The Purpose of Pain

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
(1 Peter 4:19 ESV) 

Last week I mentioned how I usually have a hard time coming up with something to write about, how it’s a struggle to come up with something that will be relevant and meaningful.  This week, that’s not a problem.

For the past 5 days now I have been struggling with what has now been diagnosed as Acute Sinusitis (I knew that’s what it was and still am not sure why I needed a doctor to confirm it).  Essentially, I feel like I’ve been hit in the eye and jaw with a baseball bat.  Repeatedly.  I haven’t slept well, I haven’t had much of an appetite, and no amount of pain medication or decongestant has been able to touch the headache.  Overall, it hasn’t been a good week.

Still, my mild suffering has reminded me of the very important purpose of pain.  God has created us with the ability to feel pain, and that is a good thing.  Pain tells us that something is wrong.  When you feel a pain walking, you might stop to take the pebble out of your shoe.  Mild pain for an athlete can be a warning before a greater injury occurs.  A tooth pain will tell you it’s time to get to the dentist.  The pain of a burn will help you learn to stay away from fire.

Emotional pain can be a good thing too.  When others hurt us, we can learn to be more discerning in our relationships, more cautious with our trust.  Broken relationships pain our hearts and drive us to reconciliation and forgiveness.  When you are truly in love, you are willing to have your heart broken, you know that the pain is worth the glory.

Pain is also good for us spiritually.  Often times, pain can remind us of our own mortality, and lead us to a greater dependency upon God.  I know this past week I have prayed more for deliverance and waited patiently on the Lord for healing than I had in quite a while.  As I prayed, and the pain continued, I heard also the reminder from 2 Corinthians, “[God’s] grace is sufficient for [me], for [His] power is made perfect in weakness” (2Corinthians 12:9).

The pain we suffer can also be a reminder of our brokenness.  We are taught that, because of the fall, the pain of childbearing was multiplied for women; “In pain you shall bring forth children.”  At first glance we might just consider that to be the pain of birth, but how many mothers have had their heart’s pained and broken for their children and because of their children.  The curse for Adam was that the ground, of which he was to be the caretaker, would be cursed and “in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).  Pain ought to be for us a vivid and powerful reminder of our broken relationship with God and our absolute dependence upon God’s grace and mercy just to make it through the day.

Our pain can also remind us of the pain that Christ suffered for our salvation.  I have been hurt before, but never could I suffer the way that he suffered for me; the just for the unjust.  1 Peter  reminds us that when Jesus was reviled, “he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live by righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:23-24).  When I struggle with pain, I am reminded of the pain that he bore for me, and I come to two conclusions.  First, I am filled with remorse for the pain that I have caused him, and cause him still, through my sin and disobedience.  “Does he still feel the nails?”  Secondly, I am overcome by thanksgiving and praise that God loved me enough that he would send His Son to save me and to deliver me.

So, as with all things, even my pain serves a purpose, and I can be thankful to God that He has not abandoned me, and that my pain is not meaningless.  Now if God will see it fit to relieve me of this pain, I think I will be able to sing His praises even louder.  Until then, I’ll just keep trusting in Him.

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About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.
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2 Responses to The Purpose of Pain

  1. Michelle B says:

    Thanks, Ethan! I was just meditating on this very topic. Three weeks ago, we were blessed with a wonderful baby girl (our tenth child), and in the process, I tore a ligament. This week I am finally able to walk again, but for the first couple of weeks, every movement was excruciating. My husband took unbelievable care of me. But pain is quite an educator, and I’d never known anything like it. The next time someone asks me to pray for them in their pain, I’ll have a whole new passion. Praying for you, my friend!

    • reveds says:

      Michelle,
      Thanks for the prayers. The pain we feel does make us more sympathetic to others. Right now, I’m just praying for grace in the way I treat others, becuase having a headache this long is making me rather irritable. Then I have Personnel Reviews tonight. Oh joy!
      Grace and peace.

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