By: Samantha Edwards.
When will it end?
What did I do to deserve this?
Pain is something we all have in common. When we enter the world, it is painful. In the middle it is painful. Often times, in the end, it is painful. With pain comes questions: Why do I have to endure this? How long will it last? We will all have to bear different types of pain in this life; but I am going to focus on physical pain, more specifically chronic pain. Thankfully, chronic pain is something not everyone has to endure! However, some of us do, and there are very important and unique lessons that we learn through it. To give a little background knowledge about me, in 2012 I was lying in bed, and suddenly a switch had turned on in my body. I went from being perfectly fine to agonizing pain in my neck. It came on quickly but slowly at the same time. The pain progressively intensified throughout the night and I did not sleep at all. The next day I could barely move. I saw many doctors and no one could give me answers as to why I was in such incredible pain or how to fix it.
Now, 7 years later, I am still in pain every day of my life. Some days it’s a 2 and others it’s a 9 out of 10, but I am in pain every day. I wanted to give some clarity into my encounter with and understanding of pain; but I will stop there, because I don’t want this to be about me. Chronic pain is defined as, “persistent pain that lasts weeks to years (Mayo Clinic).” I believe Paul suffered from chronic pain, but more on that later. Many believers who are faced with pain run to the Bible for answers to their questions. Scripture is constantly telling us to view life in light of eternity. “So, we fix our eyes not on what is unseen, but on what is seen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV). Pain and sorrow are transitory; they will not endure! What is lasting is the eternal weight of glory accrued from that pain; it will remain forever!
Living in chronic pain is difficult for various reasons but one of the most frustrating is that it dictates how you live your life. When living in pain, you aren’t capable of physically doing everything you want to do when you want to do it. Your choices have to be planned mindfully. Every day is different. Let’s say each day you are allotted a certain amount of marbles, and each time you do something, you lose a marble. Some days you have two; other days you have nine. On the days you only have two marbles, you do not waste them doing trivial things, only activities that matter the most to you.
No one welcomes pain into their lives. It involves having what you do not want and wanting what you do not have. But how we deal with pain and suffering is strongly linked to our perspective on who God is. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Affliction is like fire: the same fire that cooks our food is also capable of destroying an entire forest. The same thing can be said about suffering: in one person it can mold a Christ-like character, and in another it can breed anger, resentment and self-loathing. “So that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky”Philippians2:15 (NIV). It depends on what we set our gaze upon. In the fire we can come out either smelling like smoke or refined as gold. “But he knoweth my way, and he shall prove me as gold, that passeth through the fire” Job 23:10 (WYC). We need to focus on the Father and who He is, not what we feel we lack. We must cling on to the promises of God and search the scriptures diligently for truth and wisdom. “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things”Isaiah 45:5-7 (NIV).
Pain and suffering are not of God, but they can bring us closer to Him if we allow it. In Christ’s light, suffering can be a gift, not a millstone. Through suffering the spirit becomes bankrupt, and we ourselves are humbled. Suffering teaches what it is like to be poor in spirit, desperate and needy for more of Him. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3 (ESV). Living in pain is a daily reminder that we cannot do anything on our own, it makes us aware of how much we need Him. God is the reason we have breath in our lungs and the reason we wake up in the morning and we need to thank Him for everything He has given to us. The weaker I am, the harder I must lean on God’s grace; the harder I lean on Him, the stronger I discover Him to be, and the bolder my testimony to His grace. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.So, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” 2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NIV).
Throughout Scripture, it is evident God partners with the weak and the broken to fulfill His plans. Noah got drunk, Abraham was impatient, David committed adultery and Paul lived in chronic pain. God does not typically use the self-sufficient and strong to partner with Him to accomplish the work of His Kingdom. “So, to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me”2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (ESV). Paul asked God to remove his pain three times and He didn’t, in this instance God gave Paul a reason for not healing him but this is not always the case. He doesn’t owe us an answer, He is God and He is sovereign, He gets to decide what He wants to reveal to us. Paul didn’t become resentful because of the daily pain in his life, but instead He trusted in the Almighty and he boasted in his weakness because he wanted God more than he wanted a pain-free life.
Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV). We are brittle “jars of clay” and our cracks exist for a purpose: to shine forth the gospel our treasured possession even, and especially, when we are in pain. We see from Paul’s suffering that God brings about His good purpose in it as we rely on God. Suffering is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory; if our outer nature is being wasted away, our inner nature is not. Pain does not lessen His goodness because it is not about us: it’s all about Him. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV).
The story in Mark 5:25-34 is one that is probably familiar to any Christian who has dealt with chronic pain. This is the story of the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years: she had seen many physicians and spent all the money that she had trying to get well, but nothing worked. Even Luke the Physician recorded she could not be healed (Luke 8:43). This woman was regarded as unclean according to the Law; she was constricted from physical contact with others, especially the Religious leaders. It was unimaginable and breaking the religious and customary law for her touch Jesus, even for a moment, but she did. She had faith that if she could just touch the hem of His garment, she would be well; and she did.
It was as if a light pierced through a dark room! She felt His healing power go through her body immediately; Jesus also felt the power leave His body. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” (Mark 5:31). The woman was trembling, both fearful of what He might say, and joyful because what happened was a miracle! On this crowded street likely in Capernaum, she explained to Him how she had suffered in this embarrassing, humiliating, and socially rejected way for many years. She did not let the fear of who was watching keep her silent; she had been healed and she was excited! Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” Mark 5:34 (NIV). Living every day with an incurable illness is miserable and anyone who can sympathize with her can imagine how desperate she was for healing. “Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV). He is the Healer!
I don’t know where you are in the process, but you are somewhere in this story. Maybe you are the one who has suffered from chronic pain and illness, and needs renewed faith that God can both sustain and heal you in His timing. Maybe it’s not physical pain you struggle with, but it’s an addiction, a mental illness, emotional conflict, or an area of sin in your life you just can’t overcome. These are all areas of pain only healed by God’s divine power and mercy, and He gives us strength in the process. Whatever your source of pain and struggle, the answer is the same: Jesus! His plan may look like instantaneous healing: believe for it- reach for His robe! His plan may look like giving you the money for another doctor’s appointment, the strength to take more medicine, the resource of a godly counselor, or the courage for another day. Do not despise these “less glamorous” expressions of His grace and plan. They are so important to your process. Or maybe you aren’t in a season of suffering; perhaps you are the disciple doing life and walking with Jesus. But dear friend, do not be so focused on getting to the next assignment or next city you think He’s leading you to that you miss the broken and the hurting on the way.