Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member
This is a hard post to write. About 22 years ago Dr. Paul Brand and Phillip Yancy co-authored a book by the above title. I bought the book one year when I was in India. I thought the title to be strange but I was more interested in making a donation to a ministry I was visiting. Under the circumstances, just to give a cash gift was not an option, so I came up with purchasing several books from their book store. But that is not what this post is about. It’s about how we, in general, hate pain. The first thing we do is try to fix it and make it better. It doesn’t matter if it is physical, spiritual or emotional pain. We don’t want it around.
I have a friend named Becky. Another story, but her family “adopted” me into their lives several years ago. They have loved me and welcomed me into their lives and home for several years now. Becky and I developed a special relationship because of her giving of herself, her money and her time during a couple of crisis experiences related to work here in the ministry. Not to sound silly or sentimental, she became the daughter I never had.
Anyway, we were talking last night, and I told her that I was thinking about writing a blog about how God can use pain in our lives. It has been developing over several months because of the sudden development of severe arthritic pain in both my knees. But the lessons didn’t really start just several months ago with this. I guess it started with my wife of 36 years, suffering with some weird pains for all but four years of marriage. We never found a cause, it just grew worse over the years until God graciously took her home in December of 2012. Then two years later I started dealing with my own pain.
I was talking to Becky last night and told her I wanted to do a church blog post about this. Becky being the good listener she is, sat quietly on the other end of our Face time chat and heard the story. I told her, while the knee pain has been a huge distraction to me, not to mention the severe pain, it has also been sort of a blessing. I am not just trying to sound spiritual or anything of the sort, but God has, and is using this in my life in ways I never thought. Like most people I have prayed for healing, less pain, etc. I have also gone to doctors, gotten shots, bought every supplement known to man that had anything to do with lessening the pain and helping my joints. In other words I did the usual…lets get rid of this pain.
But what I was made aware of last night, while I was telling all this to Becky, was that God has used all this to soften my hard heart. Not long before Alice (my wife) died, she told me one night that she was deeply thankful to God because He gave her the best husband she could have ever had. I begged to differ with her, because she could not read the times when my heart was so tired all I wanted to do was run. But somehow God gave me the grace to stay and care for Alice. Please believe me, it’s not about me and I am not trying to tout how holy and righteous I am. During that time I was just a weak Christian who, by God’s grace made a couple of right choices. So in Alice’s eyes, that made me the perfect husband.
Now, I am facing my own struggles with pain. I told Becky, that as severe as the pain has gotten at times, and how much I desire to have it end, there is still this strange joy I have in it. I can’t recall getting angry at God with the usual, “why me” cries. Or, “God, I have served you all these years, how could you let this happen.“ Rather, there have been thoughts of all that Alice went through. I see people around the ministry and I see their pain, and feel their hurts. It has made me more patient with myself and others. But mostly it has made me fall on my knees (figuratively at least) in confession, worship and praise to God for becoming a man and suffering and dying for such a sinner like me. He did the same for you.
I don’t want to belabor the point, but we only truly grow in the Lord when the pressure is on. It’s not that God is playing games with our lives or just trying to turn the screws to see how much we will take. God is truly concerned about our character. Paul say this in Romans 5:3-5: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, PROVEN CHARACTER; and proven character , hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Can such proven character really happen though our pain and suffering? Yes, if only we do not rebel against God. I don’t know where you are in your walk with God. But I know that some of you are in some kind of severe pain. How do I know this? Because it is a part of life for all people, including God’s people, in this fallen world. But my prayer is that you and I will have the strength, courage to persevere until the end. Our Lord is there with us through it all. Indeed, He has gone before us in it all. And he did it so we could have eternal life with Him. How great will that be!!!
Don’t give up. It will all be worth it.