We all experience unwanted pain and question why it has to come. Your child falls skinning his knee, you burn your arm on the oven getting out the dinner casserole, you are in an accident, a friend turns against you, you deeply struggle with your spouse in marriage, you have to say good-bye to a dear friend moving away, cancer hits unexpectedly, your parent is incapable of taking care of herself/himself, your child dies even after you have prayed protection from these things happening. Give life a little time and everyone will experience these phenomena, but does it serve a purpose or is it just the unyielding tool of the enemy? Maybe we need to ask another question to find the answer.
What is the greatest purpose of God in this world for us and in your own life? Have you thought about that? Colossians 3:3-4, Romans 6:3-7, 1 John 5:20 – these scripture and many more teach us that God wants us to know Him and find our life in Him alone. If that is truly His purpose for making us, would pain serve Him well? If you cut your finger and feel pain, it is an indicator that you need to care for your finger. One of the greatest dangers for a leper is the absence of pain, because without it they do not know anything is wrong. Pain tells us there is something wrong or maybe that we are not seeing God clearly in the situation. And most of us walk all our life doing life ourselves, not letting God in that He might live in and through us, but instead doing it in our own strength. We can handle the pain-just be strong! But is it the pain and struggles in life that teach us that we cannot do it alone, that we need Jesus to help us breathe, walk, live?
After Talitha died, I had so many years to contemplate this topic deeply, to dig in scripture, to pray hungering for an answer, and finally have God begin to enlighten me through scripture to a deeper motive that He has. Pain hits and we pit it all against the enemy or even God. I mean, God could have stopped it right? While struggling on both sides, I searched God for the answer to this question. On the other side of our tragedy, I now believe pain is a refiner that leads us to God. It is not sent by the hand of God, for He protects His children from the enemy and harmful situations, but God will use all things to work to the good of those who love Him and to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), including the pain and trauma of life. Let me build a picture here. God has a canopy of protection like a huge umbrella not letting anything through – anything, that is, except those very things that will be used to reveal Himself most to you. While many fiery arrows come at you every day from the evil one that are deflected by God’s hands, every great many there is one that is allowed through. But if God can stop them why doesn’t He? That seems like that would be the LOVING thing to do, doesn’t it? But what if it is these very arrows that help you keep your eyes on God? What if it is these distractions or pains that cause you to run even closer to God, to know Him in a way you never have or never could without this situation? What if it is this agony that reveals to you how much you depend solely upon yourself, your flesh, not allowing God to have His way, first, to work in you as you realize that through faith in Christ God made you a perfect home that He can indwell and, next, that He desires to live through you to bring surrendered dependence on Him. It was God the Son that spoke these amazing words that few of us hear and even fewer of us comprehend, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does,” in John 5:19. It was in His likeness that we were made and we were given life in Christ and made into new creations to walk through this world like He did, but how do we do this.
In one of the many classes last summer that I took at Exchanged Life Ministries, I became overwhelmed with the tremendous grace of God. Talitha’s death hit us causing great trauma and crushing our family. Yet, far on the other side, I can see this allowance to be an unfathomable grace to reveal God’s incredible heart and purpose to me. I don’t have Talitha anymore here on earth and that stinks, yet somehow His grace is sufficient. His grace has covered me and has made His love toward me greater than even the pain of my loss. He loved me enough to allow this revealing. He also knew that on the other side of this tragedy we would know and love Him more. He is strong enough to hold me fast in the trauma of life and secure my steps, even though I felt as though I stumbled and fell all the way through it. This revelation doesn’t mean that we don’t miss Talitha and yearn to see her, to sit with her, to listen to her nearly forgotten voice, to hug her so tightly as to never have to let go, to gaze into her beautiful dark brown eyes. I miss her horribly, yet have found profound comfort in our God’s mysterious love.
Recently, I had a gum grafting done so that I will have teeth in twenty years, yet it was immensely painful. That is what caused me to begin to ponder this topic of pain again. As I slowly recovered, I thanked God for the pain, not that I liked it, but I knew that it served a purpose. It teaches me to trust Him in the little moments and not to depend on my own strength or ways to cope through it. The pain also shared grace with me for others that have pain. It is a strange part of our humanity that we need to experience some form of pain, sometimes even a similar agony before we can have truly needed compassion for others’ sufferings. God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,” 1 Corinthians 1:4. So I do believe pain serves us in humanity to know God more intimately and brings us to a place that we might live a life dependent on Him, to live in His presence and be able to reflect His glory as we were originally made in the Garden to do, yet this is made possible only by faith in Jesus Christ who restored to us everything we need for life and godliness to mirror God’s beauty. Suffering can bring forth beauty when enveloped in the healing of God through dependence on His great power and being.