February 19, 2018
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The Truth About Pain Print E-mail
Pain points us to God

“…with pain you will give birth to children … through painful toil you will eat of [the ground] all the days of your life.” – Genesis 3:16-17

There is no denying the existence of pain, the evidence for it is overwhelming. Some try to ignore it and others attempt to rise above it. But pain is pain, and you can’t will it away.

Pain without purpose offends people, and they will do just about anything to avoid it. “Fix it, numb it, or cut it off – just make it go away.” But when someone believes there is a purpose for their pain, they are able to bear an incredible amount of it.

We can know the purpose of pain by better understanding it.

A Consequence of Sin

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

There was no pain in the pre-fall creation, but the potential for it existed. God told Adam and Eve that an act of rebellion would result in death. When they sinned, it’s as if they committed suicide. Mercifully, God rushed in to save (redeem) them from the folly of their choice. He continues to do the same for us today.

In Genesis 3 we read how God described to Adam and Eve the consequences of their sin: there will be pain that will lead to death. Pain is not the punishment – death is. The pain we experience is a trustworthy symptom that we are in the process of dying. God does not prescribe pain and death to us, as if that would be a remedy for our sinful choices. But He does describe it accurately as the result of our sinful nature. By grace, He rushes in to redeem us. He doesn’t save us from the consequences, but saves us through them.

A Constant Reminder

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” – Hebrews 9:27

I believe God allows us to experience pain as a loving reminder that we are destined to die. This draws our attention to our condition and reminds us to resolve our differences with Him. God is lenient toward us, giving us every opportunity to trust in Him and be saved.

He also allows us to experience pain as a reminder that we are temporary residents here. This world is not our home, but we are longing to be at home with Him. We look forward to the peace and contentment that will come in our resurrected life, and are discontent with anything the world has to offer.

A Guiding Influence

God is love, and in Him there is no pain or death. As image bearers, we are designed to reflect God. Due to sin, our reflection is marred and distorted. The conflict between the Image and the image bearer is marked with pain. By paying attention to the source of pain we can get a pretty good idea of our faults. These are the areas to bring back into alignment with God.

Here are some examples in each of the realms of life:

Physical – A physical pain, such as a sharp pain in the abdomen, is like the warning light on the dashboard of a car. It is an indicator that something is going wrong. For a while one might ignore the pain, but then comes the urgent command: “Fix it, numb it, or remove it.” The only way to fix it is to heal the injured organ and change the source of the problem (sinful behavior) so that it does not immediately return.

Emotional – An emotional pain, such as anxiety or a persistent fear, is also like a warning light. It indicates a problem in identity, and how the individual relates to the world around them. For a while they might ignore the pain, but then comes the urgent command: “Fix it, numb it, or remove it.” A lot of addictive behavior is rooted in attempting to fix the emotional pain, and there are medications designed to numb it. The only way to fix it is to heal the faulty perception and change the identity so that it does not immediately return.

Spiritual – A spiritual pain, such as feeling far from God, is a warning light. It is an indicator that your relationship is out of balance and your free will is in conflict with His. For a while you might try to ignore it or distract yourself from thinking about it. A lot of sinful behavior or “holy effort” is rooted in attempting to fix the spiritual pain. The only true way to fix it is to heal the relationship at its core, and receive a new identity in Christ.

Pain: an Agent for Healing

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

The enemy points us to painI like to imagine God watching over us, with that deep desire of His to be in relationship with us. I also imagine the enemy of our soul trying to deceive us and draw us away from Him. When we are willing to be transformed, God allows the enemy to do the bird dogging. Wherever there is a vulnerability, a cherished sin, a persistent flaw – there is the one that condemns (Romans 8:34). Watch where he points the accusing finger. Say “thanks for pointing that out”, and take the matter up with God.

This is one of the ways that “God works for the good of those who love Him.” What is meant for harm becomes an agent for doing good. God’s love is greater than the greatest pain. His mercy far surpasses the punishment of sin.

The truth about pain is this: it is not God’s punishment on us, but His great gift by which He prompts us to accept Him. We respond and are conformed to His likeness, being prepared to be glorified with Him.

This is how we can thank God in our pain.

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