A divine perspective on earthly pain.
– Helen Keller
NOTE: This is something I wrote a while back – back in 2013 – and I decided to post it here. It’s also a two part blog that I wrote concerning my pregnancy and I hope it will bless you!
Oh and don’t worry, I don’t mention my pregnancy so if you’re sick of reading it about, this will hopefully not put you off too much.
So here it is…
Maybe it’s just me and the way I’m wired, but don’t you just hate it when you can’t see the point in something?! It’s like watching that movie that has absolutely no plot and no substance to it and when you come to the end of it, you’re left thinking: “What on earth….?” Or like reading a book where something in you can just sense that whatever “great adventure” the main character is about to embark on is pointless and inwardly, you find yourself shaking your head at the book. Or – and I think we can all attest to this if we’re honest – remember back in high school when you listened to your teacher go on about something that went completely over your head? I can still remember asking myself: “And this going to help me in the future, how?”
Recently I felt as though I had to endure yet another bout of these “pointless experiences”. What happened was that for 6 weeks I had been extremely sick. Nothing life threatening – although on some days it didn’t quite feel that way. Somewhat shamefully I must admit that during that period of intense suffering I truly welcomed the idea of checking out of this life for good. When the pain got too much and the whole experience felt too intense for me to bear in my own strength, I would sometimes catch myself begging for God to take me back home to Him.
At this point some might say: “Well there’s nothing shameful about feeling like the trial you’re going through is too much and too hard for you to bear.
"...I think it is healthy and right for the human soul to recognize its frailty. Knowing that we are weak but Christ in us is what makes us strong is what will always keep us humble. We won't ever be tempted to think that we are greater than what we really are because we know Who the truly Great One is."
After all, there are Bible characters who also felt that way: Job; Paul. Even Jesus prayed in the garden that God would let the cup of the crucifixion pass Him by. There’s no shame in admitting that you are weak, Rachel.” And there is truth to this. I must also add that I think it is healthy and right for the human soul to recognize its frailty. Knowing that we are weak but Christ in us is what makes us strong is what will always keep us humble. We won’t ever be tempted to think that we are greater than what we really are because we know Who the truly Great One is.
However, with all that said I still think that for me the shame comes into it is because I failed to see that God might be working on a grander scale than my human mind could comprehend. While I was lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself and throwing myself needless pity-parties; I hadn’t once stopped to contemplate that even though I was feeling abandoned by God, He might still be at work in me on a much deeper level. I mistakenly bought into the lie that “because I can’t see the point to this trial there must therefore be no point to it and subsequently, God must end my ‘pointless’ suffering. Immediately!” Like Job, I expected God to come to me with answers as to why I was suffering so much. I mean does He know how hard it is for me to go through all of this without even a good reason as to why I have to suffer so much? I’m sorry but if I must go through all of this, then He has to tell me why!
"While I was lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself and throwing myself needless pity-parties; I hadn't once stopped to contemplate that even though I was feeling abandoned by God, He might still be at work in me on a much deeper level. I mistakenly bought into the lie that "because I can't see the point to this trial there must therefore be no point to it and subsequently, God must end my 'pointless' suffering."
Unlike Paul, I forgot that the truth of the matter is that God’s grace is enough for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12 vs 7 – 10) and therefore I can be like Jesus and say: “God, not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22 vs 42) because I know that even if the worst hardship come my way, I know that He who brought me to this point is with me and He remains for me.
You see pain and suffering is not evidence of an absent God. In fact, if it proves anything it’s this: that God is sovereign. He is always with us because He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and we know that He is not a man that He should lie (Hebrews 13 vs 5 – 6; Numbers 23 vs 19).
Romans 5 vs 3 – 5: ” We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (New Living Translation)
Our sufferings is supposed to help us develop and as we develop and grow, ultimately what happens is that our faith and our hope is strengthened. The beautiful thing that I see in this is that our hope “will not lead to disappointment”. What this says to me is that no matter how bad the trials are; not matter how much I suffer; no matter what curve balls this life may throw at me and no matter what it is I go through; everything has the ultimate purpose of strengthening the hope I have in Christ which will not fail or disappoint me because the very foundation of the hope I have is based on God’s love for me and it is reassuring to know that the hardships that come my way are with the purpose of building me up and not breaking me down. That is a powerful truth that I can hold on to unwaveringly even in the worst of trials and hardships.
The second thing that sticks out to me as I read these verses in Romans 5 is the warning that they contain. Verse 3 starts of saying: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials…”
To me, the warning comes in the words “we can rejoice”. I feel as though those 3 words imply that when trials and problems come my way, I can choose to do one of two things:
"You see pain and suffering is not evidence of an absent God. In fact, if it proves anything it's this: that God is sovereign. He is always with us because He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and we know that He is not a man that He should lie"
1: I can choose to rejoice in the trial as I know that God is ultimately using those things to strengthen and develop my endurance, my character and my confident hope of salvation which is based on God’s love for me. When hardships come I can choose to stand strong and hold on to God’s words of truth and hope. I can choose to believe that there is more beyond what my eyes can see and more beyond what my mind can perceive and therefore, I choose to remain anchored in Christ because I know and have faith that He remains in control regardless of circumstances may try and tell me otherwise. I can choose to rejoice – which by the way may be one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make! Or…
2: I can choose to not rejoice in my sufferings. I can get mad and blame God and be angry that He has allowed these hardships to come my way. I can rage at Him and ask Him why.
At this point I will go on a bit of a tangent and say that I think that it is okay to be real with God. If you’re angry at Him, disappointed in Him, unbelieving of Him or whatever with Him; tell Him. It’s not like He doesn’t already know and as cliché as this will sound, it will do you so much good to level with God about where you’re at. I have this theory that once we are real with God, we invite Him to be real with us. When we are ready to “let it all hang out”, when we allow ourselves to come to God as we truly are we also then allow God to come to us as He truly is.
"Our sufferings is supposed to help us develop and as we develop and grow, ultimately what happens is that our faith and our hope is strengthened. The beautiful thing that I see in this is that our hope "will not lead to disappointment".
We allow God to come and speak healing into wounds that we may have carried for years. We allow God to speak His truth into lies that may have held us captive for longer than we can even remember and ultimately, we give God the room to move as He will in our lives. If we aren’t real with God, how can we expect to experience Him as He would like us to? I think that when we come to God wearing a mask, we automatically take away from what our relationship with Him can be because we haven’t come to Him in truth.
Our masquerade before His throne can greatly affect the richness of the relationship we could have with Him otherwise
Coming back to the point I was trying to make earlier about choosing to rage in our sufferings as opposed to rejoicing in our sufferings. I have personally found this to be true: if suffering helps me develop and cultivate certain fruits and attributes then I’d best make the decision to suffer well.
In my eyes, those verses in Romans 5 don’t merely suggest that suffering and trials may or may not develop certain traits in you but rather these verses are saying: the question isn’t if your sufferings will help you develop certain attributes but rather what attributes will you let your suffering develop within you? I see these verses as saying that if you choose to rejoice in your suffering, you will develop the good fruits that come from making a good choice. Perhaps it therefore stands to reason that if you choose to not rejoice in your suffering, you will develop the bad fruits that come from making a bad choice. This is not some new-age mentality of releasing good and positive energy into the universe so that good will come back to you but it’s a case of sowing in the flesh and therefore reaping of the flesh or sowing in the Spirit and therefore reaping of the Spirit (Galatians 6 vs 7- 8).
So now that we are aware of the weight in our suffering, I leave you with this question: when the time comes, will you choose to suffer well and accept the gift found in suffering?