The Purpose of Pain

I feel lead to say a few things about pain in general. I have recently been reintroduced to the idea that we have pain in our lives only because of sin and if we live a  sin free life we will live a mostly pain free life. That if you have pain in your life you need re-examine how you are living and figure out where you are sinning and repent. That pain in and of itself is God’s way of telling you your sinning and you need to change.

Although I agree that some pain does directly come from sin, for example a painful divorce can come from adultery in the marriage, you get drunk you’ll have a hang over the next day and I concur that this kind of pain should be avoided, I in no way support the idea that by living a sin free life you will live a pain free life.

I can think of many examples in the Bible where someone has gone through a painful experience at no cause of their own. I believe that pain in and itself is a tool that God uses to test and grow us. When pain, in any form, spiritual, physical or emotional, comes into your life it is God’s way of calling us to attention. His way of drawing us closer to Him so we can learn more of Him. One of my favorite quotations form C. S. Lewis is from his book the Problem with Pain,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain, it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In the old testament the story of Job greatly illustrates my point. Job’s sufferings were not caused by any sin he committed. It is made quite clear in the first chapter starting in verse 13 that Satan was allowed to test Job. Job’s cattle, children, and health was taken from him. He suffered physical pain, grief, and financial pain.  His friends came and sat with him and his friend Eliphaz the Temanite made the above argument. He says in Job 4 verse 8-9 “As I have seen those who plow wickedness and those who sow trouble and harm harvest it. By the breath of God they perish and by the blast of His anger they are consumed.” Eliphaz is convinced that Job’s suffering is brought on by a sin he has committed.

Job knows he is righteous and he has to defend himself against all three of his friends and his wife. What I find interesting is what Marlo Schalesky says about Job in her book Wrestling with Wonder. “His friends, who have sat with him silently for seven days, are eager to offer their answers. For thirty-four long chapters they attempt to explain to Job why God has done this to him. And for thirty-four long chapters, Job knows their answers are wrong…But still like so many of us, he continues to cry out various poetic versions of “Good Grief, what did I do to deserve this? God, why is this happening to me?”  Schalesky points out next that God never answers Job’s question of why. Instead He spend the next 4 chapters describing who He is. God uses Job’s pain to draw him closer and allow him to discover the type of God we serve. Has he done that in your pain?

I’ve asked why a lot in the past two years, I blamed myself until my therapist told me something as simple as a sneeze could rupture your disc if it was compounded and not treated. I have come to solution that I did everything I could to get well when my back was sore. I could not have prevented my fall that caused my compressed disc. God knew way before I was born that this was going to happen. It was written in my story.  Did I make mistakes in the mist of the accident, yes but was it caused by sin in my life. I don’t think so. Just like when my friend had numerous miscarriages I knew it was not her fault. Like when my father had cancer I didn’t blame him. Hardships and pain come for everyone.

Jesus was a sinless being and yet he experienced a great deal of pain, and I’m not talking about just the cross. We know Joseph passed away sometime in his youth. That brings grief. He spent his childhood at refugee in Egypt in hiding. That brings the uncomfortable pain of fear. He caused pain too, to his parents at age 12 when he stayed behind at the temple instead of traveling home with them. For three days Mary and  Joseph searched for Jesus. The pain and fear of loosing your child.

In her book Wrestling with Wonder Schalesky poses the question “Would Jesus, who embodies the character of God in human form, ever intentionally cause us pain?” And I ask did he shy away from pain in his own life?  Schalesky goes on to say “He told his followers they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood which distressed so many that “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” See John 6:66.  Jesus didn’t shy away from pain or stand in the way of it for others. He understood that sometimes walking through pain is what builds us up, pulls us closer to His father.

  Schaesky argues “When God causes us pain, its not an oops but rather an opportunity to encounter him more genuinely to see him for who he truly is.”

My final example is that of Paul. Paul suffered greatly once he became an apostle. Jailed, stoned, persecuted, shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake and imprisoned and he had an unknown thorn in his side. He also wrote the most profound letters about his pain. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8.

When asking God to take away the pain in his side. God never took the pain away he instead told Paul. “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Paul knew pain, and He rejoiced despite it, gladly boasted in it, and contently weathered it.  He reminds us that pain should never be a stopping point. A resting place. God has taken the uncomfortable to the devastating to and turned it into a tool that allows us to see who He is intimately.

So no blaming here. Where your pain is coming from is not really the point. Could you live a less painful life without sin, sure you could. But that is no guarantee.  If pain is fertilizer for your growth do you really want to live a life without it?  Allow the pain you feel to pull you closer to God not further away and in that pain you will discover who God really is.

 

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