Recently, I witnessed a friend experiencing a depth of pain that caused my heart to shatter in sympathy.
Her struggle touched a place in me that remembers, all too well, how debilitating and life altering pain can be.
Her pain was ugly, unfair, and undeserved.
This caused me to revisit my own personal wrestling match with why God allows pain and suffering in the lives of His children.
In seasons of distress and unadulterated pain, we are desperate to find an enemy to blame for our discomfort.In seasons of distress we are desperate to find an enemy to blame for our discomfort.Click To Tweet
On some occasions, the provocateur of our pain is easy to identify.
A disease to hate.
An organization to detest.
An individual to rally against.
Other times there is nothing. Nada. Nobody.
Only a thick stench of anger and blame with no wind to blow it away.
It just hovers, infiltrates, and corrupts.
Our bow is drawn and ready to shoot, our satchel is full of fiery arrows, and yet we have no one to target with our anger and outrage.
Where do we aim then? The author of life? The creator of the universe?
If God created all things, He must have had something to do with this deep wound in our soul.
Or, at the very least, He did little to protect us from it.
Why does God allow pain and suffering?
There’s a chap in the Bible that suffered immensely, and he made sure God knew the extent of his pain and suffering.
Job lost it all.
His family, his wealth, his health.
He was in incredible pain and suffered beyond description, yet the Bible says he was completely blameless before God.
I can relate to Job.
To his anguish and grief, to his despair.
I always thought if I loved God and followed His ways, He would bless me, protect me, and come through for me. I believed He would keep me from ALL harm.
And yet, excruciating emotional pain has brought me to the brink of not wanting to live.
And all I can think is…
What loving God would allow me to suffer such pain?
Why did God allow my dreams to die?
My expectations and hopes for the future to whither? My plans to fail?
John 12:24 says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Life coming from death. For God’s glory. Is it really possible?Life coming from death. For God's glory. Is it really possible?Click To Tweet
Towards the end of the book of Job (Chapter 38), God speaks. And boy does he put Job in his place.
“Why do you talk so much when you know so little?” Job 38:2
God continues to question Job, ““did you ever tell the sun to rise? and did it obey?”
And finally, in Job 40:1-2, we read ” I am the Lord All-Powerful, but you have argued that I am wrong. Now you must answer me. Job said to the Lord: Who am I to answer you? I did speak once or twice,but never again (CEV).”
Job is humbled.
When faced with the majesty of his Creator, he recognizes how little he truly understands.
The book of Job displays a man in incredible pain, who wrestled with understanding and reason, and yet…..he did not turn away and curse God.
He got angry
As we we all do in trying to understand our pain – it’s a part of being human.
But God rewarded Job. For his faithfulness. His endurance. His humility.
He blessed him twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).
I am encouraged by Job’s story and I hope you are too.
He is a living testament of the encouragement we find in Galatians 6:9, ““Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Richard Rohr, a wise Franciscan priest, once said, “Pain that is not transformed is transferred.”Pain that is not transformed is transferred. -Richard RohrClick To Tweet
Let that sink in for a bit.
Unless we face our pain. Process our pain. Allow our pain to transform us from the inside out. We will transfer our pain to another.
A spouse. A child. A stranger.
You know the angry guy at the carpark who flipped you the bird for being too slow last week.
And the abusive mother who constantly attacks her kids for being not good enough?
The alcoholic neighbor who won’t get help and is spending his families little income on numbing his heart?
You guessed it. Transferring.
When we allow pain and suffering to reign and rule, it gives birth to bitterness.When we allow pain and suffering to reign and rule, it gives birth to bitterness.Click To Tweet
And bitterness causes restriction—of our ability to love, of our ability to hope, of our ability to experience joy, and our ability to prosper.
But when we find the strength to look behind the hurtful words and actions, and deep into the hearts hurting people, we see their pain and are filled with compassion.
And compassion is always a good thing.
5 Truths about Pain and Suffering
- Pain will visit us all at some point. Pain is a part of life here on earth. It’s something we all have in common, a soft spot that connects us to one another.
- Pain is not evil – it’s just an indicator. Pain indicates that there is something that needs attending to. An injustice. An illness. A relationship. A loss. Sometimes the pain is unconscious and a relatively minor setback can inflame a deep seated wound that has been buried.
- Pain wakes us up and causes us to pay attention. It reveals the deep seated beliefs we hold, opens our hearts to others who are hurting, and helps us tune in to the heartbeat of humanity. It wakes us up and urges us to pay attention, to get involved, to help one another.
- Pain can serve as a transformational teacher. Pain sat through, acknowledged, held respectfully and then set down, has the ability for much growth and fulfillment. It can enlarge our hearts, create empathy and compassion for all of humanity, and actually cause us to be become better human beings.
- Pain breaks down all sorts of barriers. When we have lived through incredible pain, we can soothe another with the “me too” position of our hearts. We become more attentive in our dealings with others, more considerate with our words and actions, more understanding and soft towards people we bump up against. Even when they aren’t soft and considerate toward us!
So courageous ones, like Job, persevere!
Let your pain and suffering transform you.
It will bring a depth to your love, a freshness to your life, and a deep connection to others.
When faced with another aching heart attempting to conquer debilitating circumstances, you can slip your arm around their pain and give a reassuring squeeze with the words “me too, me too.”
In the words of Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps, “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust SurvivorClick To Tweet
Your pain and suffering can be a catalyst for growth and meaning—if you let it.
And, best of all, pain can bring you closer to God, your almighty lover, comforter and creator.
He has good thoughts towards you and is in the business of bringing beauty out of any circumstance.
Even the painful ones.