Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Wonderful School of Pain

The first of Cru's four spiritual laws is: "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life."

With absolutely no disrespect intended toward the late Bill Bright, I would like to add a few words to Cru's first principle that explains the Christian message of salvation: "God loves you and offers a wonderfully perfect and at times, a gut-wrenchingly painful plan for your life."

Pain is a gift from God yet we often do not think of pain this way. Typically we don't thank God for massive migraines that make us feel like our brains are going to explode or thank Him for debilitating depression that makes us want to crawl into a hole and hide. We are creatures of comfort who complain and whine about why we must endure any form of hardship.

Approximately a decade ago I read about Dr. Brand's work with lepers in India. He observed that many of his patients would lose their fingers and toes during the night. He shockingly discovered that rats were chewing on his patients' fingers and toes while they slept, but they never woke up because they had no sense of pain. Dr. Brand also noticed that young children with leprosy would gnaw off their fingers because they had no sense of pain. Thank you for pain, God.

Although pain is one of the numerous results of the original sin, without pain we would not know when medical attention is needed. James 1:2-3 says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." When we endure painful trials, we can take joy in knowing that God is at work in us to sanctify us, to make us more like His Son, Jesus. This applies to all kinds of pain - emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical pain.

The good news is that Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sins, suffering the most excruciating pain, the holy wrath of His Father. This includes paying the price for my respectable sins of discontentment and ungratefulness. Jesus understands the pains we go through and endured the greatest pain in order to redeem us and glorify His Father. 1 Peter 2:24 says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." One day death, mourning, crying, and pain will be a thing of the past for all believers in Christ (Revelation 2:14). Draining elbows and drilling kneecaps will be no longer.

Although pain is a huge part of life, God provides us the grace to persevere. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." Pain shows how weak we are and can demonstrate the comforting, healing, and perfecting power of God.

Like you, I experience different kinds of pain from time to time. In my 40+ years, my body has endured a couple of broken bones, been under the knife on several occasions, stitched up in multiple spots, and has had numerous cuts, bruises, blisters, sprains, and strains, as well as a few lost toenails and fingernails. Many of these injuries have resulted from activities I once enjoyed such as kicking a ball and climbing trees. Recently a painful bout with elbow bursitis and the decision to have ACL surgery this summer has resulted in me throwing myself a grand pity party despite being blessed with so much and while so many are experiencing far greater pains than me. God in His mercy though has once again shown me how sinful I am and how much I need Jesus Christ.

God's plan is wonderfully perfect and downright painful at times. I shared a couple of pains I am enduring, and I could share more if I discussed all of the mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish I battle. I thank God He is refining me through painful circumstances, that the cross is a source of comfort, and that our Sovereign Lord will soon provide us glorified bodies free from sin, suffering, and sickness.

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7