Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Benefits of Pain

I mention photographer and rock-climber Craig DeMartino in this devotion. Check out Craig’s incredible story here.

Squeeze your earlobe – hard - using fingernails. In 5 seconds, you’ll feel an ache. At 15 seconds, there’s pain. Keep squeezing. Now, while squeezing, turn to someone ask them, “What was the high point of your day today?”

The point is that pain is distracting. It’s hard to listen when you’re in pain. You now know that truth with first-hand experience.

Yet, as C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is in our pain that God oftentimes most wants to speak to us.

Craig DeMartino, in the video Bible study “Gripping Point,” says, “There is pain, and then there is pain that stops you cold.” God speaks to us through both kinds; all we have to do is listen.

Have you gone through some kind of major pain? Has that made you depend on God more?

That’s been my experience. The pain of broken relationships, the pain of losing a job, the pain of a major bill that comes due and you don’t have the money to pay for it. I’ve certainly depended on God to get me through that kind of pain – and he has! No doubt about it!

But I’m also ashamed to say that once God has come through and the pain is gone, my dependence on God has been less. It’s like I’ve said, “Thanks God for getting me through that, I’ll take over from here.”

I need to depend on God when there’s pain and when there isn’t pain.

And I’m not talking about just physical pain. There’s emotional pain and spiritual pain as well. Trying to find a way to overcome a bad economy is an emotional pain that has stopped a lot of us cold. Losing a job or facing bankruptcy is something that you might be going through, or you know someone who is. This hurts. What’s more, it hurts us.

What we need to do is listen to what God is telling us. He is telling us something. The question is what?

Let’s take a look at Job.

Sometime later, while Job's children were having one of their parties at the home of the oldest son, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys grazing in the field next to us when Sabeans attacked. They stole the animals and killed the field hands. I'm the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened."

While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, "Bolts of lightning struck the sheep and the shepherds and fried them—burned them to a crisp. I'm the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened."

While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, "Chaldeans coming from three directions raided the camels and massacred the camel drivers. I'm the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened."

While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, "Your children were having a party at the home of the oldest brother when a tornado swept in off the desert and struck the house. It collapsed on the young people and they died. I'm the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened." - Job 1:13-19 (The Message)

God allowed incredible pain in Job’s life. And for seemingly no reason, at least no reason Job could see. There’s the initial verses of Job chapter 1 that explains that God is proving Job can take the pain because of his faith in God, but Job doesn’t know about this. At the end of the book it is clear that God wants Job to understand that there’s more to all this than just what we see around us.

The pain is what gets Job’s attention and that’s the key to understanding our pain. It gets our attention. Craig DeMartino said that he read a daily devotional book while in the hospital that, on the day he fell, it said, “How far does God have to go to get your attention?” That’s the way to look at our pain.

Pain happens for two reasons.

1. We are sinners. Now, I don’t mean that all pain happens as a punishment for doing something wrong. Yes, some pain is the consequence of sinful actions – you drive 90 mph down the highway and you are going to feel the pain of a speeding ticket or worse. But all pain happens because we live in a fallen creation and we are fallen creatures. “In sin did my mother conceive me,” the Psalmist says (Ps. 51:5), which means we enter life cursed with the fallen nature of Adam and Eve. Part of that curse was pain. I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing,” God says to Eve (Genesis 3:16). To Adam God says, “in pain you shall eat of [the ground] all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). Pain happens to us because we are sinners living in a world cursed by sin.

2. Pain also reminds us that we are not long for this world. This world is held in bondage to pain. It wasn’t how God intended it to be and so Jesus is creating a new world for us – a new heaven and earth. Pain reminds us that we aren’t in heaven yet, that there is something better to come.

Pain is our wake-up call to remember that God truly does love us and wants to – and will – give us something better. His Son, Jesus Christ, endured pain – the pain of crucifixion, the pain of all our sin, the pain of abandonment of God, His Father – He did all this for you! And when you taste pain, you are given a small, little glimpse of what Jesus willingly went through because He loves you and wants to give you more than this world ever could.

Some people say that God could never let bad things happen to people and still be God. But is that true or is it true that God allows pain to show us that we can be so much more than we are?

Craig DeMartino found that pain focused his attention on God. It helped him hear God. Pruned his priorities. And renewed his passion for his family. Those are all pretty amazing things that have truly changed Craig’s life – I’ve seen it. What price would you be willing to pay for those same benefits?

When you go through pain, remember two things.

1. St. Paul, who was beaten and left for dead, stoned almost to death several times, was shipwrecked at least twice, and was imprisoned for years, said this:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 1 Corinthians 4:16-18

2. God loves us and will taken care of us even in our pain, especially in our pain, because of the pain that Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for us.

©2009 True Men Ministries

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