The Purpose Of Life: Essays On The Complexity Of The Simplicity Of It All
Purpose of Pain and Evil: In Search of a Truth to Trust in
One of the first steps to understanding purpose is to realize the reality of pain and evil and then to assuage this to the purpose in life. Only then will we have the hope to persevere through these present trials.
“And what does the religion that gave us the crusades and the Spanish inquisition have to say about pain?” Well, let me tell you a little about pain first.
In the century just past, the emergence of a theory called Evolution (personally, I like the calling card – evilution) gave science and man a logical alternative to Christianity, freeing them from both troublesome morals and religious mores. Unfortunately, the last century has shown that by the shedding of more innocent blood than the world has ever seen. Now the hot shots will tell you that this century has not seen any more bloodshed than any other century….statistically. Seeing that there are more people living now than any other century… there hasn’t really been more bloodshed, there’s just more people. That sounds just a little illogical to me….more people….less bloodshed statistically? They’ve made the death count a statistic! More people killed is still a number. And the number count for this century is much higher than any other. By far. We all know of Hitler. Not even Napoleon in his day was as infamous as Hitler is to our day. Not even the Huns can account for the bloodshed Hitler has. With or without the statistics. What we don’t know (or most of us don’t) is that Stalin killed more of his own people than Hitler did all together. Mao Zedong of China (for those who have never heard of him – the communist) killed more people than Stalin, and a forgotten “heroine” by the name of Margaret Sanger with her organization Planned Parenthood is in a large part responsible for more deaths of unborn babies than Stalin and Hitler put together! All these deaths - fruit of survival of the fittest philosophy. But these were not the only pain found this last century: The world had it’s two wars, America had it’s Korea, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Red Scares, Gulf War, Epidemic of School Shootings, 9/11, War on Terror; Russia had it’s Revolutions, Gulags, Uprising, War in Iraq, Break-up and Ethnic Wars; Europe had their land and economy devastated by the two world wars, the Iron Curtain, the Balkan Crisis’; South America had a mesh of lawlessness and terror while Africa had more of the same with the added problems of AIDS and Genocides; The Middle East had it’s wars with Israel and the West, Terrorism, Genocides, and Ethnic Conflicts. Did I leave anything out? Oh, yes, quite a bit actually. All of that was just the tip of the Iceberg. There is much much left out and I generalized much of it for a reason…
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”
~ John Adams, a Founding Father and the Second President of the United States of America
Now hold on for a second; many people point at Christians for the pain they have done over the ages. There has been much done “in the name of Jesus” much much good. (We never hear of them…) and there was much said in the name of politics thrown into confusion with religion. That was what the Crusades were. It Was Political. True, they called it a war between Christendom and the Muslims, but back then, all of Europe Was Christendom. Yes, the Pope and other religious figures condoned it. But think about it, who had the Holy land in the first place? Who did the Muslims get it from? The Byzantines. And who were the Byzantines? Left over of the Roman Empire! They were Christians! Not only was it political, but it was a war to take back what had been there’s for hundreds of years! …. But let’s not squabble like children…. And what about the Spanish Inquisition? Yes it was wrong, but it was also political. It was governed by the State, not Christianity. And it was right after over a century of war with the Moors, trying to get them out of their country. They knew no other life. Most definitely doesn’t make it right, but can you really blame Jesus for that? Lot of mistakes, but was it Christianity that created the mistakes, or was it the people? What does the Religion of Christianity actually say? And what would have happen if all those people of history actually lived out what the Bible actually said? How different our history would have been? And that ought to bring us to what the Bible actually says about pain and evil…
Here is the real paradox, forgive the grammar: either God exists, or He don’t. If He doesn’t exist, then there is no purpose in life, no morals, and no values except pure instinct. But if God does exist, then how could He allow such evil and horror to exist?
In a theological standpoint, this contradiction runs something like this: If God is good, and God is all-powerful, why is there pain in the world?
A simple, more common form of this argument is: If God is good, He would want me to be happy and if He is all-powerful, He would be able to make that happen. It hasn’t happened.
There are six solutions people usually come to when answering this paradox
1) There must be no God
2) There must be no real suffering
3) God must be beyond good and evil
4) He must not be all-powerful
5) He must have created evil to achieve a greater good
6) He must not be good
1) There must be no God – This option usurps the question and flat out denies the existence of the question. But with this belief crops up other questions: If there is no God, where does our purpose come from, besides pure instinct (survival) which is not really a purpose….but an instinct. If there is no God, where does your sense of morality come from? If there is no God, by definition you cannot say that anything I have mentioned in the list above of all the death and war of this last century is evil. You cannot say it was bad. You cannot say it was wrong. Without God, where does your sense of logic come from? Where does your sense of reasoning come from? You can think about thinking! How can pure chance dream that up? Without God, is there any absolutes? And if there are no absolutes, how can you cope with the consequences of that philosophy? As C. S. Lewis says, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line….. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”
2) There must be no real suffering – New Age gurus and other “free thinkers” may claim this one. It comes from a philosophy that this physical world is an illusion. Thus the purpose is to realize the truth outside of this illusion, and pain is part of this illusion. So it must not exist. It is a figment of your over-reactive mind. I will cover the New Age in a separate essay, but to say a bit, this philosophy runs into the same problem as the first option. There is no standard of truth. It’s like answering a man who asks whether this apple is ripe or not by replying that there is no apple.
3) God must be beyond good and evil – The problem with this is that it claims God is both good and evil. It is a dichotomy that cannot and should not be disrupted. It is unnatural. God is all-powerful, but he does not work contrary to His nature, and we can know that He has a nature from God’s word which says that man was made in the image of God. You cannot ask God to create a straight curve, or a round square, or a married bachelor. It is contrary to the definition. You cannot ask what the square root of purple is or what number a banana is. It is illogical gibberish. From this line of thinking you must ask; why is what we call good actually good? If indeed it is good, where did it come from? Why did God create it the way He did? Answer? It accorded to His nature and it’s something we cannot understand, but to say God is “above” morality would be to say he is above himself. The philosophy also leads to a conclusion – that God is above good and evil, meaning He could care less about rewarding good and punishing evil, meaning there must not be any consequences for our good/evil actions, meaning there is no morality. (are you seeing a theme here?)
4) He must not be all-powerful – He wants to do something about the evil in the world, but He can’t. He is love, but he is incapable. If that is so, does that not connotate that evil has won? That Satan bests God? Or that we can defeat God by defying His will? How could He create us and yet be incapable of control of His creation? To say God is not all-powerful is to say He is indeed not a God at all.
5) He must have created evil to achieve a greater good – Simply think through the implications of saying evil exists to create a better good. To believe that this is the purpose of evil is to say that two wrongs make a right. It doesn’t. Now God can use the bad to create good, but to say He created evil to accentuate the good gets too dangerously close to saying that God is not all-powerful because He would have to use evil to create a “greater good”, as if good wasn’t good enough….. It also borders on claiming God is above morality since it condones both good and evil.
6) He must not be good – As all those we have looked at so far, this is also a non-option. To even claim morality of any kind is to claim an absolute. Morality is not and can not be subjective – by definition – otherwise it becomes purely preferential – an opinion, not a moral fact. Good and evil are moral Truths. A man’s belief in them is inconsequential to the Truth. One may not be certain of the Truth, but by definition, Truth must be absolute. Then the question of origin crops up, where do we get this moral standard? It cannot come from ourselves, for we are never and never will be in accord to the gray areas. It must come from outside of us, not only that but where ever it comes from, it must come from knowledge of the absolute Truth of reality. This connotates and demands a creator. It demands God’s existence. But to say God is not good is to say He is a non-entity. If morality comes from God, how can we claim Him to be evil? He defines Good and Evil, and we are created in His image, meaning we realize what is good and bad. The difference is we are not perfect, we have a sinful nature in which it is possible to seer your conscience (conscience – a convenient phrase to describe the innate limited knowledge of good and evil universal man seems to have).
In closing, God defines goodness. And so, I have shown here that in this sense, the world has no answer to this question: The Atheist says “So what?” the New Agers say “What pain?” and the others say “It’s inevitable. Deal with it.” Just ask an officer in the midst of war, he’ll tell you “So what” ! Just ask a cancer victim on his death bed, he’ll tell you “What pain” ! Ask a rape victim, and she’ll tell you how “It’s inevitable” ! A man who believes these things may have good intentions, and I by no means am hassling them or calling them uncaring bigots, but when those erroneous ideals are transposed into everyday life, this is what it looks like: Stillborn baby? ……So what? You may not ever want to be that cold-hearted, but that is what you are saying when you believe any one of those six philosophies discounted above.
“Since you have destroyed all hope of an answer to the question, now what?” Now the hope. “Hope? What hope?” Well, let’s go back to the original question. If God is good and all-powerful, why is there pain in the world? There are five assumptions made by this statement that are essential to realize.
1) God exists. That is an obvious stipulation of the question; and it is to remain a fact that I will continue to assume for now.
2) God is good and all-powerful. Okay, we can work with that. It is not only assumed, but stated.
3) God must be directly involved within this world. It assumes God can do something about the pain in the world, and thus interactive with His creation. Good so far?
4) It assumes we know what good is. It states that God is good and yet there is pain in the world. Meaning this is contradictory according to our definition of what good is and what pain is (evil). Don’t take this too generally, there is pain that is evil, but to say that all pain is evil…..that is a dangerous statement. Just ask an analgesia victim if all pain is evil! Then, of course, do we actually know what is good? Can we honestly say we know the absolute good to the extent of taking care of our own bodies, no less the world? Can we honestly claim knowledge in what is good? To a certain extent, yes. To a sufficient extent? No. Saying a tragedy is bad is simple and rightfully so, but to say it shouldn’t have happened…….Can we claim something shouldn’t happen? There is an analogy and a story I think will help
If time is a quilt, and one life is signified by one thread, not only is the quilt not finished (in our eyes), but there are knots of thread everywhere and clashes of color. It looks ugly! Nothing makes sense. But is it really? Because what we really see is the back of the quilt, the making in progress…. Is it really? If we were to see the finished product, if we were to see it in the perspective of all time (the other side of the quilt – the side God sees) would it be ugly? No! The random colors would make sense! The knots would not exist, but had only worked at the time to hold the quilt together. It would be a beautiful picture of life and love.
The Loom of Time
Man’s life is laid in the loom of time
To a pattern he does not see,
While the weavers work and the shuttles fly
Till the dawn of eternity.
Some shuttles are filled with silver threads
And some with threads of gold,
While often but the darker hues
Are all they may hold.
But the weaver watches with skillful eye
Each shuttle fly to and fro,
And sees the pattern so deftly wrought
As the loom moves sure and slow.
God surely planned the pattern:
Each thread, the dark and fair,
Is chosen by His master skill
And placed in the web with care.
He only knows its beauty,
And guides the shuttles which hold
The threads so unattractive,
As well as the threads of gold.
Not till each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern
And explain the why
The dark threads were as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned.
There is a story that brings this to a front: - “who are we to judge whether this is a blessing or a curse?” (curse meaning bad luck or a disaster). It comes from Max Lucado’s “Eye of the Storm”.
“Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before – such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. ‘This horse is not a horse to me’ he would tell them, ‘it is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?’ The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.
One morning, he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. ‘You old fool!’ they scoffed, ‘We told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.’
The old man responded ‘Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?’
The people contested ‘Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.’
The old man spoke again, ‘All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I do not know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?’
The people of the village laughed. They thought that the old man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
After fifteen days, the horse returned, he hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. ‘Old man, you were right and we were wrong, what we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.’
The man responded, ‘Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase? Life is so cast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment. Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.’
Maybe the old man is right, they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.
The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.
‘You were right.’ They said, ‘you proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.’
The old man spoke again, ‘You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows we only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.’
It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance they would return. The enemy was strong and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.
‘You were right, old man.’ They wept. ‘God knows you were right. This proves it. Your sons accident was a blessing .His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.’
The old man spoke again. ‘It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this; your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.’”
So this is a hard thing, but we cannot claim it is good or bad. We do not know, we only have a fragment.
5) The statement claims God is at fault for the pain in the world. That God created, or allowed pain into the world and is thus at fault. If God…..Then….. Now this assumption I also have a qualms with. This assumption claims a second assumption by default – that we are not at fault. It claims by default that man is in essence – good. (Which goes back to us knowing what is good) but this goes deeper into the character of man as basically good. Which I think is a funny ideal, for when you ask one where evil comes from, their answer is society. So where does society come from?..........It circular reasoning. Why man created society! Man is born innately sinful – we have a sinful nature – a tendency to sin – we are not perfect….. If we were “basically good”, communism would be plausible and realized by now, but it is not. Why? They tried! Why did it fail?.... Sin. Bad leadership. Corruption. Evil applications. So what if Gandhi or some other enlightened person tried…….No! It would never last, nor would it work! Why? Because communism is based off the assumption that man is innately good. But, you may say, I am a good person…… What is your standard of good? Other people? In that case, it’s probably true. But they ultimately are not your judge. God is. So our judgment of what is good should come from Him. Our assumption that God is good must be made from a stance that morality is defined by God. For if it didn’t, were would our sense of morality come from?
So to say that God is in error or that God cannot be both good and just, that God cannot be both good and all-powerful and yet just watch these horrible things happen, is something we cannot say. God cannot be in error, but we still question, and that fact does not help our questions of why. And that is really the heart of the question. You are not asking why pain and evil exist, you are asking why did this happen? Why did this happen to me? Why did this happen to her? Why did this happen to him? Why did this happen to them? Why? I think this question can be answered. Not completely, but I think there are many many answers to that question and each one is unique to the circumstances. I also think it is impossible to know all the whys, but perhaps I could list some of the reasons I have discovered and perhaps that will be enough to at least allow you to trust that God is indeed good.
“But wait a second, if God created everything, and yet He is not at fault for the evil in this world, then where did evil come from? If God created everything……” Yes. God created everything, and as part of that He created us with a free will. Meaning we can choose for ourselves. We can reason and think on our own. The dichotomy of good and evil came out of our free will, for if there was no option but what is good, then there can be no free will because we have no choice to make. We would be like puppets, mindless automatons who would not think, but just do. God is a God of Love. What good would it do Him if He just created a machine, a computer that just does whatever you program it to do? How can you have a relationship with a puppet? How can you give and receive love from a computer program? What purpose would that do Him? As I stated in the essay prior, our purpose in life is “To know and Love God and make His Love known to others.” In sense, to bring Him glory. If you program a computer to give you a compliment every time you start it up, would it truly be a compliment? No. The computer says only what you program it to say; so really you are giving yourself a compliment. God is not insecure. Why would He do this? No. He created man with a free will, which means there must be an alternative to obedience to Him – The dichotomy, if you can choose to Obey Him, you must also be able to choose to Disobey Him. Thus evil came out of our free will to disobey God. Evil comes out of our ability to choose. So God created evil? Not really. He created us with free will, and because of that He, perhaps, allowed evil to enter into existence, but He is not responsible for evil because it stems from our free choice.
But even this is deceiving because if this God is so righteous as to not even be able to withstand evil being near His presence, how could He allow it to happen to us? It is hard to understand the connection between our choice and the evil in this world. Let me explain by using an analogy. There is no such thing, many scientists would say, as cold. ‘Cold’ is simply the absence of heat. The same thing applies to darkness. Go into a dark room and test this out. You will find that light always overcomes darkness, but darkness will never overcome light. If you judge how dark a room is, you are not really measuring how dark the room is, but you are measuring the lack of light in the room. The less light there is in the room, the more it becomes what we call ‘dark’. Darkness is not a force like light is, it is simply an absence. An absence of light. Evil is the absence of that which is good. If, as was said above, God’s character defines that which is good, then the further away you get from His character, the more evil becomes prevalent. So, the good news is that evil can never overcome good, just as light always overcomes darkness, the bad news is that we humans have a 99.9% tendency of walking away from God and that which is good.
So then, the next question is, “Did God make a mistake by doing this?” No. I contend that He did not. God is omniscient, meaning He knows all. “Well, is God in control? Because it looks like the world is out of control. If God created us with free will, does that not mean that He has no power over us?” No. God is omnipotent and Omnipresent, meaning He is both all-powerful and ever present. How do these work? God created the universe, meaning He is bigger than the universe. He is transcendent of all physical restrictions we can think up; including the restriction of time. In Genesis, God created light before He created the sun, moon, stars, or any other embodiment of light. He then separated the dark from the light, calling the light day and the dark night. Tied to Einstein’s theory that the closer you get to the speed of light the slower time gets (proven empirically), many think that on that first day, God created time. When it says He created light, He was creating time. And when He separated the light from the dark, that was when light became both a particle and ray; it became directional. This physical movement created the spatial aspect of our world. Since God, then, created time, He must have existed outside of time. Meaning He is not restricted by time. In the beginning, He already knew the end. Many people think that if a decision can be known before it happens, then it must be predestined and therefore, we really do not have a choice at all. But that is stupid. Just because God knows all, including the future, does not mean we do not have a choice. Now God knows what choice we are going to make because he transcends time. He knows not because we have no choice in the matter, not because it was determined, but because the choice had already been made By Us.
So if God is outside of time, He must be a rather impersonal God, just to create the world with free will to choose evil, and then to watch the world tear itself apart because of evil. No! God is not restricted by time, true. He is outside of time. But God also works within time. He cannot be restricted by time; whether from within or from without. We know this through His word which is chock full of examples of Divine interventions; History, which, when looking in the right places, has similar examples, and in the personal lives of people around the world. God is a God of Love. He seeks relationships with us. And as He is outside of time, and thus knew the end before the beginning, I would think He is the one to trust; He knows what He is doing.
So now let us start. As I said before, this is by far no exhaustive list, nor should it be seen as such. Likewise, each of these “reasons” are not exclusive. When looking at specific pains, many times it will be a large combination of reasons, but never, never should this be seen as The reason(s) you are in pain. My purpose in writing this is solely to put the question “Why?” at ease enough to allow you to put your trust in God. (For the number one voiced rejection of the existence of a God is the problem of pain – and that is a travesty.) I hope this helps.
1.) Pain is a very good learning tool.
When you stick your finger into a light socket you will get shocked. Pain. And you will never do that again. Parents will sometimes use this as discipline for their children. In spanking their children (when used correctly), it is used to teach them what is right and wrong. And to be sure that even though a parent may use pain to discipline and teach their children (and keep in mind I am not talking about child abuse) it is out of love for the child that they do this, so that when they grow up, they will be able to make good, mature decisions for themselves! Success, that is what every loving parent wants for their children. And to ensure this, sometimes in development, you have to teach them the hard way.
I know this personally, for as a child, I was severely hard-headed and selfish. My parents, though they loved me, were forced to use disciplinary action to teach me right from wrong, because I would not listen to idle words. It is a good thing they did discipline me, otherwise I would still be a rotten, horrible, stubborn, messed-up, selfish thick-headed little child. God treats us in that same way. His word tells us that He disciplines those He loves. Why? Because when you are about to drive into a brick wall at 60 mph, the emergency breaks are your best bet to save your life. The whiplash can be severe when halting from such a speed, but is it not better than wrecking your car into a brick wall and possibly losing your life in the process?!
Many times in life, one may be blind to the fact they are heading toward a brick wall and it may take someone to come along side and pull the emergency break for them. Parents do this for their children, and God does this for those He loves. It is not a cruel thing that most people think of when they think about learning through pain, but it is a lesson in Love. A hard lesson, but an important one none-the-less. Unfortunately, in today’s society disciplinary action brings to mind thoughts of child abuse and incessant beatings for no apparent reason. This is a distortion and is not what we are talking about here. I cannot stress enough, that this is discipline within an act of love. Even if you do not see the need for it; even if you don’t necessarily want it; sometimes the only way to save your life is to pull the emergency breaks.
2.) Pain is a cleansing tool.
A point most people don’t think about. When you are poisoned (whether from a bite or from food) it is painful trying to extract it (whether from sucking the poison out of the wound or getting your stomach pumped). But it is a pain that you must go through because it is a life-saving pain. In the Civil war, Gangrene was so severe that more amputations/deaths were caused by mere scratches than actual bullet wounds. That is how serious it is.
And I will contend that poison of thoughts and unassessed assumptions are much more dangerous. Physical poisons are rare and are typically easy to detect; many false assumptions are ill thoughts that go by unnoticed even though they effect our actions and indeed all of who we are; they are very hard to detect and are permeated everywhere. Likewise, bad habits are painful things to get rid of, but well worth the pain of persevering through it.
Prior to the twentieth century, the use of leeches, seen today as despicable creatures, were in constant use in medical fields as a way to help in surgeries to help clean and control the blood. Prior to that, a common practice whether on account of fever or other illness, was to actually bleed a person, which had an effect of detoxification. Primitive, but the principle still stands today, pain is sometimes necessary for healing to take place. When you have a splinter, it hurts horribly to touch it, but to let it be will be even worse, because then you chance it getting infected and then it hurts even more than if you tried to pull it out before. So you have to endure the pain now, so it won’t get worse later. If you place a broken leg wrong, it will grow wrong and will be more painful than before. The leg will then have to be re-broken and then placed again. Pain is pain, but sometimes pain is essential for healing to be completed, or even to start.
3.) Pain is a wake up call.
Like the pain you get when you put your hand on a hot stove, it says – Hello! Your hand is in the wrong place! MOVE IT!!! Analgesia, of any kind, is potentially deadly. Any disorder or disease that disrupts the pain receptors from sending messages to the brain shows this case. Anyone who loses all feeling of physical touch can attest to this.
Imagine a man in the eighteenth century, sleeping on the floor of a dusty cottage, having a problem with mice eating away his face while he sleeps. At one point, after his face had healed up, he placed a candle next to his face to keep the vermin away while he slept. Somewhere during the night, the candle fell over onto his face, but because he could not feel pain nor temperature, he did not wake up till the next morning when irreparable damage was done as the candle had slowly burned and scarred his face.
Could you imagine sitting on a hot stove, and not be able to feel it? To pull a muscle, or break a bone, and not feel a thing? Could you imagine dying from a small cut and not even know you had it? Thank God we feel pain! Pain gets our attention, and it is always redeemed in that sense. Pain shows you your mistakes so you can learn from them and correct them. Pain shows you what is wrong and forces you to move away from danger.
Sometimes God uses pain as a wake up call. Like discipline, if someone is stubborn or unconscious to their direction, sometimes pain is the only tool able to wake a person up. I saw this specifically as a child in middle school. Being home-schooled as a sixth and seventh grader, I was around the family a lot. Possibly too much. Being a stubborn brat at that age, I was also an incessant liar. Discipline – spanking, grounding, etc. nothing worked. I would not change. Why? Honestly, because I loved playing video games too much and I was allowed only two hours a weekend, and so I disobeyed my parents and played every time I got the chance when the parents weren’t home. Which meant that since I was bad at getting away with it, I got caught a lot, and because I was a horrible liar, I barely ever got away with it. But I continued for a couple of years until one day, being at the end of their rope, having tried everything else, my parents did what I now consider the epitome of their love for me. And that’s not sarcasm. They sat me down and explained the difference between a right and a privilege and told me trust was a privilege; and although parents naturally trust their children, their trust had been betrayed by me, and so, they told me, that – trust is going to be taken away until that time in which we feel we can trust you again. That devastated me, more than any spanking ever could. It cut through all my stubbornness and hit my heart. From that day, I realized that my actions affect other people, and it was a new realization that really scared me, because I was a selfish selfish person. I see that day as the turning point in my life. It was the day that I woke up. And it was a good thing. Just like my parents, sometimes our stubbornness leads the Lord to cause pain to enter our world. Why? Because we were sleeping at the wheel, and He cares about us too much to allow us to keep sleeping. He cares about us Enough to tell us to WAKE UP!
Disclaimer: It took me years to come to terms with this reason. This lesson takes a long time to sink in, and it takes a long time to realize the impact of it. Other-words, if this is a cause of pain in your life, it may take years for you to realize it. I used to be so depressed whenever I thought back to that fateful day; because my Own parents couldn’t trust me, I thought who, if anyone, could trust me and if they can’t trust me, who can I trust? It was a measure of insecurity in my life for a long time. But I can honestly say now that if I had a redo, I would not change a word of it. The pain is well justified to the final effect it had on my life. I learned humility. I learned the heart of a servant. I learned how to love. Because it ceased to be about me. I woke up.
4.) Pain tests our resolve
Practice can be arduous action, but in certain circumstances – sports, arts, public speaking…… the only way to become better at such skills is to practice. Skiing can be very painful when trying to learn. It takes time to study for a test, and most of the time, your commitment to excellence is tied directly to your resolve to study sufficiently, or to practice that lay-up, or persevering after falling hard on the slopes. Resolution in the face of tremendous pain comes from a hope and a belief that in the end, the final solution will be well worth the pain it took to get there. Weight lifting or cross country running is not very fun – indeed, it is painful. So why do people do it? Because the end result is worth the pain: We get stronger. When working out, you are literally tearing your muscles to pieces! Don’t sound very pleasant does it? But what happens is your muscle gets ripped apart, and then slowly grows back together, but the effect of that is it strengthens and grows the muscle at the same time; thus your capacity for strength is tied directly to your resolve to withstand the pain that accompanies working out.
When William Wilberforce saw to the abolition of slavery, it was a tremendous and great victory that altered the steps of history. But the pain Wilberforce had to go through to get to that incredible day was…..incredible. Decades of appeals in the face of ridicule from his fellow comrades, nightmares and an urgency that took his health away. Wilberforce also may have struggled with what we would call today Ulcerative Colitis. A chronic immune deficiency disorder in which the immune system in ones stomach begins to attack and eat away the digestive system – treating it as a foreign agent. Painful to say the least. Wilberforce struggled with his health, and yet he did not let that stop him. In the end, thanks to his endless efforts, he saw to the death knell of slavery in England.
Biblically, the story of Job is probably the most famous example of this principle. Job was an innocent man, but God allowed Satan to put him to the test by taking all he owned, killing his children, and then making him physically ill to see if he would curse God. Job may have lost hope, but he never cursed God; in the end God revealed himself to Job, renewing his faith and Job was eventually blessed double-fold for what he lost. Okay, that is an extreme case and is hard to relate, so perhaps a better example would be Abraham and Isaac.
Abraham, a godly, righteous man who had a specially intimate relationship with God, was told to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. Now there are some things you need to know : 1) God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars! He promised that great nations would come from his descendants, and all other nations would be blessed because of him. And 2) At the age of one hundred, Abraham finally got his first and only child. (True, Abraham did have a child through Sarah’s (his wife’s) concubine Hagar named Ishmael, but Ishmael was not to be the son God had chosen to bring Abraham his descendants. Ishmael was not the son God had promised. And Sarah, with Abraham’s consent, sent Hagar and Ishmael away from them. They in sense disowned them. And God made Ishmael into a warring nation – and Muslims trace their lineage back to Ishmael. So when Sarah, at the age of ninety, gave birth to Isaac, God told them that through Isaac great nations would be born.) Now Abraham loved Isaac greatly, but God told him to sacrifice the only child God had said was going to be the head of great nations. Did God lie, or change His mind? No. The Bible says that “God tested Abraham” in this. So Abraham was obedient to God and went to a mountain that God showed him to sacrifice his son. And I think it is poignant to point out, Isaac, who was not a little boy, but helped carry the wood required to build an altar for the sacrifice, also knew what they were doing, and asked Abraham where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham answered his son in faith, “God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son.” God did indeed provide the lamb, but only at the very last second, after Abraham had already set up the altar, tied his own son up, put his son on the altar, and had the knife in hand ready to kill him. Then God sent a ram to replace Isaac.
Now this story is told in Genesis 22, and it is interesting to hear what God says here. “Do not lay a hand on the boy.” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your only son.” Now God is omniscient. He is a God who judges the heart. God knew Abraham would not withhold Isaac from Him, but why do you think He would go ahead and test Abraham in this way? 1) So that Abraham knows and his resolve is strengthened and can continue to put firm faith and truth in God alone (2) Isaac knows (3)We know (4) It was close to God’s heart because of His plans for Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites. For God had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed because of him, so to test Abraham’s loyalty, God gave him this test to see if Abraham would withhold his only son from Him. Why is this of import? Because God did not withhold His only Son Christ Jesus from us either, and Jesus was sacrificed. He died on the cross to pay the punishment for our sins. So God started the nation with a test, and fulfilled his promise with his Son. Do you see the connection? I think it is important now to say that by no mean do I condone those who are deranged enough to kill their children and then say ‘God told me to’. They are lying through their teeth. “How do you know? If God told Abraham to before…..why not now?” For one, God did not allow Abraham to go through with it, and over and over again in the Bible, it speaks volumes about the sanctity of life and the preciousness of a child. God does not work contrary to His nature, and secondly the story in Genesis 22 was under very specific circumstances. God was bringing forth a nation that was to be set apart from the rest of the world and His command to sacrifice was a test. This strengthened Abraham’s resolve and faith, along with all of his descendants even up to this day. How? Because it shows the character of God. How? 1) It shows that God truly is Jehova Jira – God the Provider – that He indeed will provide for us (2) It shows that God is a Jealous God; and all this means is that He wishes us to be His and His alone. For He created us for relationship. As I have said – “To Love and know God and make His Love known to others.” And as such, God wants to be first in our lives. He commands us to have no idols. An idol is anything that takes the place of or is held at a higher esteem than God. And so in this test of Abraham, the Patriarch of the chosen race of God from which the Savior of the world Christ Jesus would come; in this test, God demonstrates to us (and to Abraham’s descendants) that Abraham had no idols – that he esteemed nothing over God. He had that much trust in God. And as such set an amazing example to follow.
Disclaimer: I listed four reasons. But as I said before, there is no way to know all the reasons. The point is to allow you to have the faith to trust.
Genesis 22:15-18 – “The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son. I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the sand on the sea shore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’”
“If individuals resolutely submit to the carrying of the cross, if they decidedly want to find and endure trial in all things for God, they will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness.” ~John Climacus
5) Pain can refine you.
The purpose of refineries are to purify materials to prepare them for purchase. In the same way, pain can purify us. “Purify us from what?” – Well, we have already established that man is inherently sinful. We are imperfect. Pain can purify us from our imperfections. Sounds like a ‘duh’ statement, but as part of that sinful nature, man is above all, proud. Now I am not talking about confidence, but unhealthy pride. As such, humans, especially me, can get offended by the statement that we need purification. But in honest introspection, it is needed. “And does this pain prepare us to be ‘purchased’ like oil…..?” You didn’t think this world was it, did you?
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortals, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Does it prepare us for “purchase” though? No. Our purchase has no stipulations. Christ paid for our sins and nothing we do can change that. Nothing has a perfect analogy to it, but purification can (when applied properly) save us from ourselves. “So what does this look like? Are we dirt turned into refined dirt?” No. You are a diamond in the rough. Just waiting around for someone to pick you up and chip-off your imperfections to reveal the sapphire gem that is who you were intended to be. You are created in His image, and as such you are more precious to Him than anything else in the whole universe. Whether it be material or creature, your significance outweighs them by eternity. The Bible says that the hairs on you head are numbered. How much more so does He care about you! It says He clothes the flowers of the field and gives food to the animals. How much more so does He care about you! He says the birds of the air do not worry about where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their heads. Indeed, not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing. How so much more does he care about you, His precious child. Indeed, in Jesus’ words – “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:1-2). How much, indeed, does He care about you! He says in fact that it would be better for someone to drown himself. To tie a large stone over a hundred pound around his neck and chuck it into the ocean where he will slowly sink as his lungs slowly, painfully fills with water, where his lungs feel like they are exploding, and where the pressure builds until his ear drums burst, until he finally loses consciousness, never to wake again. It is better for a man to do this to himself, than for him to cause one of God’s children to stumble! Do you see how much He loves you?! He loves you with a passion you could not imagine! So why the pain? Because you are so precious to Him. Because He knows good is good, and evil is evil. He knows that evil leads to more pain and eventual self-destruction. So when He sees those imperfections; when he sees those ticks imbedded in your beautiful skin, He can’t stand by idly….but it will be painful, pulling those buggers out.
Again, what does this look like? It is like the purification process of silver and gold. Naturally, pure silver is nearly impossible to come by. It almost always has imperfections and other substances mixed in with it. So to purify it, they have to completely melt down all the silver. In the process, once it’s all melted, since the silver is a heavy substance, the infirmities rise to the top, where the purifier can scoop it out, revealing the pure silver below. It is pottery in the Potter’s hand. It is precious metal in the hands of the Blacksmith, and this is probably the most poignant example, for the blacksmith, when making anything, must know exactly how long to keep the metal in the fire. If he leaves it in there too long, it will be too flimsy and will break-off (or melt-off); but if he does not leave it in there long enough, it will too hard and it will be useless to him. He won’t be able to mold the metal into anything useful. So even before he begins to bang and form the metal into something useful, he must know and successfully place the metal into the fire for just the right amount of time. We are lucky, for we have God as our Blacksmith. He knows exactly how long. He knows what He is doing. Not only that, but He promised us that we would never be tempted more than we can handle. Don’t you think He should be the one in which we place our trust? The Blacksmith’s hands are steady and true. He makes no mistakes. He knows what He is doing.
6) Pain can be used to impact others.
It is said that pain increases your own ability to sympathize, to relate to others; that pain increases your own ability to have compassion. Pain increases our ability to bring comfort to those around us – particularly those who are dealing with the same pain you went through.
For, just think about it, if you go through the birth of a still-born baby, it is very very painful, and none of the reasons I have gone through so far touches on this, but God does have reasons for it. And believe me, He is sitting there with you, crying for your grief. He cares about you so. It may take a long time to cope with this great loss. You may never get over it, but you will be able to help other mothers deal with their pain of still-borns, because you have gone through that. You know what it feels like. You know what they need most at the moment. You know when they need time alone, and you know when they always need someone beside them to help carry them through. You know what it feels like to lose something so precious and so dear, something so close to you. And you can use that knowledge to help someone else going through that same pain “get through” to the next day. And the next. And the next.
“The more the flesh is wasted by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace.” ~Thomas á Kempis
In the same way pain can impact others for the better, it can also impact them for the worse. When I saw the hurt my parents were that they no longer could trust me, as I said before, I woke up to the fact that my sins affect other people. Indeed, I believe this is where the majority of the pain in this world comes from. When a rapist decides to sin, it affects more than just him. When a teenager decides to get an abortion, it affects more than just her. When a murderer decides to sin, it affects more than just him. Likewise, not only your actions, but even your thoughts can affect other people.
In the nineteenth – twentieth century, an idea called “free love” greatly impacted other people. The premise was that one could not know who their one “match” was, so one should be free to search for one. Meaning one should be free in their sexual activism. (i.e. sex before marriage is o.k.) This has influenced peoples ideas about dating in that if you don’t “shop around” (i.e. sleep around), how will you know what you want? That’s stupid! You should be able to tell by your friendships and by pure principles the kind of mate you want (i.e. it’s not rocket science). But that’s what they say, and indeed they use the same logic on sex education – “If they don’t know, then how are they going to do it on their wedding night?” Come on. Let’s be serious. First of all, you don’t even expect them to wait for their wedding night anymore anyways (a travesty), and second, it’s preposterous to think that they “need” sex education! (Perhaps abstinence education and education about STD’s and such – perhaps, but not sex education.) (i.e. it’s not rocket science! It’s not like trying to fit a square box into a round hole. Personally, I think it would be wonderful to come to bed on my wedding night and neither of us know what to do. At least she knows that I have been faithful to her, and at least I know she has been faithful to me. – For in reality, when you sleep with someone that you don’t marry, in reality, you have just slept with someone else’s wife!) “So what?” You say. 54% is so what! We have replaced love with lust. That is ‘so what’! “54%?” 54% is our divorce rate here in America (and it’s still rising). Just try telling our kids “so what?”!!! I tell you, if any sin affects other people, it’s the sin of divorce! “The sin?” Yes. The sin. The Bible says that God hates divorce! Only one plausible reason exists that would not be considered a sin – unfaithfulness (for if one breaks the covenant vows, then the other should not have to hold to a broken vow). But besides that, there is no reason. And I can see why. It wreaks havoc on all who are involved (and the kids are the ones who are affected the most)! Not to mention that after the first divorce, chances of a second divorce increase by more than fifty percent. Think about that….54% chance in the first place…… Marriage was supposed to be beautiful! The Bible says that when a man and a woman get married, they become like one flesh. Every time a couple gets divorced, it is literally tearing their hearts in two. (So just imagine what it does to the kids!) Now think about it, after two or three divorces, you don’t have much of a heart left now do you? It is a travesty! “So what are people doing now to save their hearts?” Well, they are scared of divorce, so what do they do? They don’t marry! They co-exist. Co-exist! Now how cold-hearted is that?! It’s a travesty! And all this pain all starting from one simple STUPID idea. (No need reminding you of the impact the idea of evolution has done in the twentieth century!). This ties up and leads into my next point…
7) Our Actions have Consequences!
Not only do our ideas have consequences (e.g. free love), but our consecutive actions likewise have consequences. I have already discussed the consequences of divorce and how it affects other people, but there is another consequence of “free love” I have not quite touched on. STD’s. An epidemic (and yet we don’t see divorce as an epidemic…. We don’t see free love as an epidemic….) Yeah, the increase in STD”s shows us how wonderfully our sex education is working! (Can you see how passionate I am on the subject? Can you see how much pain, useless pain, people are creating for themselves and their loved ones? How much more so is God aggrieved over this! …And you thought you spilt a lot of tears over the subject! Can you imagine how God must feel?! He loves us so, and we have utterly destroyed it!) Indeed, all sex education has done to curb STD’s is to introduce our young children to extremely graphic pornography! Yeah, that will help! What a mess we have gotten ourselves into! All because some fools a couple hundred years ago wanted pleasure (sex) whenever and wherever they wanted with whatever they wanted, and now the idea is an epidemic. We no longer know the difference between love and lust. We no longer know what love looks like! No wonder child abuse and abandonment are on the rise! Before they didn’t know how to find their significant other, now even if they find the one they don’t even know how to love their soul mate!!! And we blame God for this?! No! Our actions have consequences. You put your hand in the fire, your gonna’ get burned. And the Atheist says it doesn’t matter if you burn your hand off! (Of course, they won’t tell you that, they will just watch you do it and then post-humorously award you the Darwin Award for removing yourself from the gene pool in a funny and humorous way!) The New Ager will tell you there is no fire! The pain is just a figment of your imagination. And then most people will tell you not to stick your hand in the fire, but will not be able to tell you why! And so people do it anyway. Why? Because it’s like saying “Don’t press the red button!” What are they going to do? They are going to press the red button. The question needing answered is “Why not?” Because it will burn your hand! Why abstinence? Because it will not only destroy your heart if you don’t, but will affect all your lovers, their future lovers, etc. and any children (born or unborn) that come consequentially from it! Because it will eventually destroy you! Don’t think you can put your hand in the fire and come out untouched. You can’t! And I cannot enforce this enough, YOUR ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES! Why? Because sin has consequences. Evil has consequences just as Good has consequences. There are millions of other examples (e.g. evolution, lying, hatred, callousness, apathy, etc……..), but hopefully the example of the sin of so called “free love” is an example enough to prove my point.
“Now wait a second, you may say that our sins effect other people, but the Bible says that God punishes to the third and fourth generations the sins of the father! Now how fair is that?” Well, let’s really look into what the Bible says about that. Ezekiel 18 “…What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son…. The soul who sins is the one who will die. Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right…..That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord. Suppose he had a violent son, who shed blood or does any of these other things (thought the father has done none of them)….. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things….. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live….But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’…. Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. But if a wicked man turns away from the wicked he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. Yet the house of Israel says ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”
So he does not punish to the third and fourth generation. Did he lie? Or change His mind? No. Don’t you think that perhaps when He said that He punishes to the third and fourth generations that He was actually talking about parenting? For it also says He will bless for a thousand generations the children of a righteous man! He is saying something about the power and effect a father and mother have on their children! So is it fair that the son gets poor training and a bad example from the father? Is it fair that the father teaches the son how to sin the way he does, and indeed how to excel at it? Is it fair that the son learns the sins of the father really early in life and then is able to invent further ways to sin and is therefore worse off than the father? Is it fair that the father is used as a springboard into sin for his son? No! Can you blame God for this? For the fault of the father? Yet, indeed, if the father is righteous, how great is his teachings to his son! So can this cycle be ended? Indeed, yes. As the passage afore said, if a man turns from his evil and repents he will find grace. (This is in the old testament, so we have the added blessing of having Christ’s sacrifice as atonement for our sins.) Also if a son sees the sins of the father, yet does not do them, he will not be guilty for his fathers sins. But this is hard to do. The only circumstances I have seen in which this happened is when the son has a good role model to show how to act and how not to. But there is always hope….. So we see that being far from unfair, when God says he punishes to the third and fourth generations, He is not applying my reasoning that my sin affects others (although it does), but He is more aptly applying my reasoning that actions have consequences have consequences have consequences! Not that the innocent son is punished for the sins of the father, but that the son does the sins of the father! Our actions have consequences. The son is punished by the sins of the father. We reap what we sow. Our actions have Consequences. You cannot get pears from a thorn bush, nor apples from a fig tree. Actions have consequences. Woe to he who causes one of the least of these to stumble, because actions have consequences.
8) Pain is the consequent of a fallen world.
If God is loving, but is not Just, then is that not a contradiction? Can a corrupt judge love the innocent? But if God is Just, then He must justly punish all who disobey. Can the man who wields the sword love his enemies? In this lies the fundamental rift in the eyes of this conflict on pain. Can God be both Just and Love at the same time? I hope you see that the answer is indeed yes. Mercy and Grace are but two evident outcomes of this dynamic combination. This in itself is a testament and an answer to the problem of pain.
Through the entrance of sin into the world, we have pain. Pain of separation. Pain was the punishment and consequence of disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Child-bearing became painful and even the land was cursed. Because of man’s choice this consequence was given. As a Masterpiece cannot hold the disdain of the author, so perfection cannot withstand disobedience. Pain entered the world because God is Just and we chose to disobey Him.
But it is because God is also Love that there is hope. As God has cursed even the ground on account of us, Christ has taken up that curse for us on the cross. For anyone who believes in Him will be saved from punishment for their sins. Forgiveness. Mercy and Grace.
We are yet still in pain in this world though, for God is not yet finished saving those He loves but we can know of the end result when - “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.” (Revelations 21:4) This is the hope we have in the midst of pain. And hope, in itself, is an answer to the problem of pain. Hope leads to perseverance. Hope produces stamina, willpower, strength, courage, and vitality. It is the confidence to keep going when all looks lost. Hope is the answer to grief, sorrow, and tragedy.
Nonetheless, much pain cannot be condoned, estimated or explained. No words exist to comfort nor do tears discern the heart of the suffering. But no hope exists (nor suffering to great) to compare with the hope we have in Christ.
9) Satan can increase our pain when we let him.
Satan is the father of lies, indeed the Bible says it is his native tongue. Subtlety is Satan’s best weapon. He gets under your skin, because if you recognize it as an attack, then he is easily defeated, but if you don’t even recognize it as an attack…then once you are down, he pounces. “You are no good. You can never do anything right. Useless! Do you see that? See that pain your in? God’s laughing at you right now! He caused you to have this pain you know. He enjoys seeing you writhe in pain! He created you the way you are and there’s nothing you can do about it. Useless! Useless! Useless! He’s laughing at you right now!” Satan taunts us. He hits you when you are down. He will infiltrate you and slowly turn you so that you don’t even know you have gotten off the track, then you realize you don’t know where you are, you panic, trip and fall, and then Satan attacks. Satan is the father of lies. He is called the prince of the air – prince of this world. He knows how to get under your skin, he knows how to distract you, he knows just when and where to hit you.
So what can we do in the face of this onslaught? Put your trust in Him who is stronger than Satan. He is the only one that can help us. If we trust in ourselves, we will fail. The Devil is too conniving, but God is more powerful and wiser still, and only through Him can we stand against Satan’s attacks. How? Pray. Just pray. Yes, there is such things as witchcraft, “magic”, sorcery and demon possession, and all of them are evil and of the Devil’s handiwork. We should run from them. Run to God. Leave the “exorcism” (- fancy word for saying “In the name of Jesus” to get a demon to leave a person) – leave that to mature Christians who not only know what they are doing, but are called to do such. I have heard of people “exorcizing” someone who was not demon-possessed, and that does more harm than good. But when Satan attacks, run to God with prayer and supplication. Only by the power of Christ Jesus can you win against him. Also, when Satan tempts you to do sin, something that helps is to know scripture and what it says, so when Satan tempts you, you can throw scripture in his face, and Satan cannot stand up to the truth of God’s word. When he attacks you emotionally, telling you are useless or unloved, cling to the truth that the Bible proclaims – that you are very precious to God – and Satan can not touch you when you stay true to truth. Cling to the truth with all your strength and Satan will have no room to attack. What truth? The Truth of the Bible. The Truth of God and Agape Love. The Truth of Christ crucified and through Him, our redemption. The Truth. But spiritual warfare does exist, and it is a point of immense pain in this world. Only by the Truth shall you be set free.
10) Sometimes pain comes in the form of protection
When Moses’ mother sent him down the Nile as a baby, it was for his protection, but can you imagine the pain it must have taken to see her baby sail down the treacherous Nile? But if she had kept her child, soldiers would have killed him, by order of Pharaoh. Finger casts are uncomfortable, and painful at times – more so the bigger they are, but casts protect you from yourself. So you don’t damage what you have already broken and break it out of place again. Pain can protect you from yourself. When you place your hand on an electric fence, the electricity sends a shock wave into your body which causes it to automatically react and recoil. This automatic recoil system within your body reacts to pain with a protector instinct. It can be painful, being open enough to have accountability with someone else, putting yourself out in the open, being vulnerable emotionally, but sometimes it is that accountability that protects you from yourself (if you let it). Accountability can keep you from sinning, it can motivate you to excel; it can protect you from sinning, if you let it.
“Wait a second,” you may say, “you keep talking about sin. Sin is bad… etc. etc. but how come out in the real world, the good seem to always be in pain, and the bad are always having so much fun?” For one, their “fun” is an illusion. If you stick around till after hours, they are really empty people who are searching for worth in all the wrong places (generalization). Secondly, it is not as if they are being rewarded and the good punished, it is just that those who are having “fun” being bad are getting all their “rewards” now. They waist away on temporary pleasures. While the beatitudes of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5), in sense says that blessed are those who do not go out seeking pleasure today, who walk upright, for your reward will be in heaven; your comfort will be in heaven; your home and your hearth will be in heaven. In eternity. It is not that God blesses evil. But He may have more patience than we would like in bringing justice. But yet again, this shows His heart and how much He cares about us. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). Nor does God punish the righteous, and by no means do I mean that those who do good are not to enjoy happiness and joy. No, I would contend that we have a joy that far surpasses anything secular knowledge could ever fathom. And our happiness is complete because we live in the truth of who we are supposed to be – in Christ!
“What about prayer? Why doesn’t He answer my prayers?” In truth, He does. It is either yes, no, or yes but wait. James 4:2b-3 says, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” “What if that’s not me?” Well, in Wild at Heart , John Eldridge answers it like this; if your prayers are not answered right away, it may be “….because He wants to talk to us, and sometimes that’s the only way to get us to stay and talk to Him. His heart is for relationship, for shared adventure to the core.” Could you imagine your daughter coming into your room every night, and as she enters, you say, “How is my precious daughter today?” Then she says without even blinking, “I want a pony, a baby doll, a pink dress, and a baby brother.” And then she leaves. Every night, always the same. – “I want a pony, a baby doll, a pink dress, and a baby brother.” -then leaves. Do you see how frustrating that could get? “Wait! Come here, talk to Me. How is my princess today?” I think many times we unintentionally treat God as our Santa Claus instead of our Father. And all of us are guilty of this from one point or another, me especially included. God created us for relationship! By not replying directly, He may be protecting you from becoming apathetic to Himself. Engage in Him, and see how amazing it really is! (A note I need to work on myself…)
To get back on subject, it is sometimes difficult to see how pain can bring us protection, but it can and it does. A perfect example is a story of Corrie Ten Boom, but I will tell that later, but I hope you are beginning to see that God is worthy of our trust.
“Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.” ~Phillip brooks
“I asked God to take away my pain. God said, No.
It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole. God said, No.
Her spirit was whole, her body was only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience. God said, No.
Patience is a byproduct of tribulations; it isn’t granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness. God said, No.
I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain. God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you close to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said, No.
You must grow in your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. God said, No.
I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said….Ahhh, finally you have the idea.” ~Claudia Minden Weisz
11) Pain brings life.
Giving birth is extremely painful, and hopefully I don’t have to go through in depth explanations for me to make this point. The joy of a mother. What can beat that? There’s a reason the saying goes – “A face only a mother could love.” And it’s not necessarily because the face is ugly, but because a mother’s love is unconditional – one of the strongest bonds you will find on this earth is the bond between a mother and her child. And that’s been proven empirically (unfortunately). In Nazi Germany, experiments were done. Terrible, inhumane, evil experiments. One of these terrible experiments tested the bonds between relations. It set out to see which bond was the strongest: husband to wife, wife to husband, brother to sister, sister to brother, father to son, son to father, etc. etc. And what would happen is they would pick a relation to test – say it was a father to his daughter. They would strap the father and daughter both up to electric chairs facing each other. They would tell the father that he had a choice to make, die by slow electrocution, or press a simple button and the electricity will stop, “but you will then watch your daughter slowly die by electrocution.” The sadistic experiment would see empirically if the father’s bond with his daughter is indeed stronger than life itself. Through this experiment, the Nazi’s learned that the bond that had the highest rate of self-sacrifice was a mother to her child. Second highest was between a father and his child. It may not be surprising, but it is poignant to point out that it is the mother that suffers the most and she’s the one whose bond is the strongest.
Pain can give life. Surgeons may see this principle day after day as they save one life after another in the surgery room. Even though we have technology today that nearly makes the surgery painless for the patient, the principle still remains. Surgeries are not pretty things.
In the Bible, Jesus speaks of being reborn, not in the physical sense, but spiritually. This is when we apply ourselves to Christ, forsaking our sinful nature – indeed, the Bible says we actually die to our sinful nature and carnal desires. It is not that they aren’t there anymore, Christians of course still struggle with evil desires, but by accepting Jesus and His sacrifice, they can fight these destructive desires with the power of the risen Lord behind them, if they choose; not to mention it is the power of Christ crucified by which we are forgiven for our destructive nature and actions. The pain sounds like it comes from dying to our sinful nature, and indeed it is hard, but the real pain comes from Christ’s sacrifice.
In Roman practice, flogging was taken till the victim was near death – indeed, they called flog victims the “half-dead”. In Jewish law, a man cannot be lashed more than forty times, but to be sure, the Romans would have done at least that much when flogging Jesus. And even that was excruciating – this was no belt whooping. It was leather strands braided together with iron balls or sheep bone shards tied to the ends.
The Old Testament calls every man hung on a tree to be cursed. Not only did Jesus die on a tree, but his hands and feet were nailed to the cross in such a way that he could not breathe unless he pushed down on the nail stuck in his feet enough to lift his body up, straightening his lungs and diaphragm enough to exhale. And thus he remained until his energy vacated and he slowly suffocated. I don’t know if you have witnessed this yourself, but when you get the wind knocked out of you, sometimes it’s not inhaling that is the problem, but exhaling, and I would say that is the worse of the two because you have all this air trapped in your lungs, but you can’t get rid of it. You don’t know what to do. You can breathe more air in, but nothing is escaping. It’s like suffocating with your lungs full of air. It’s a more terrible feeling than drowning. And why did Jesus suffer the cross? If he chose, he could have easily defended himself. He did it to pay for our sins. And you know what the most painful thing is for Him in all this? People whom He died for reject He even lived, or they say He was a “good teacher”. Nothing special. Like Ghandi or Muhammad. Good teachers, nothing more. Talk about suffering for the Ultimate Protection, He died so we wouldn’t have to in our sins. The Ultimate sacrifice, and people still spit in His face today. Pain is well worthwhile when it may produce life.
“I would not consider my spirituality worthwhile that wants to walk in sweetness and ease and run from the imitation of Christ.” ~John Climacus
12) Pain may come to fulfill a larger purpose.
The purpose-filled life does not promise to be easy. Indeed, it can almost guarantee pain somewhere along the way. But it is well worth it. I once heard a story of a little girl who cried herself to sleep one night because she had brown eyes in a family of blue eyes, and she hated her brown eyes. When this little girl grew up, she went to India as a missionary. This being a time where foreigners were not allowed to adopt Indian orphans, naturally, she wanted to. And being in a culture of Karma, India was not always nice to their orphans. Their logic was that if those kids had the bad Karma to be orphaned, who are we to interrupt their Karma. They believed that by helping people like that, you are doing them no favors because they deserved what they got; and if you take that away from them, they will just be reincarnated as something worse. So she tried to adopt some of those children, but because she was white (a foreigner) they wouldn’t even let her enter the orphanage building. So she bathed herself in coffee, dyeing her skin brown, and dressed herself in Indian clothes, and walked right into the orphanage without any trouble and was able to adopt a couple of lovely children. But it was her eyes that saved her, for in India, everyone has brown eyes. For all blue-eyed devils were foreigners. In this way, everything has a purpose. Most you will never find as blatant as this, but everything has some purpose to it. Even the lice.
In a World War II concentration camp. Two godly sisters were imprisoned. Corrie Ten Boom and her sister actually started a Bible study in their living quarters. Corrie’s sister said they should thank God for everything. Corrie scoffed and said, what! Even the lice? And Corrie’s sister said yes, thankful even of the lice that infested their prison house. Corrie refused, but she eventually learned to thank God for the lice, why? Because it was the lice that protected them from the soldiers. The soldiers would not even enter their flea infested building because of the lice. So not only were they protected from the soldiers, but their Bible study was able to go on unhindered.
In Genesis, it tells a story of Joseph. He was favored by his father over his many brothers, who, out of envy, sold him into slavery after contemplating killing him themselves. The slave traders sold him to a rich Egyptian who eventually trusted Joseph with his whole household. God had so blessed Joseph that only the man’s wife was kept from his control. Then his wife came onto Joseph (or attempted to) but Joseph ran from the house to get away from her. The Egyptian’s wife created a story of molestation and had Joseph thrown in jail. Even in jail, Joseph was favored and had responsibilities even there. One day, in attending some of the other inmates, he correctly interpreted two men’s dreams. One was released and returned to his former job while the other was released and then executed. After quite some time, the Pharaoh had a dream, and Joseph was mentioned as a man who could help, so from successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, he was released, and indeed became the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. Second only to Pharaoh himself. For his interpretation of the dream was that there was going to be seven years of bounty followed by seven years of terrible famine. So Joseph not only saved all of Egypt by storing the surplus grain in the first seven years, but in that way, he was able to save the Israelite nation who had no food during the famine, but who came to Egypt to get food because that was the only place that had food. Joseph struggled through years and years of trial and suffering, but for a purpose. He became the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, and saved Egypt, not to mention the Israelites and many other people.
“Lord, how you afflict your lovers! But everything is small in comparison to what you give them afterward.” ~Teresa of Avila
God works everything for the good of those He loves. “Even Divorce?” Yes, even divorce. I once heard a story (from “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas) about a couple; he was learning to become a church elder and she was leading a Christian ministry herself. He left her. Why? He claimed he didn’t love her anymore. He immediately began dating again. She never gave up on him. She even wore her wedding ring all the way up to his wedding day; his wedding day with another woman. She was extremely emotionally distraught, but through this trial, she became intimately close with the Lord and because of her example in this trial, she was able to lead her dad to the Lord. And if you ask her today, she would say the divorce was painful, destructive, and terrible, but God used the pain to produce something good. Something very good indeed. Even though the pain was caused by the husband’s sin, God was able to take it and make something good come out of it. Her father's salvation.
“What about death” For centuries, death has been one of the top most feared thing for all men. Why? Because when you ask a dead man what happens after death, he says nothing. And people fear what they do not know. Since death is the physical end of yourself, the fear comes from not knowing whether an eternity of nothing or an eternity of something follows after it. Personally, I say, why should I fear death? I am already dead, why should I fear it? I live in Christ, for it is not really I who am living right now, but Christ who is living in me. For Jesus died already, but then rose from the dead, defeating death. And if He has already defeated death, then why am I to fear it?
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – …..The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…..” (Romans 5-6)
Death becomes really simple for me. Death is simply the end of our physical bodies – while our spiritual bodies live on (our souls in sense). Now whether or not we go directly to heaven or hell, or if we simply remain until the second coming when all the dead shall be resurrected and both the living and the dead shall be judged does not matter to me. (Purgatory is not biblical, and I do not hold to it. – But if by having to wait, this may be seen by some as a sort of purgatory…) It is both the same to me, for if I go directly to heaven (for my faith in Christ has saved me from my sins, which would have led me to hell…) if I go directly to heaven, then I will be in the presence of my God, and I will be complete, but if I am simply asleep until that day comes when Christ comes again.... (Asleep – for the Old Testament mentions the dead as sleeping at least forty-two times, and many times also in the New Testament, some of which was Christ – for instance when he left to raise Lazarus, He said he was sleeping, and He was going to wake him up – and again with the small child that died while He was on his way to heal her, Jesus said not to weep, for she was only asleep.) I see both as the same, for when you are in a dreamless sleep, time does not affect you. You wake up as if a second ago you had just fallen asleep. You are unconscious; time is not measurable to you. So either way, it will be as if only an instant had past. And that is comforting to me. I feel I can go through the most excruciating painful death, for the hope that I know in a few seconds, I will be face to face with my God. And that is beyond what words could ever express.
That is my life’s aim. To come to see the glory of the Lord face to face. And to fulfill God’s purpose for me upon the earth; that is simply the journey. Unfortunately for those who reject Christ or have not found Him yet, this will not be much of a comfort, and this whole treatise will be of very little use to you, but I hope that by reading this, even if you continue to reject Christ, that the problem of pain would NOT be the reason for it. Not even to the point of death. Now is there injustice in death? I would say there is sin in murder, but I don’t believe a man can die before his time. I do not think a man can die before his purpose is fulfilled. When his job is finished, then he dies, but if he is still alive, then his job must not be finished yet. Puts a new perspective on it doesn’t it? Because it looks at heaven as our home and this earth as a job or a chore that we must do before we can return back home to rest in the arms of the Lord. It is an interesting twist on what the world says. It takes the fear out of death. It looks on it as the ends to the beginning.
Another interesting twist can be found in Isaiah 57:1 – “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” Their jobs are done, and so the Lord takes them so they do not have to suffer to see the depravity of their fellow man. (Speaking of Ultimate protection!)
“What about?” You may ask. “What about still-born, or infant deaths? What about innocent people who are just ignorant? What about those people who have never heard of the Gospel? According to your religion, aren’t they going to hell?” No. God judges the heart, so only God knows how many people are really “innocent”, but whoever is innocent, yet does not know of Christ, because of their innocence, will not be held accountable, and God’s grace does afford them too. They can get into heaven. There is great biblical room for innocent, yet ignorant, to reach heaven. In John 9:41, Jesus is talking to the self-righteous teachers of the law, and “Jesus said. “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of your sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” And again in John 15:22 it says, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.” But don’t take this too far. Yes, the innocent will not be held accountable for what they do not know, but Romans 1:18-20 tells us that, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so men are without excuse.” So only God knows who truly is innocent. Grace is up to God. It is our job to reach out and tell those who don’t know about Him. Period. Not worry about the technicalities of it. Trust in Him! It is good. He knows what He is doing. He is trustworthy.
What about the still-born or infant deaths? True innocence is up to God, but I think it is safe to say that these are truly innocent. But why does it happen? Even the still-born has a purpose. I think the best way to address this problem is to tell you about a book I have read. Written by Bruce Carroll called “Sometimes Miracles Hide”, the book comes out of letters written by people replying to a song Bruce wrote called “Sometimes Miracles Hide.” This is a real letter from real people in real circumstances –
“I was four and a half months pregnant with our third child when my husband and I found out through a routine ultrasound that our precious little baby had anencephaly. We were both totally shocked, as we already had two perfectly healthy children at home. The technician performing the procedure told us that our best option was to terminate the pregnancy. We were fortunate to have an obstetrician who supported us in our decision to take the baby to term. He sent us a specialist to confirm the baby’s condition.
The specialist, however, was not so supportive. He told us we were crazy to continue with the pregnancy. When we told him that we loved our baby and were going to keep him as long as we possibly could, he said this was not an ethical matter. The way he put it was that our baby ‘was not compatible with life.’ He insisted that it would be in our best interest to terminate the pregnancy immediately. He couldn’t begin to comprehend why we would make this choice. But even then, like your song said, we believed we could hear God’s voice encouraging us with the thought that ‘sometimes miracles hide.’
Next, we were sent to a genetic counselor and a genetic doctor. The counselor was great. She explained what anencephaly is and how the baby’s brain would never develop. She told us what our baby would look like. She supported our decision to continue the pregnancy, but she emphasized that it would be hard on me emotionally to carry a baby for five more months, knowing that he would die at birth. I appreciated her honesty and candor, but with each discussion our conviction intensified.
When the genetic doctor came through the door, the first thing my husband did was to tell her that we were keeping the baby and that we didn’t want to hear anything about an abortion. The doctor turned to me and said, ‘We’re talking about your body and your choice, not your husband’s. What do you want to do?’ She said the baby was going to die anyway and that it would be easier on everybody to just get it over with now. Why should I put myself through all that pain and emotional suffering when the outcome was so grim? She told me that the baby might die during the birth process, and if not, it would likely die ten to twenty minutes after birth.
The next five months were very hard. The baby grew and began to be very active. How could such a strong, active baby have such a devastating birth defect? My husband and I knew we couldn’t possibly get through this difficult time without our church, family, and friends. We knew God was on our side, that He would help us through this, and that He would never leave us.
We prayed for a miracle. What a great miracle that would be! Wouldn’t it be great if we could show all those doctors and doubting people that Jesus healed our baby? We also prayed for strength, then we turned it over to God for His will to be done. We prayed that we would be able to use this experience and our baby’s life in His plan.
When I went into labor, thirty people were in the waiting room praying for us. As I lay there waiting for the baby to be born, I knew we had received our miracle – we were going to have a baby, and birth is one of the greatest miracles of all. I also knew in my heart that my baby would die.
At the moment of our precious little Matthew’s birth, I felt an intense peace and joy. Matthew survived the birth process and was breathing on his own. We were blessed to spend eleven wonderful hours with our little boy. He stayed with me in my room the entire time, knowing only the comfort and love of his mother’s and father’s arms. Right before he died, he seemed to be seeing angels coming to take him home. He died very peacefully.
My husband and I know in our hearts that we made the right decision to carry our little blessing to term. The time we had with him was so special. He drew us closer to the Lord and made our relationship with each other even better. We know that one day we will be with our child again in heaven. What a glorious day that will be, to see Jesus and our Matthew!
Because of my experience, I have been able to let the Lord use me to help two other women who also chose to take their anencephalic babies to term. They said it was so helpful to talk to someone who knew what they were going through.
A friend gave me a copy of your song “Sometimes Miracles Hide” two weeks before my son was born. I can’t express to you enough how much that song meant and continues to mean to my husband and me. It was as if you had us in mind when you wrote it. The song reminds us that we are all special miracles.”
He is worthy of our trust!
Now let me approach this in a little differently now. Have you ever been to a happy funeral? No, I am not talking about a funeral in which a hated relative dies and you get rich by your inheritance. No. I am talking about a good friend of yours dying. Have you ever been to a joyful funeral? Because I have. A very good friend. He left behind a wife and three young kids. He died at a very young age. I cried when I saw his wife and three children (who are also very dear friends of mine) kneeling beside his coffin, saying their last good-byes. My heart broke at that moment. But the funeral was a celebration of his life. He was a very godly man, and a good husband and father. He left this earth with no regrets except the lack of time, of which he had been given just enough. For he had miraculously survived the first bouts of cancer, and the time spent with his family before the second round took his life was….just enough. The funeral focused on the wonderful impact he had had on so many people during his life, and the hope he had during his life that is now being fulfilled, and the joy we should have for him as he now stands before the glory of the Lord, for he is now in better hands. It was one of the hardest things I have ever seen, seeing his wife and children walking away without their father, but I knew that they would be okay because they were ever presently surrounded by our Church body to comfort them, to be there for them. And I knew that this joy was always meant to be. Death is not this painful, terrible thing for those who place their faith in Christ Jesus, (not that we would commit suicide or support euthanasia – for that would demean the sanctity of human life, not to mention it is selfish, taking fate into your own hands and shows a distrust for God and for His purposes) but it is a joyful parting, for we know where they are heading, and we know our final destination. And it is good. So as to not sound trite, death has visited my family, and indeed it was a joyful funeral. Not happy, but a celebration of a life well-lived. For funerals are not for the dead, but the living.
We thank God for everyday He gives us upon the earth to serve Him and to do His will, but we do not fear death. As Paul says, “…to live is Christ, to die is gain.” To reiterate my point, just in case: Since our purpose in life is to serve God, when our service is over, then we leave this earth to be with God, hopefully to hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” To us on earth, it may seem abrupt, but trust God. He knows what He is doing. And likewise, we can put our trust in Him, that we Can Not die until our purpose has been served! And that is a comforting thought, now isn’t it.
13) Pain allows us to bring God glory
This is the ultimate purpose – for us to bring Him glory. Not that He needs us for Him to have glory, but that He has chosen us to do so – that He wants us to do so. When Paul writes that he prayed to God to take away this “thorn in my flesh”, God replied “My grace is sufficient.” Paul never tells us what this thorn in his flesh is, but that’s beside the point. The point is that pain can humble you enough so that you can rely on God, and not yourself. Pain can remind you that it is not about you, it’s about Him!
Paul says if anyone has room to boast, it’s him. For trials - “What anyone else dares to boast about….I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spend a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” For self-righteousness - “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” But watch what he says next – “but whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul’s life is a testament itself to us. He went through tremendous pain, but he did it gladly, to serve his Lord, Christ Jesus. He could have easily claimed the easier path of continuing the persecution of the Church, at least then he wouldn’t have been the cite of such tremendous persecution, but he considered all he had accomplished before knowing Christ as nothing. Not worth an iota more of his time. Christ was worth the cost.
When Jesus healed a man born blind, His disciples asked Him if it was his sins or his father’s sins that he was born blind. Jesus answered that it was so God’s power may be revealed that he was born blind. Now He says this because at that time they believed that if terrible things happen to you, it must be because of your sins – and by saying this, He was answering their question – No. But rather. Almost as if saying, don’t worry yourself over the why, God knows and that is sufficient. But He was also saying that God can show His glory through painful circumstances. He may put you in a place of need so that He can provide for you. He may put you in a place of pain, so that He can comfort you. He may place you in a dangerous situation so that He can show you the way out. The Bible not only say’s that God’s ways are not our ways, but it also says that God’s foolishness is wiser than our wisest! Shouldn’t we be putting our trust in Him?!
Do you know what the Puritans in old New England used to say whenever one of their own went through terrible suffering like a child dying, or the barn burning down, or something along those lines? They would say what a blessing! – What a blessing to be chosen to give God glory through this great trial! – That’s quite a mind set! We’ve kind of lost that through the centuries. But think about it. God knows what He’s doing, and He works all things for the good of those He loves, and our sole purpose here on earth is to serve Him and bring Him glory, could we not also say that this present trial must be for His glory? We just can’t see it. But if we believe the first three assumptions, the fourth one must logically follow, and if you look for it, it will eventually prove true!
As I write this, I am right now immersed in school. I have an average of six hundred pages of homework each week! But last weekend, I got sick. The flu. But because of that, I had the time to write this monstrous essay on the problem of pain. I have no doubt this essay will one day be used to bring Him glory. For goodness sake, He helped me write it. I am not like most writers, who base their writings on inspiration; I base my writings on what God wants me to write, and I know it is Him writing, not me. (not saying my writing is flawless or without error, far from it) How do I know? Because without Him, I would not be able to write anything, and that is not modesty. Grammar is my worst subject. After that, it would be communication. Without God’s guidance, I would not only have trouble writing these words, but I wouldn’t even be able to articulate the ideas needed to write anything down. God is my inspiration. He is my pen. He is my life. And I hope through this step by step approach (even by how limited it is) you may be able to trust Him with your life also.
In closing, I hope you keep in mind that this is by no means a complete list, nor can it answer specific questions of why this or why that. But now you must choose. Is God worthy of your trust? It says in Romans 5:3-5 that, “….we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint because God has poured out His love into our hearts...” You have to choose between what the world says about pain – useless. And what the Bible says about pain – meaningful. You have to choose between so called “peace” and purpose, between ease and strength, ignorance or wisdom, pride or true love, self-righteousness or joy; the list goes on and on…… In sense, you must settle for yourself what you believe about pain.
“The real test of a theory or way of life, however, is not whether it can relieve pain, but what it says about the pain it can’t relieve. And this is where, I think, psychology lets us down and Christianity supports us. For in psychology suffering has no meaning, while in Christianity it has great meaning.”~William Kirk Kilpatrick