The Gift of Pain

 

2017-04-25 13.17.56A life without pain may mean that we have resigned to helplessness and hopelessness. A pain free life sounds great but it may be that we have grown numb or that we are self-medicating to stay numb. A pain free life may mean that we have also become numb to joy and love. In our efforts to avoid pain to try and spare ourselves from the worst, we may inadvertently choose to miss out on God’s best. Pain is a gift, but it is the gift that no one wants. We don’t want it because the problem with pain is that it cannot be switched off.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

– Romans 8:18-30 (NIV)

Pain and suffering do not surprise God, we do not need to deny them. Everyone experiences pain but that does not make our suffering trivial. Hard times connect us to the pain and suffering of all the earth. We are united in pain and connected to the groans of all creation as we all wait patiently for something better.

“Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by great suffering.” – Augustine.

Think of the most difficult and unfair experiences in this world, they are all part of life. Some of them may be a part of yours. In all of life’s struggles, hard times don’t have to be a period in your story, they can be commas. They do not have to be the end of you they can be a new beginning. Hard times are not defeat they are dependence and dependence on God can dissolve despair.

In difficult situations, we grasp on to false hope. We put our trust in solutions that overpromise and under deliver. Or worse yet, we may think that there is no need to hope, that hope is an illusion.

The hard times we may be experiencing are bad but we need not believe that there is no one to help. In hard times we need real hope and real hope says God is good and God helps. Real hope moves us from resignation to renewal.

The Apostle Paul teaches us that the hard times we experience now do not compare to what we will experience with Christ in the new heavens and new earth.

Real Hope is in Jesus. The whole world groans for him because he has promised his return. He is resurrected and followers of Christ are resurrected. Notice I said “are.” This is not just a future event. If you have faith in Christ you have resurrection today from being buried by sorrows.

We will also experience a bodily resurrection after our death.

“When there is no hope for the future there is no power for the present.” – Rick Atchley  

This is why followers of Christ are not resigned to despair. Our bodies of suffering will be made new and there will be no more suffering, no more pain, and this changes everything.

This truth is not an escapist view of life but it gives us something to grasp,  to hold on to, in the middle of hard times with the strength to make it through the onslaught of this brutal world.

How can we see God in the middle of onslaught and not just after it?

Because hard times reveal our weaknesses and the frailty of life and it’s where we can receive the greatest help from God. This is the gift of pain.

In hard times turn to Jesus.

The Spirit of God intercedes in our weaknesses, when we lack words according to God’s will. God is alongside us in our suffering and for those who trust in Christ he is also within. Why is that? Because he loves you.

By faith, God is working out good for you through the hard times. He is shaping you.

Does this mean there is a specific lesson to be learned for every heart ache, heart break, sickness, disease, divorce, death, and world tragedy?  No, that is not what I am saying nor do I believe the Bible teaches that.

What I am saying is that you can find a purpose in your suffering, that God is working out good in you. God has great plans for his people, to give us his glory. The glory given to Jesus. He started a good work in you that he will complete.

God will see your salvation through till the very end.

Pain and suffering are not foreign to God because he did not spare his Son from it. Suffering was not a period for Jesus it was a comma. Pain and suffering were not Jesus’s end. Glory was his end game.

Jesus was glorified because God was with him in his life and with him as he died. God was never far away from Jesus and he is not far from you, he is near to you in your hard times. In hard times God is good and God helps and he will see you through to glory.

There is real hope in hard times and real hope has a name. In hard times turn to Jesus.

How have you found hope in hard times?


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Jovan preaches for the Littleton Church of Christ near Denver, Colorado. Visit here to listen to sermons preached at the Littleton Church. 

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