A divine perspective on earthly pain.
“Our heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear, and doubt. He is always there to encourage our hearts and help us understand that He’s sufficient for all of our needs. When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.”
– Charles Stanley
NOTE: This is part two of a post I wrote way back in 2013. I strongly recommend that you first read part one if you haven’t done so yet and I sincerely hope and pray and this two part series will be a great blessing to you as you read.
“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties…Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us”
(Ecclesiastes 7 vs 2 & 3 – New Living Translation)
I have always found these words from King Solomon somewhat intriguing yet simultaneously depressing. However as time goes by and the seasons change, and the more I experience in this life, I feel like I seem to question less and less the truth and wisdom found in these sobering words. Like King Solomon, I have found that sadness and sorrow do tend to have a refining influence on me. Especially now in my adult life, I am realizing that hindsight can be a beautiful thing because as I use it to reflect on my life, I could argue that sometimes when I have been at my lowest, I’ve tended to gain a perspective or insight that helps me see clearly, provided I’m looking at things through the right eyes – God’s eyes.
Perhaps here, I should backtrack a bit and explain what I’m talking about.
We’ve all seen it in the movies: that happily married couple with great kids go through the tragedy of one of the parents dying. We’ve seen them try to adjust to this new kind of normal and as the script goes, the family barely seems to get by. Then there always comes the part which the whole movie has been building towards. The great crescendo where the remaining parent and at least one of the kids (who has been hard to live with and constantly keeping their emotions bottled up inside) will have it out with each other. They’ll scream their true feelings from across the kitchen to each other or they’ll have a screaming match standing in the corridor. And once the movie has climaxed to this point, the aftermath is that usually the parent and child find a way to move forward and you as the onlooker are left hopeful that they’ll make it.
"Like King Solomon, I have found that sadness and sorrow does tend to have a refining influence on me. Especially now in my adult life, I am realizing that hindsight can be a beautiful thing because as I use it to reflect on my life, I could argue that sometimes when I have been at my lowest, I've tended to gain a perspective or insight that helps me see clearly, provided I'm looking at things through the right eyes – God's eyes."
Regardless of whether or not they go on to live happily ever after, the one thing that these “showdowns” tend to portray to us the audience is how each party is clearly seeing the other one’s pain, perhaps for the first time. It’s like their fight was the missing ingredient needed to help the one party transcend their own pain and look into what the other person is dealing with. And once they’ve encountered this “other reality”, they are now better equipped to handle the person standing before them.
I sometimes wonder if a similar scenario doesn’t play itself out in our lives just on a less Hollywood-type scale.
What do I mean?
Well, take a moment to think about your life and all the hard things you’ve had to endure until now. How have you responded to that pain or to those trials? What is your “default setting” when you encounter tragedy? Are you quick to let you sadness and sorrow be a refining influence as King Solomon suggests it ought to be or do you tend to get so caught up in the “now” and how your emotions leave you feeling angry; helpless perhaps even abandoned and forsaken by God? If the latter is the case, you may find that over a period of time, your heart has grown cold leaving you broken and bitter over your loss. Maybe you’ve become more and more cynical over the years? Not realizing that your so-called “realism” is actually the pessimism brought on by someone who has been deeply hurt and has never taken the time to find healing in Christ.
Now please, don’t hear what I’m NOT saying: I am not saying that emotions are the enemy and we need to stifle them at all cost! That’s daft! In fact I believe in the opposite: feel what you feel and be real about it.
"Well, take a moment to think about your life and all the hard things you've had to endure until now. How have you responded to that pain or to those trials? What is your "default setting" when you encounter tragedy? Are you quick to let you sadness and sorrow be a refining influence as King Solomon suggests it ought to be or do you tend to get so caught up in the "now" and how your emotions leave you feeling angry; helpless perhaps even abandoned and forsaken by God? "
God knew what He was doing when He gave us emotions so I doubt that He of all people is blown away when we express these emotions, especially to Him. I think that at the foot of the cross, there is room for “being emotional” but I also think that emotions should not be allowed to blind us from seeing what is really true.
I sometimes wonder if one of the marks of being a mature Christian is being able to acknowledge and deal with the pain and sorrow one feels while still tenaciously clinging to the truth of God, His person and His word, thus resulting in a child of God that is so rooted in Christ that not even the fiercest trial can shake their hold off Him. This makes me think of the early Christians in the Roman empire who got fed to lions and burnt alive on stakes. It has been recorded that these fellow Christ followers would walk to their deaths singing praises to God even with their last breath and this makes me wonder if they understood something of God that I have yet to fully grasp and understand?
Thinking along these lines leads me to another question that frankly stops me dead in my tracks: No matter how deep your present pain may be, what will it take for you to choose to see this from God’s perspective? What will it take for you to let that sorrow refine you and re-define you?
To be completely honest with you, sometimes when the stuff that hits the fan really hits the fan I feel so pushed to my limits that I can get to a point where I’m really tempted to question God’s love for me. I mean, if God truly loves me then surely I should have it somewhat easy – right? I mean I know that being a Christian doesn’t mean that I get a free pass at everything but, come on – does it have to be this tough? Yes – you can judge me if you want, but I have to say that sometimes, that’s really what goes through my head, so when I suddenly get confronted by a painful situation and my comfort zones get shaken, I get tempted to doubt God.
Sometimes, I give in to that temptation and I let my mind run wild with the infinite possibilities. Maybe God’s punishing me for past sins? Maybe God has never forgiven me for what I did way back when? Maybe I have angered God yet again through foolish, sinful actions or words and now God is disciplining me – making an example out of me? Maybe God is this…or maybe God is that! It may sound foolish to admit but it’s true. Sometimes I fail to hold on to God’s truth. I’m slow to remember what He has revealed of His character through His Word to me. I tend to listen more to voices of self judgement, condemnation and doubt as opposed to His voice of truth.
And God’s truth is this: He knows you and He’s got you.
Psalm 139 vs 1- 5 says:” O LORD, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head.” (New Living Translation)
How amazing?! How comforting and how…mind-blowing!!! Imagine (if you can fully comprehend this!) the God of the universe addressing you in this way and imagine Him reading these words to you saying:
"God knew what He was doing when He gave us emotions so I doubt that He of all people is blown away when we express these emotions, especially to Him. I think that at the foot of the cross, there is room for "being emotional" but I also think that emotions should not be allowed to blind us from seeing what is really true."
“I have examined your heart and know everything about you. I know when you sit down or stand up. I know your thoughts even you are far away. I see you when you travel and when you rest at home. I know everything you do. I know what you are going to say even before you say it. I go before you and follow you. I place my hand of blessing on your head.”
Just writing that kind of takes my breath away because the implications of those words are truly sobering and somewhat frightening: “God, you examined my heart…wow. I know that You can’t have liked all that you found there. You know everything about me…as in like everything, everything? And You still love me You say?
You know everything I do…including the things I inwardly wish I had never done and still secretly regret? But I guess You really do know about all of those.
And in light of all of this, you still choose to place Your pure, righteous, God-hand of blessing upon my sinful, broken life.”
I don’t know about you but I feel like I can truly echo the words of King David in verse 6: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!”
"I sometimes wonder if one of the marks of being a mature Christian is being able to acknowledge and deal with the pain and sorrow one feels while still tenaciously clinging to the truth of God, His person and His word, thus resulting in a child of God that is so rooted in Christ that not even the fiercest trial can shake their hold off Him."
And the truth is we can never fully understand what it means to be so loved by God and to be so fiercely pursued by Him but we should strive to never let that truth elude us. We need to hang on to that truth if we are to ever truly live in this life because in God’s love is the only place that life – true life – is found.
Remember what we are told in John 3 vs 16: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
(New Living Translation)
Because we are loved by God, we have been given life.
I think that it, therefore, stands to reason that He Who has given us this life will also be with us throughout this life until we see Him face to face. I doubt that a loving God who went through the trouble of the cross would give us the gift of life and salvation for free (Ephesians 2 vs 4 – 5; 8 – 9) only then to turn around and leave us to figure out the rest. He knows that we can’t make it without Him and that is why we have the cross. It is a constant call and a very vivid reminder that we need Him because outside of Him, we are nothing and have nothing. And yet in that state of nothingness, God chose to love us and bring us into His own family. He calls us His own. So how then can we think that He would ever leave us?
In times of distress and suffering, this is very comforting knowledge to remain mindful of because it tells us that God is with us. He loves us too much to leave us in our brokenness, sinfulness and weakness. He doesn’t remain distant and unaffected by our lives and what we face on a daily basis, but rather, He remains intricately involved in every aspect of our lives. No one could be more interested in our lives than Him. If He gave up His one and only Son for you, you can bet that everything that happens to you and concerning you is of MAJOR importance to Him.
I think that King David was aware of this truth as he penned the words of Psalm 27 especially verses 1; 5 and 10: “The Lord is my light and my salvation-so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?…For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in His sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock…Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”
(New Living Translation)
"No matter how deep your present pain may be, what will it take for you to choose to see this from God's perspective? What will it take for you to let that sorrow refine you and re-define you?"
I love the words that King David uses here and I love even more how we can have the same assurance that he had in God. He is our light, our salvation, our fortress, our protector, our sanctuary and He will never abandon us! What joy and hope is to be found in these words – especially when things are going wrong and we find ourselves in utter pain, despair and sorrow. These words offer comfort for such times.
So I guess as we go through this life and encounter the inevitable pain, suffering and sorrow that come our way, we should try and remain mindful of the fact that God is using even those unbearable moments to refine us and mould us and Him allowing such trials to take place in our lives doesn’t take away from or minimize His love for us in any way.
And finally, let us remember this one thing: even though this life is full of surprises for us, to God nothing is ever a surprise. It’s not news to Him when we experience loss or pain or sorrow. He is not caught off guard when something huge happens in our lives because from His vantage point, He already knows what’s going to happen before it happens and He has a plan in place for how He’s going to work out all our troubles, pains, fears, sorrows and disappointments for our good. As Casting Crowns put it in the song “Already There” on their album “Come To Te Well”: “When I’m lost in the mystery, to You my future is a memory. ‘Cause You’re already there. You’re already there. Standing at the end of my life, waiting on the other side. And You’re already there. You’re already there.”
That’s why we call Him the “Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” He knows it all and has everything under His control. So when “life happens” we can rest assured that though God is working on a scale that we may not always understand, we can continue trusting in Him because He is the one who knows the story of our lives and He is already there at the end of it all.
P.S. Check out this link to the song on YouTube:
Casting Crowns – Already There