I’m willing to bet that many of us are familiar with pain.
And if you’re not, then you probably will be at some point in your life. That’s just the unavoidable nature of living in a sinful world.
Although, pain is nothing to be afraid of as I used to be (and admittedly still can be), because it is in those moments that I find myself closer to God than ever before.
I myself am no stranger to pain. My big one, being that of grief, was losing my dad unexpectedly in my last year of high school. It was a tough time for our entire family, and the grief process was long and hard. Not only did I have to adjust to the loss of my dad, but the loss of the picture perfect family that I was blessed to grow up in.
This pain brought out a lot of questions for me in terms of my faith. I was mad at God. I couldn’t picture a strong and loving God letting this happen, and even wondered about His existence.
Suffering in life evokes the hardest questions of faith. It’s when most people that I know have walked away from God. But in contrast, this is exactly when we need God the most, to embrace Him and seek Him. Get real with God; YELL at Him (maybe not in public though), and get angry if you need to, He can handle it.
It turned out for me that I had to work through the emotion before I could even begin to ask the big questions. And I’ve asked the same questions over and over. I remember once, when an Atheist friend of mine really challenged me with the classic, “why does God let bad things happen?” question, and at that point I could not come up with an answer for myself. I was a mess on the drive home and it was when I was blasting Christian music, feeling fed up with God that I suddenly felt what I can only explain as an emotional ‘hug’ around me, and the words,
“I’m. So. Sorry.”
passed through my thoughts. After that moment could I only move forward with my questions. Jesus met me in my grief before I could reconcile my logic.
Just because I don’t agree with or even like God’s decisions (to not intervene), doesn’t mean He ceases to exist. It just means I don’t understand. And sometimes that is okay.
My favourite devotional book, Immeasurably Deeper, has one chapter on hope that states, “The natural human tendency is to look at the circumstances that directly affect us today and allow those to dictate how we live. But to truly live out faith and hope in the One who is bigger is to claim something greater over your circumstances.”
It is human nature to see God’s character through the lens of our circumstances. Let me challenge you to instead seek out God’s character; ask Him to reveal different parts of Himself throughout your life for you to hold tight to when the circumstances don’t make sense.
As inevitable as the hard times are, so are the good times. So hold on tight in the bad and embrace the good.
You’ll find that it is the hardest moments in our lives that we feel closest to God; at the same time we realize we can’t do it on our own.
Romans 5:3-4 has an encouraging view on pain. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Peter writes about suffering as a Christian in 1 Peter 4:12-13. I like the way the MSG version states the text. “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”
So what do we do when we hit rough patches in life? I would suggest that we embrace the pain when the human reaction is to medicate. Get the support you need from friends, family and professionals, and always rely on God.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” – Psalms 62:5 (NIV)
Song to listen to: ‘Even When It Hurts (Praise Song)’ – Hillsong United
Jess Laws – Boat Driver