Pain. Everyone feels it. Well, I guess unless you’re someone who has been diagnosed with congenital analgesia, a condition I learned that prevents you from feeling physical pain. But, I’m guessing you don’t have that, as Google informed me there has only been 20 reported cases.
But, to be technically correct, let me start over. Pain. Most everyone feels it.
But why? What is on the other side of pain? Initially, it may be more pain, as sometimes life just has a way of just piling on. But, once it’s all said and done, after the pain we usually have the wherewithal to see the reason, the purpose, for why our journey included such hurt, agony, discomfort, grief, heartbreak, torture, or distress. Whatever the term, I think we can all agree, that what we endured…sucked. Plain and simple.
If we take the time to reflect on our past painful experiences, we realize the lesson or outcome that resulted was worth it, and not only was it worth it, but we prevailed because it led to some form of growth, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. And, if we’re honest in our reflection, we recognize that we came out on the other side stronger, better, wiser; a nice parallel to the bible when Paul reminds us,
…that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.Romans 5:4-5, NIV
Although childbirth is ‘an’ example of pain leading to goodness, expectations are somewhat managed because we know in advance it’ll be a challenging nine months, followed by some excruciating pain (that only a woman can handle, I might add). But, because we know the pain will lead to a beautiful, miraculous bundle, we sign ourselves up. Braces are yet another example, albeit maybe a weak one too, but we know that the physical pain of moving our teeth with brackets and wires (and even the emotional pain of looking less than our best!) will result in a glamorous smile. Yes – sign me up!
But what if it’s not that straightforward and we have no assurances of what life will be like on the other side?
Take losing a job for instance. If you’ve ever been fired or laid off, you likely didn’t see it coming. Receiving the news from your boss probably led to devastation and panic, maybe even a little bit of begging. How will you pay your bills? What will you tell your family? You’ve always heard that the best time to find a job is when you have one, and now that you don’t have one, now what? God, why?
What about the emotional pain of financial uncertainty? Debt. Foreclosure. Unrelenting creditors. Shame. You’re in a constant state of robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak; analyzing how to take the little resources you do have and spread them across all your existing balances to show good faith you’re trying. When will it end? And forget overflowing, but will your pockets ever have enough? God, why?
Then what about losing a loved one? A spouse, parent, grandparent, child, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend. Whether you had weeks to prepare or no warning at all, the situation is painful. And no matter how you slice and dice it, rationalizing through the loss of someone near and dear to your heart is seemingly impossible. What purpose could your dad dying or spouse leaving possibly serve in your life? God, why?
Although I wish I could, I can’t shed light onto God’s “because.” I don’t know with certainty and specificity why God didn’t shield you, save you, or divert you; why He didn’t continue to provide you the life of comfort you had been enjoying. Even if there may be things you can glean from my journey (and me from yours), the lessons won’t be replicas.
Instead let’s look at scripture to see what the bible promises. To start, it’s riddled with characters who not only experienced pain, but endured it for years. We learn about a woman who was bleeding for 12 years, a man that was blind from birth, and men who were wrongfully imprisoned. In each story, God didn’t prevent the suffering in their life, but rather He used their suffering as teaching moments for them and those around them. In nearly all instances, it was their faith that allowed them to grip onto hope that life would someday improve again. That very hope is what got them through, and helped them endure.
I think we can agree that during the pain, our vision is clouded and we cannot fathom any goodness resulting. But after the pain, the clouds break away and everything makes sense. It’s so easy to see the lessons from the scriptures appear in our own life…after the fact. With a clear mind and stable conditions, we recognize that the depths of our suffering was a prelude to the magnitude of goodness that followed.
So although we may not see the glory in the midst of our current trials, let’s recount our previous sufferings, coupled with the experiences from the characters in the bible (like John the Baptist, Simon Peter, and the father of a sick boy, just to name a few), to KNOW that Jesus “will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born” (Isaiah 66:9, NCV).
Let us rest in the fact that good is ahead. While waiting, let God do His work in you and for you. Prepare your heart and soul and hold onto the hope that He will come to the rescue. And when you come out on the other side, “strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32) so that just like Jesus helped you through your trial, you can help them overcome theirs.