Pain is an Opportunity
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
Pain is the bane of human existence. Its very presence can completely reverse the joys of life, quickly changing your outlook from delight to misery. Just think of the many things in life which bring joy and laughter to body and soul; then, add pain, and suddenly, what once was satisfying no longer is. Even death becomes preferable to unrelenting pain, whether physical or emotional. Hence, the prevalence of depression and suicide; or Job’s anguished request for God to crush the life left in him; or even more, the cry that it would have been far better if he had never been born. There is nothing that lays one so low as pain in the body or misery in the heart.
The last few days I have witnessed severe physical pain in my wife as she recovers from major back surgery. We both have spent countless hours beside beds and in hospitals with spouses who eventually died of disease after experiencing excruciating pain throughout their illness. I have borne the emotional pain of a parent in the death of a child and in war the death of men I led into battle. We all are familiar with pain in body and in soul, some more severe and unrelenting than others, but, nevertheless, pain!
God’s Word is not reticent in warning us of pain in this life. It says it is not only normal, but expected. There are few days that pass without some form of pain. Peter tells us not to be surprised when “we experience painful trials, as though such suffering is strange.” Instead, he says, we are to “rejoice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (I Peter 4:12)
Now you may consider such Scripture references as referring solely to the pain received when specifically doing something to proclaim the gospel, or verbally standing up for Christ and for truth in the public arena; the pain of persecution from skeptics or enemies of God. So you may tend to dismiss any correlation when you bang your thumb with a hammer, stub your toe, break a leg, or suffer a periodic headache, or even a more severe migraine. You may think that suffering the painful ravages of cancer endemic to your family or any other sickness is not really applicable to the concept of “suffering with or for Christ.”
Such thinking is wrongheaded! Peter writes in I Peter 4:1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude.” This refers to pain in Jesus’ body, whether the terrible agony of the cross or the weariness of walking along a Galilean road. You are doing something that displays who Christ is to you and in you by your response to a sliver in your finger. Because of His world-view of the present and His expectation of the future, what was His attitude, His visible and internal response to pain? You are a witness of His glory as you lay suffering pain in a hospital bed, or experience a painful accident before a watching world, even when your watching world may be but a few family members and some medical personnel. The presence of pain provides opportunity for the stretching of faith, the crucible of developing character, the earnestness of discipline.
When pain strikes it is difficult to think of anything else, but may I suggest thinking of these four truths: (1) Jesus is your colleague in pain, every pain (Hebrews 4:15); (2) Your present pain is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in you (Romans 8:18); (3) Every instance of pain, even private, is an opportunity for witness of who you really are (Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 12:1). (4) Use every incident of pain to remember the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
“Abba Father, I know my pain can make or break me. Use it to conform me to Him who suffered that I may one day be free from all pain.”
by Stephen Leonard