No one likes pain. I mean seriously!?! This is common knowledge for the vast majority of the human race. Physical pain, emotion strife, and everything in between… no thanks! “Uh yes, I’d like a Number 1 Combo, hold the pickles, sweet tea to drink. Can I get that with an extra side of torturous pain?” We learn at a young age that pain is not fun and is to be avoided at all costs. I was the youngest of 4 boys, and much of my childhood was spent running as fast as I could from the relentless and painful love offerings of older brothers.
I’ve had my share of pain and suffering. I split open my forehead in Elementary school when I ran into another kid while playing tag. Who knew that so much blood can come from a little head wound? And there was the time the time as a nine year old in co-ed soccer when that huge girl missed the ball, kicked my hand, and broke my wrist. I remember at age 12 running in a parking lot in cleats and slip sliding my way into a ghastly leg wound from a parking space block. I will never forget getting into a head-on car collision my senior year of college or even the time sitting by my father’s hospital bed as I watched him breathe his last breath in this life. Honestly, I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Trials and pain are a part of life for all of us.
But how do we reconcile this in light of a gracious, loving, and all-powerful God? For many people opposed to the good news of Jesus, the existence of evil and the closely connected “pain/suffering” card is the number one reason for rejecting the Christian faith.
Over the last month+, my small group at church has been diving deep into the subject of suffering. Beyond sharing some of our own experiences on the subject, we have looked into the heart of the Scriptures to see what God had to say about this. I have some random thoughts about pain and suffering that I think are worthy of sharing.
One of the Bible study commentaries I read shared some of the obvious sources for our pain and suffering. In most cases, one of the following situations is the root cause:
- Living in a fallen world – a direct result of the Fall and its impact upon nature and humanity.
- Broken & sinful people – sinful people making sinful choices that directly impact our lives. This is definitely an example of pain and suffering fostering more pain and suffering in a vicious cycle.
- Our own sin / poor choices – sometimes its simply a situation of dealing with the consequences of poor and unwise choices. Most of the time we reap what we sow.
- God’s refinement or correction – this, for believers, is sometimes the case when our heavenly Father is disciplining His children with some tough love.
Whatever the source for a specific experience of suffering or trial, each of us has to reconcile the simple fact that (1) God has allowed us to go through the difficult situation and also that (2) God will most certainly use it for our sanctification and for His glory.
You can react to suffering, trials, and personal difficulties in one of two ways…
Option 1: You can rely on your own strength and abilities to grit it out attempting to persevere whatever you may be experiencing. For the sake of precious word space in this blog, I’ll spare you the details of the road this option will lead you down. Doing life in your own strength is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting as it is the sinful and unwise path full of continued pain, folly and personal destruction.
Option 2: you can lean in to God’s grace, presence, peace and power trusting in Him to see you through the storm. Clearly for the person who claims to be a Christ follower, this is the only way to go. This is the path of LIFE no matter what the circumstances are you may be experiencing. If you choose this path of faith and dependence upon the Lord, even in the greatest of tragedies and suffering, here are a handful of Scripture verses to consider before I share some final thoughts:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. ~ Romans 5:3, 4
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ~ Romans 8:18
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:4-7
Here are some concluding thoughts:
- God knows what it is like to suffer.
- Look no further than the persecution and death of Jesus Christ. We can and should draw comfort from this very fact.
- God is with you in the storm.
- God’s presence is a game changer for persevering difficult situations and also determining personal identity.
- God gives us the Holy Spirit as our paraclete (one called beside us) to comfort and lead us.
- God can and does work good from any situation. Specifically, God uses suffering for:
- Maturity –> this is the process of sanctification… God growing us in maturity to look more and more like Jesus. There is power and value in perseverance as it build Godly character in us and fills us with hope along the journey.
- Ministry –> out of the comfort we receive in Jesus Christ (out of the overflow), we also comfort others in need of the Lord’s comfort. Suffering can be one of the greatest tools for ministering to others and also for personal evangelism. Your faith in the Lord and His ministry to you in the midst of suffering is a powerful witness.
- Overall, every moment of life – good or bad – is an opportunity to give glory to the Lord.
This life is full of hardship and suffering. Only through a relationship with Jesus Christ can you experience ultimate joy and hope in the face of the greatest of human tragedy. Don’t give up –> remember that God is faithful and true!
Yours in Christ,