Purposeful Pain

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My 2015, ended with a crash. Life came tumbling down around me. Everything I thought was true, wasn’t. My world turned upside down and inside out. I was walking around in a daze – when I could walk. Mostly I was being led, led by the hand of God in a painful experience that He hasn’t quite carried me through; I’m still in it.  And, following God while you’re in a painful experience is much trickier than when you are around a painful experience or finished with a painful experience.

As someone who often listens to the spiritual challenges of others, I know a lot about being around pain. But being in pain is very different. The way I pray when your child is ill, is very different from the way I pray when my child is ill. My talks with God have a greater sense of urgency when I’m without work than when you’ve lost your job. It’s easy for me to spew platitudes about “trusting God,” and “waiting on God,” and “God will make a way” when you’re the one in the fiery furnace. It’s a whole different story when I’m feeling the heat and my hands are tied and I’m totally not in control of anything in my life. That’s painful and what was shocking for me to learn is pain is normal and I’m to expect it to be part of my life.

That’s what this counseling guy told me. Most Christians, he said, believe that the abundant life is a pain-free life. We live as if we have some spiritual right to be pain-free. But pain, he said, is normal, unavoidable, and it’s actually needed. He took me to John 16:33, and these words of Christ, “In this world you will have trouble (pain), but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world and its pain.” How did Jesus get the right to say that? That right came because he didn’t run from his pain (he didn’t jump off the cross), or fight against his pain (he could have ordered angels to fight for him). Instead, he followed his pain all the way through death to resurrection.

Yes, painful experiences often make you feel as if you want to die, but that thought has to be reframed. Pain must be seen as the opportunity it is… an opportunity to know God like never before. Now if knowing God more deeply and intimately is not the goal of your life, you can stop reading here. Thanks for staying with me for 425 words. But if you really want to know God, yourself and even other people on more than a superficial level, you’re going to have to persevere in the pain until you get through the pain, or maybe even never get through it. Sit with that thought for a while. That’s the purpose of the pain. It makes us make a choice. Do we really want Jesus more than silver or gold or happiness or financial stability or a host of other things that we normally equate with the abundant life? Or are we willing to experience the miraculous abundance that comes from knowing and trusting God in the midst of our pain?

Pain has brought me to a decision that has the ability to change to legacy of my life. Will I fight my pain, run from it or like the three Hebrew boys, will I stay in a painful situation until others don’t just see me, but they also see Who is in the furnace with me? I’m sitting with that thought. Perhaps, like those wise young men, I’ll receive the gift of knowing that my pain is just a miracle in the making.

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