We all go through many types of pain in our lives. So often we get the idea that pain is bad and should be avoided or healed quickly. What does the Bible say about pain, and our response to it in our lives? Let us take a quick look.
First, let me list a few types of pain we go through. This list is not comprehensive as I am likely to miss one or two. Pain comes in physical means like injuries, disease, or pressure. It also comes in emotional or mental means such as stress, loss of a loved one, depression, frustrations, worry, and social or peer pressures. Finally, it comes to our spirit by means of conviction, hardening of the heart, consequences for sin, and God trying to get your attention.
Our typical responses include crying, lashing back, grimacing, running to the doctor, depression, holding it in, giving in, anger, holding a grudge, blaming, gossiping, whining, complaining, denial, and many others. Notice that none of these reduce or get rid of the pain, except for maybe the doctor. In fact, many of these actually increase the pain, add to the pain, or bring about other ‘pains’ and discomfort.
One of the greatest examples of someone who dealt with pain was Jesus Christ, but so often we shy away from His example because He was/is perfect. We know we should follow His example, yet are intimidated by what He went through and how He dealt with it. So, we turn to human examples. Thankfully, the Bible is full of those. One of the prime examples is the story of a man named Job from the land of Uz. If you have not heard or read his story, look it up!
Peter Scazzero, in his book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” says ‘There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality. In fact, the true spiritual life is not an escape from reality, but an absolute commitment to it. Loss marks the place where self-knowledge and powerful transformation happen.’ (p117) When we recognize and acknowledge that pain is a part of life, then we can come to the Biblical conclusion that pain is not bad! This is very counter-cultural, so it is hard to grasp this concept. There are times when pain is avoidable, such as resisting temptation and thus avoiding the consequences of sin. Yet, there will always be pain in our lives, so we need to learn what good God wants for us through that pain.
1. Humility Pain keeps us humble. Without painful reminders of our humanity, we would become distracted and live life without God, thinking that we can do it all alone. When we surrender to God and recognize our limitations, it helps us to depend on Him as we should. In order to learn this lesson, we must learn to submit to God daily, and recognize the source of the pain in your life. Sometimes that pain is there because of pride sneaking in.
2. Direction I could also put the term redirection here. Pain is often God’s way of closing a door so that you are directed to where He wants you. In order to learn this lesson, you must stop trying to open a closed door, but prayerfully seek where God wants you to go, and what God wants you to do.
3. Strength Working out causes pain, yet we do not complain ... because that pain strengthens our physical muscles. Similarly, pain in our spiritual lives can strengthen our faith muscles if we let it. We often grieve what we cannot do. This ties back in with humility, and recognizing our dependence on God. It also helps us gain strength in relying on Him through the Holy Spirit in us. As we rely on Him in submission, we are strengthened in our faith.
4. Knowledge You do not learn when times are good and you are comfortable. You learn in trials, testing, and pain. You learn about yourself and your limitations, and more importantly, you can learn about God and His character. Despite the fact that God did not answer Job’s question about why, the experience strengthened Job’s faith because He got to know God through it, trusting Him. Job also learned that pain does not always come because of something you have done.
5. Patience We have trouble waiting for God’s timing! I will do another blog on this, but suffice it to say that waiting on God patiently develops Godly character in us. His timing is always right ... and last minute in our perspective. Learn to trust God to care for you and to end the lesson at the right time.
The big thing that we should all learn here is to be real. Do not pretend that you have no pain, and do not hide from, avoid, or decry the pain in your life. Be honest, and wear your heart on your sleeve. Embrace the lessons that pain is there to teach you. Be open about your dependence on God ... and the joy that it brings! Also embrace your limitations and weaknesses, remembering that they are there for your benefit. In God’s good time you will be blessed, replacing the old with the new. Remember Job.