“Blessed are they that mourn:
For they shall be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4)
You got pain; I got pain; all God’s children got pain. None of us want it, but all of us get it to varying degrees whether we like it or not. But if you’re a serious Jesus-follower you know down deep that it’s part of the program as the above verse attests. It’s one of the Beatitudes, and one we might miss between the “blesseds” of the poor in spirit and of the meek. And we know there is more truth in the old workout slogan, “No Pain, No Gain” than we would care to admit.
Most of us are familiar with C. S. Lewis’s famous quote about pain being “God’s megaphone.” It’s how He gets our attention. Pain’s companion is, of course, suffering. I just finished a very worthwhile read Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian. On the book jacket it says: “How suffering sets you free.” He was led to write the book after a dark period in his own life and after doing a preaching series on the book of Job. He makes some excellent points. Some of those points are that everybody suffers and that it accomplishes nothing to compare one person’s suffering with another’s, and also that it’s foolish to minimize our own suffering or to trivialize another’s pain with trite counsel like “everything happens for a reason.” Tchividjian’s point is that the reason God allows suffering is to destroy our idols and to allow us to experience the risen Christ. He cites Job’s revelation of the living God (Job 19:25) amidst his suffering as the prime example. I’ve given this book a lot of thought over the past month and, though it gives me little comfort, I think he is right. A decade ago I tried to articulate something similar in my book The Unwelcome Blessing.
I’ve never believed much in the message of the “health and wealth” preachers, though there is some definite comfort and fleshy appeal there–lets just have enough faith, say the magic prayers and get on with it. . .and here comes the cornucopia of abundant blessings; and oh, btw, send us your donation to seal the blessing. I guess Paul forgot to add health and wealth to the other nine fruits of the Spirit. Health and wealth sure sells a lot better than the certainty of pain. But the guys who preach that are focusing on about 10% or less of the gospel– and our gold-standard, Jesus, didn’t exactly lead a happy, affluent, pain-free life.
Jesus said in this world we would have trouble, but that in Him we would have peace (John 16:33). He doesn’t promise rescue from pain, heartache, suffering but he says He will be with us through it–“always.” (Mt. 28:20)