating truth: first it makes you miserable, second it makes you free. I am sure that when Garfield said it he wasn’t making a theological statement, however, there is an underlying spiritual truth to this quote.
Let’s first look at what that truth is that will set you free. And if it does set you free, what is it setting you free from? The answer to that question is the key to why the truth first makes you miserable.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed’.” – John 8:31-36 King James Version
In the Bible, Jesus teaches us that before the truth can make you free that you will need to know it. And the way to know it is to believe on Him, become His disciple and continue in His word. Do this and you will be free from the bondage of sin, or in other words, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
This is where the “first makes you miserable” part comes in. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God: we are fallen beings in the bondage of sin, and without the grace of God destined to condemnation and eternal damnation. This is the truth, part of the truth in the Word of God. Coming to faith in Christ means that we must face and accept this truth. For the real seeker of truth, and those who are open to the Word of God, this truth will make you miserable.
So the truth will first make you miserable when you know and accept the plight of our sinful nature, however, once you believe in Christ, become a disciple, and continue in His word, then the bands of sin and the chains of hell are broken. Yes, the truth shall make you free and you shall be free indeed.
What do you think?