Pain is a good thing, I’ve come to realize.
I’m not just talking about physical pain, which is incredibly important all by itself. Without physical pain, we would not be forewarned of appendicitis, cancer, broken bones, or most other maladies. And if we weren’t forewarned, we would not know to search out either cure or treatment.
What I’m mostly writing about here is the pain of life; the groaning we all experience due to the fact that we live in a fallen world, and we experience the results of sin and death on a regular basis.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) — Romans 8:18-25 (New Living Translation)
It seems like every day now, news comes to me (and us) that is horrible and very difficult to deal with. A friend passes away, and his loving family is left in shock and deep grief. Someone else loses their job, or their house, or their health. Major surgeries happen weekly. Someone backslides. The economy goes in the tank, forcing many to live month to month.
I used to shy away from such news. My reaction was one of helplessness… there was nothing I could do to fix things. At times, I even felt guilty—some weird sense of personal responsibility for what had happened.
I don’t want to know this information. It’s too overwhelming, I can’t take it. I have nothing to offer the grieving or distraught. I’d rather remain detached and go about my business.
But lately I’ve been brought into a different perspective. I now see how important pain (and suffering) are. While I don’t relish it for myself or wish it upon anyone, I do see that it plays many important roles in our lives here on earth. Of course, in heaven there will be no pain, suffering, or sorrow at all. Praise the Lord, who will one day make all things new!
Revelation 21:4 (NKJV)
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Let me share with you a few of the benefits of pain, as I’ve thought of these things:
1. Pain helps me realize the reality of Divine blessing. How can one know Divine joy without earthly sorrow? If every day is Disneyland, how would we know when true joy has arrived?
2. Pain helps me look for the eternal, rather than the temporal (Colossians 3:1-2). Eternity is the greater and permanent reality, while time was created, and is only temporary (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). When we experience pain, we are experiencing something reserved for the realm of time. Because I know that the eternal belongs to my promised future, I not only look for it, I also long for it. I hope for it with all my soul. It’s not a vain hope, either. It’s a confident hope which is grounded firmly in the Person of Jesus Christ, the One who conquered death in His resurrection and brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
3. Pain forces me to pray and to trust God. When life by itself is vain, I look for deeper meaning (Ecclesiastes 12:8,13). When I am aware of my need, I pray. When I am without resources, I turn to the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:9). Ideally, I should not need pain to help me remember these priorities, but I’m weak and self-driven in the natural. I still have a body with sin in it (i.e. my flesh). I need reminding, and pain helps me remember.
4. Pain allows me to have experiences that will help me minister to others. God comforts and strengthens me in my pain. That gives me the comfort with which I can comfort others. Because I’ve known pain, I’m gentler with others who are in it. I can listen better and feel more. I will do less talking and more empathizing (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
5. Pain puts me into deeper fellowship with the One who knew the greatest pain of all… our Jesus our Savior. Not only are we privileged to know the power of His resurrection, but also the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10). What He endured, I now can relate to, although on a much, much smaller scale. My pain was (and is) His pain.
Yes, pain is valuable. Without it, the life we live would be shallow and much less meaningful.
Thanks for reading.