Living With Pain

Introduction

I would like you to finish of this expression for me, ‘no pain, no gain’. Do you believe that?  No pain, no gain. I really think that deep in our hearts what we want to say is ‘No pain, no problem’.

Pain meets us from the moment we enter this world. What do we call what mothers go through when they give birth? We call it labour pains.

And what does that baby do the moment it is born if it is healthy? It begins to cry. And from the moment we enter this world to the moment we leave it, Psalm 90:9; we deal daily with the reality of pain.

But we refuse to make pain our friend and so because of our refusal, it has a devastating effect on us. It could have been a divorce; it could have been the loss of a loved one or a child or a parent or a mate. It could have been a financial setback; it could have been an illness that is a part of your everyday existence.

I think pain has gotten a lot of bad press, in fact, what would our view of pain be, if we let the Bible inform us? I believe a Christian views pain as an opportunity for gain. The difference between a person who believes in the Bible and a person who doesn’t believe in the Bible is typically this.

If you are not a believer in God, you let your circumstances affect your belief system. In other words, what happens to me in life, determines what my beliefs are going to be.

But a Christian wants to let his belief system, what he says from God’s word is true, shape, how he is going to look at his life. So, when pain comes into my life as a believer, what I’m going to do is, believe against the grain.

The reason the unbeliever can’t handle pain is because it seems to have no purpose. And there is nothing more difficult than a pain without a purpose. But the Bible says that pain can be a tool of God and He could use it for a good purpose.

I want to show you this in John 11. The story about the raising of Lazarus. Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus; he was very sick. They sent a messenger to tell Jesus. And the messenger did.

John 11:4-5 says, “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”.

Now look at the next word, ‘yet’, which might be the toughest three-letter word in the vocabulary. He loved them ‘yet’, ‘when He heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where He was two more days’. Now that was a tough story and there are two things, I want us to notice.

God Cares About People In Pain

Jesus really did love Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and when pain comes into our life the first thing that Satan wants us to think is, ‘God doesn’t love us anymore’, but that isn’t true. The presence of pain does not mean the absence of the love of God.

Some Things Are More Important

But the second thing and the hardest thing about this story to notice and accept is this. Sometimes Christ has a goal that is so important, it is worth the prolonged agony of the people He loves. He loved these three people, and they are in agony, ‘yet’ ‘He let them stay in pain a while longer.’

Mary and Martha are going through intense emotional pain, caring for a dying brother. Lazarus is in intense physical pain; his life is waving. ‘Yet’, Jesus says, ‘let them stay there longer’. But the Bible is telling us today, some things are more important to God, than a pain-free existence.

God could get rid of all pain ‘right now’, ‘that fast’, if He wanted to, in fact, the Bible says that one day, ‘He will.’ But right now, in our lifetime, He is allowing pain. Why did Jesus say, ‘yet’? He says in John 11:4, “This will bring glory to God”. Pain can actually bring glory to God.

That doesn’t mean we need to go out and look for pain, trust me enough pain is going to find us without us having to go and look for it. But what it does mean is that when pain comes into our life. The question is not ‘why’, but how am I going to respond? I don’t need answers, I need focus.

How in the mist of this pain can God get any glory out of this? Nobody wants to be there; nobody wants to enrol in pain 101 but everyone is going to take that class more than once. Are we going to pass or fail?

I believe because of what the Bible teaches me, I can see pain as an opportunity for God to get Glory, that God can take pain and use it for Gain. Let me show you five ways, in which He can do that.

God Can Use Pain To Get Our Attention

Sometimes pain can get our attention and prompt us to rethink, the path we are on. Some people don’t change when they see the light, they don’t change until they feel the heat, Proverbs 20:30.

Do you remember for example in Luke 15, the story of a prodigal son that went off and disobeyed his dad? He went to a far country and got involved in lots of things that were wrong and finally, he ended up in a pigpen.

He was experiencing relational pain; nobody would have anything to do with him. He was experiencing physical pain; he was hungry and cold. He was experiencing spiritual pain because his conscience told him he was sinning against his father.

And the Bible says in Luke 15:17, “Then he came to his senses”. The pain he was going through helped get him back on a path to his father.

Paul had to write a really tough letter to a church in Corinth because of some sin in the church. And it hurt the people, and he wrote back again to them in 2 Corinthians 7:9 and says, “I’m glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain turned you to God.” God doesn’t use pain to break our spirit, He uses pain to break our stubborn will.

God Can Use Pain To Guide Us

I wish there was another way, but the reality is that you cannot train without pain. Every teacher knows that sometimes they have to use discipline and punishment to get their class’s attention. Every person who has ever been a sergeant in the forces knows when it is time to get ready for war; they can’t let others stay in bed until 9 o’clock. They have to use pain to get a soldier ready for war.

Every manager knows that they don’t get their players ready for competition by letting them watch T.V. all day. And every parent knows that discipline is necessary to produce a character-filled child.

Who ever heard of a son that was never corrected? Psalm 119:71 / Hebrews 12:7.

I really need us to understand this point. God loves us, God loves every one of us deeply, and God deeply loves His children. But I want us to remember something else, God hates sin more than He hates pain and I do too. If a child starts to lie a lot, we’re going to discipline them. We don’t love to do it; we don’t delight in punishing our children.

But we know the long-term consequences of a dishonest character are much more serious, so we don’t love to punish our children, but we hate sin, more than we hate pain and God does too.

God Can Use Pain To Gage Us

Pain exposes the real you, when you are upset, people will know what is really inside of you. It’s when we are upset, that we find out what’s really inside a person. God will use pain to show you what your faith is really like because you need to know, James 1:2-3.

It’s through painful experiences, that our commitment to God is revealed, Deuteronomy 8:2. It’s easy for us to be committed to God when we have nothing but one blessing after another to enjoy, but in the midst of pain, our faith life is really exposed.

Do we really love God with all our heart and soul and strength? In tough times, we find out the things in our life that needs to be burned off, Isaiah 48:10.

In tough times, we find out, do we have a problem with our temper? Do we have a problem with greed? Do we have a problem with bitterness and anger at people? It is in hard times that God says, ‘Here are the things in your life that need to be removed.’

By the way, do you know what He did to Jesus? The Bible says in Hebrews 5:8, that “Jesus although he was a Son, learned obedience from what He suffered.”

Now that doesn’t mean that Jesus used to be disobedient, and had to be trained better, Jesus never sinned. But what it does mean is, that Jesus loving God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength was proven by suffering.

It was in the context of suffering that Jesus showed He was an obedient Son. It is when we are in pain that we find out if we are really faithful to God. So, God can use pain to bless us by showing our faith and by using it to gage us.

God Can Use Pain To Guard Us

Pain can be a protective warning. There have been times when we were a child and touched the cooker, it was hot and so we pulled our hand back and that pain actually warned us and protected us from a serious burn. God could do that in your spiritual life too. Pain can be great blessing, if it protects and guards you from a terrible evil or sin.

Paul was a blessed man and God had given him incredible insight into mysteries and eternal truths, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. When we read the text, we know it is a very difficult text, Paul says, ‘I am in physical pain, and Satan is doing it to me, but God is letting him do it.’ ‘I asked God to take the pain away and God has said, ‘No’.

Why? Why is God letting this happen? “To keep me from becoming conceited”. 2 Corinthians 12:7. God was doing preventive maintenance.

God was saying, ‘Paul, I am going to allow some pain into your life, to teach you, not to depend on yourself but to depend on me.’ ‘The pain in your life actually guards you against pride and keeps you leaning on me.’

Sometimes God does that to us, to stop us from becoming proud. But we need to learn that pain is something that God does for us and not something that God does to us.

And I’m sure you know people who can tell you that they have learned to boast in their weakness. Because when they are weak, they feel the power of God, more than at any time in their life and pain guards them.

God Can Use Pain To Grow Us

I remember when I was just a little boy and one day I said to my mum, ‘Mum, my legs hurt, they have been hurting all day’. My mum rubbed some kind of cream on my legs and said, ‘Michael, you’re having growing pains.’ And she told me that ‘even though it didn’t feel good, this was part of what it means to grow’. The pain is the cost of growth.

Are we going to let God bring into our life the kinds of things that can make us strong and make us grow? Or are we going to fight God and get bitter?

Have you ever seen someone working at the wheel, and she’ll work with that clay, and suddenly she’ll take it and mash it back down and she’ll pull it back up? Why is she putting pressure on that clay? She’s trying to make an even more perfect work, that’s what God is trying to do.

James 1:4 says, “So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely, but let it, (the trial, the pain) let it do its work, so you become mature and well developed not deficient in any way”.

I want to say this, if we don’t have much interest in growing as a believer, if we don’t want to have a strong faith, if we don’t want to have a strong character, then we are going to resist and fight pain. But, if our goal, is God’s goal, if our goal is to be a strong, developed, mature follower of Jesus, we will not waste a growing pain.

That doesn’t mean that we want pain to come, but when it does come, we won’t waste it, we’ll try to grow. I want us to understand, that pain never leaves us, where it finds us, it will leave us bitter or better. We’ll get bitter if we decide to play the victim and throw ourselves a pity party.

Or it will make us better, if we decide that we are going to trust God, He’s doing work in our life and we’re going to let Him finish what He started.

Conclusion

The shocking thing is not that pain exists; the shocking thing is that Christ is willing to grow through that pain with us. When we hold on to Jesus, we are holding on to hope.

And He promises all of His children that when His children suffer, He too will suffer with them and go through the suffering with them.

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