April 15, 2013

No more pain

Most would agree on two things about pain; it is necessary to show when something is injured or wrong, and no one likes it.

Defining pain is a greater challenge. Is it just physical suffering that comes with injury and illness? Or can this word describe mental and emotional suffering or the torment that comes with bad news, adverse events, broken relationships and other trials? Some would add the idea of taking great pains to do something, making this word mean arduous or careful effort. One dictionary gives the suffering of childbirth a special category under pain. Another allows the use of this word to describe an annoying or troublesome person, calling them a pain.

God associates pain with physical injury also, but adds pain to describe trials and even His discipline when His people need correction and He is teaching us hard lessons.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Pain, however it is described, was not part of the original creation. Adam may have felt it if he cut his finger, but at first there was no emotional pain in the garden of Eden. It was only after sin entered the world that pain became a normal response to life’s challenges.

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life…” (Genesis 3:17)

This verse brings to mind my father’s sweaty, dust—covered face after working his farmland. Some days he came in from the fields smiling in satisfaction, but some days he grimaced in pain, sore and tired from his labor. Working in an office is no different. The pain of physical labor is well known.

There is pain in serving Christ also, not so much because of hard work, although that can happen. The pain is more from negative responses of those who reject Jesus and resist the Gospel, pitting their anger and hatred against the messenger as well as the message.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Peter 4:12–16)

God knew His people will be persecuted. He warned us but also said that persecution was an honor for it shows we are living for Him. Pain suffered for doing evil things is never a badge of honor.

Regardless of what causes the pain in my life, from silly things of my own doing to the reactions of those who do not want to hear about Jesus, I’m stuck with it. Rather than try to escape it with pills, booze or some other distractions, it seems wiser to figure out any purpose it might have and let God use it for my good.

Also, the Lord promises that pain will end. It is now part of human existence, but one day it will cease to be in the vocabulary of those who follow Jesus...

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

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