– by Waldean Wall –
The other day I was reading an article written by a Christian who is in great physical and emotional pain. She makes a statement like one that that I hear over and over again, “I don’t believe God is the agent of pain, evil, or death, but I don’t know how to make sense of God also being the one who didn’t stop pain, evil, or death from happening to me or those I love.” (this is the prosperity gospel point of view)
Now, I’m not a noteworthy theologian or anything, but it seems to me that something else is going on here. If you count yourself as a mature Christian, you should know exactly what’s going. God has called this Christian to steadfastly look to Jesus while praising him in pain. He has called her to show us, and everyone else, how truly magnificent God is while this world is killing her. He has called her to live out Psalm 23. He has called her to, like Jesus, experience all this world has to throw at her so that she can better look forward to the perfection to come:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:12–13
In an article by Mary Yerkes, she lists 5 truths we can glean from suffering (I’ve adjusted them slightly):
- God’s calling to exceptional intimacy with him (Job 42:5)
- God’s calling to comfort others (2 Cor 1:3-5)
- God’s calling to be refined (Isaiah 48:10)
- God’s calling to growth and maturity (James 1:2-4)
- God’s calling toward the image if Christ (Romans 8:28-29)
Pain is a catalyst that forces us to leave neutral ground and embrace Jesus as the treasure that he is. In great pain we see everything stripped away except what is core to our reality.
It might be that the real problem here is an unwil willingness accept a life of complete dependence and faith; a willingness to live out what we know to be true – this life is all about Jesus.
This willingness is not just a problem for those in great pain; it’s a massive problem for all of us. Our lives show what is core to our reality. Money and convenience and comfort and status and ambition and health and entertainment and leisure and sex and a host of other things would create a construct that lies to us and dilutes our faith and bends our understanding of what this life is about.
Great pain or not, we should all be living the same way. In many ways, those who glorify God in their pain are real examples to us of what life in Christ should look like. We should all be living lives of faith that testify to the purpose and hope we have in Jesus. Let go of the distractions and focus on Jesus.