Finding Good in Pain

I have experienced two sides to pain. There’s the pain you feel in your body from cancer, a migraine, pneumonia, or injuries from a car accident. These are stabbing, achy, stomach-churning pains, but there’s another kind of pain. It’s the pain you can’t point to on your body, but if you had to choose a place you’d point to your heart–but really it’s your whole being. It’s the pain of seeing those you love hurting.

I’m watching one of my friends hurting, and the worst part is to see him making it harder on himself. He is often choosing to look at his circumstances negatively, which makes him angry and depressed. He has days he’d like to give up on all he once put faith and value in, and it’s hard for him listen to those close to him remind him of the truth. He’s losing the strong conviction he once had, and the love of life that so marked him only a few months ago. I pray that through his pain he’ll remain steadfast to what his heart knows to be the truth and that he’ll cry for help to his Savior who loves him.

I asked him this evening if he’s found any enjoyment at all in the changes the accident has brought to his life (hoping to cause him to look for the good). I asked specifically if he’s enjoyed living slower, in a more day-to-day kind of way. He was pretty quiet for a little bit, and then said he hadn’t really thought about it that way. Mostly no, he’s just frustrated because he knows what he used to be capable of and he’s comparing himself to that now. He can see how it is nice living more in-the-moment than he used to though. I think living a little slower is good for him. He used to be such a lively, energetic, life-of-the-party young man—and there’s so much good in that lifestyle sometimes, but I’m hoping for this time to teach him some beautiful qualities of a quiet life. Maybe through his pain he’ll learn peace.

I hope he holds onto what it feels like to go through what he’s going through, as if he’s someone else looking in on his life so that he’s able to relate to others in the future when they’re hurting. If he’s so caught up in his frustration now, he will most likely remember little but his anger later. He needs to focus on the good now, to make not only his life better, but to know how to encourage and help others when the time comes for him to be on the other side of the pain. Maybe through his pain then he’ll also learn a deeper kind of patience and understanding for life.

I pray he keeps heart, remaining steadfast to Christ–allowing his suffering to development his character and his relationship with Jesus. Jesus does use trials in our lives to bring about our good character and to refine our faith.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. –James 1:2-4

So we do no lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the thing that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. –2 Corinthians 8:7

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
(Isaiah 48:10-11 ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)

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5 responses to “Finding Good in Pain

  1. Many of us who have experienced pain, loss, disability have to face the world as it is. Although I have always considered myself a Christian, I feel that God truly let me down when my son died and I lost my health because of it. Religious people have been my greatest trial beyond the loss of my son and my health. The annoying, yet unintentionally cruel “God” comments are hurtful and naive to those of us who have experienced traumatic loss. If you want to read my blog, called “The Wisdom to Know” and some of my other blogs, including some on Yahoo!Voices under my real name,(I will tell you that if you are interested) perhaps you can get a different prospective. Its true that a person who has been through a trial of fire may be more able to help someone in similar circumstances than one who has not, but that does not justify the suffering or loss. It simply helps us cope. Because my daughters-who work in various nursing fields have experienced loss, anxiety,helplessness, and witnessed my struggles, the have likely saved several lives and made a difference in others.

    I felt God had spoken to me when I became worried about my son. Having no idea why I felt the fears I did, I strongly felt God saying to me “put it in My hands, I will keep him safe and you well because there are jobs you are meant to do,” It didn’t happen that way-I feel as if I’d followed my heart instead of what I “hoped” God was saying, my son would be here and I would be well.

    Seeing people that loved me, even some family becoming more religious when so much had been lost has been terrible. Their comments and inability to understand my pain, or the pain of others who have suffered has surprised me. I don’t think denial or excuses helps those of us who live every day with loss.

    If a person can relieve themselves of the guilt, sorrow, sadness through religion or whatever, then I have no problem with that. People who feel as you do, or that we are somehow “deciding” to be sick,or miserable, can make things even worse for those who already have a plate of anguish that is much too full. Some of us can’t just say, “Oh, well ,my life will never be what it should have been again”, and find “good” in irreparable tragedy. We are treated as though some how, it is wrong to be angry or feel God( or whatever) let us down. Please try and understand that not everyone can pretend “good things” always come from bad.

    I,and all the others in my position, know that “good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.” Knowing that changes very little in the reality of making it through the day-minute by minute-forever.
    I read scripture, much of it has great meaning to me, but lack of compassion and understanding undermines the help that a person of strong faith can have on those that are hurting.

    My favorite quote on the subject of “lessons learned” is this-
    “A saint is worthy of respect only if they have sinned, and overcame. There is no triumph over evil unless one has met the foe.”I can’t recall the author at this moment, but it has ,meant a lot to me.

    Please realize that your friend may never see things as you do, or be “healed” by the same “medicine”. When my daughter came to me and said, “Mom, I know you are not and never can be the exact person that you were before your life was blown apart. I ACCEPT YOU AND LOVE YOU AS YOU ARE NOW” That was the most healing statement and action I have experienced. I am amazed how much our relationship has improved, and even how much I have healed, since hearing those simple words-“I love and ACCEPT you AS YOU ARE NOW.”

    Thanks for listen to my thoughts.

    • I know what it’s like to be hurt and go through much pain and I know what it’s like to have life forever changed–mine has. Even now, 15 years after my life changed, I am reminded time and time again of how I’m physically capable of so much less than I would have been, had my life not been hit by disease. I am still learning to redirect my thoughts when I start to become angry or frustrated. I’m learning to accept who I am now as the person I’m meant to be. I can have this peace because God is sovereign, and while he doesn’t want his children to feel pain, he does allow it to be a tool to fashion us into the people we’ll become for him. If he wanted me to be physically strong and healthy, he would have allowed that. Understanding much of anything in correlation to God’s sovereignty is difficult, but I do know he is aware of who I am and what happens to me.

      I want you to know I empathize greatly with how you’ve felt and how my friend feels now. I wrote this post in understanding, not in naivety.

      I would never pretend suffering is a great thing, or that it’s easy to blow off because “…We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) But remembering that truth, is a comfort that has brought me through much.

      I love my friend no matter what he does or what happens to him. I accept him as an outgoing, vivacious, life-of-the-party optimist or a sad, hurting, depressed and quiet young man. The only problem I have with this change is that he’s allowing the depression. He’s allowing his heart and spirit to be crushed–and while that’s easy to let happen, it’s also wrong and it’s something that can hurt him longer and deeper than the physical injuries he’s suffering through now.

      I’m not giving a case for religion here. I’m giving a reason for Jesus. He is the only one who can heal the sick and bind up the brokenhearted. My faith is often very, very weak; but even weak faith is faith enough to trust in Jesus.

  2. Thanks for your heartfelt reply-I know i am not the only person suffering, It saddens me that anyone has to live pain or disability. I guess the best way I can sum up my feelings is that I don’t take the Bible literally in every word. Many Christians see the Bible as a guide, some of it is “parables” or “for example” stories told by Jesus to help us understand. Some is historical-some, such as the old testament time tables are obviously not in our sense of “time”. They were sometimes recorded generations or even hundreds of years after the fact. Perhaps you take the Bible as 100% literal-it’s not my place to judge.
    I do not think God meant for some of us to suffer,or to be born or develop handicaps any more than I believe God somehow “decides” that some of us can be abused, raped, molested, whatever, I could not worship a God that I thought cruelly and purposely allowed things to happen that He could stop. It must be that God just doesn’t interject Himself into our every move on this earth. I have a lot of issues with this, always have and always will.
    In the past, I would catch myself “praying” for God to let my kids team win-then realize that God could not be asked to choose one set of little kids over another to “won” or “loose” a game, I could only pray that my kid’s team “do their best”. I can only try to think, as I said before, that, “Bad things happen to good people….” etc. A Rabbi wrote a book about that-“When Bad things happen to Good People.” I have found no answer for why, and I know I never will.
    It seems to me that you have an enormous amount of faith. I cannot just accept that every awful thing is “meant to be” I don’t think it is-I do admire your having the grace to deal with you struggles and accept the challenges. I don’t believe we “allow” depression, some people seem more able to, at least outwardly accept life’s difficulties and go on. In my own family, I see different reactions to one circumstance. I suppose that between you and I, the meaning of “truth” is subjective. I guess that is where the old adage suggesting that we not argue about politics or religion comes from. One person’s “truth” may be completely in opposition to another persons views. I wish you the best and your friend as well. We do sometimes move on to a “better place” emotionally, months or years after a tragedy, but it will unlikely be the same place we were “before”. You write from your heart and that is all we can do.

    • Thanks for writing again. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

      I take every word of the bible as truth, but not every word literally. I understand there are parables with lessons which apply to us today, and instructions for civilizations long ago that no longer apply to us. I don’t know who really does take the bible literally word for word–for example who takes “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?” However, the verses I referred to here, I believe hold every ounce as true and realistic for us as they did when they were written.

      I believe God created the universe, humans and animals included, to live without pain and suffering. I believe it’s from our sin that we are cursed to live in a fallen world where we do feel pain and suffer. If we got what we truly deserved we would all end up in hell. We disobey God, and he in his goodness can’t be with what is sinful. His grace, upon our acceptance, brings us out of our terrible fate and into eternal life with him.

      After we become Christians we’re still living in a fallen world and we must continue paying for the curse put on our race by Adam and Eve. Through this life, as hard as it is at times, we must remember that anything good is an undeserved blessing. So when we’re suffering, instead of asking, “Why does this happen to me?” we should be asking ourselves, “Why would this not happen to me?”

      Jesus does care for us. He is fully and often painfully aware of what happens to us each and everyday. He never wanted this pain in our lives, but in our pride we brought it on ourselves. Through the trials in our lives he allows us to learn to be more like himself and come closer to him–he tests and refines our faith like gold is in the refiner’s fire. His promise is that if we choose life with him, he will one day take away all pain and sorrow when we live with him in glory.

      O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
      You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
      you discern my thoughts from afar.
      You search out my path and my lying down
      and are acquainted with all my ways.
      Even before a word is on my tongue,
      behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
      You hem me in, behind and before,
      and lay your hand upon me.
      Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
      it is high; I cannot attain it.

      Where shall I go from your Spirit?
      Or where shall I flee from your presence?
      If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
      If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
      If I take the wings of the morning
      and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
      even there your hand shall lead me,
      and your right hand shall hold me.
      If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
      and the light about me be night,”
      even the darkness is not dark to you;
      the night is bright as the day,
      for darkness is as light with you.

      For you formed my inward parts;
      you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
      I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
      Wonderful are your works;
      my soul knows it very well.
      My frame was not hidden from you,
      when I was being made in secret,
      intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
      Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
      in your book were written, every one of them,
      the days that were formed for me,
      when as yet there was none of them.

      How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
      How vast is the sum of them!
      If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
      I awake, and I am still with you.
      (Psalm 139:1-18 ESV)

      “For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
      for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
      that I may not cut you off.
      Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
      I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
      For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
      for how should my name be profaned?
      My glory I will not give to another.
      (Isaiah 48:9-11 ESV)

      Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
      (1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)

      • Psalm 118:1-18 is one of my favorites-I got me through some very hard times in my young adulthood. I guess, with me , where there is life, there is hope, faith…I see things differently now. It was nice to have a conversation about an article. Read some of my nature articles, perhaps they will be a bit more enjoyable and we will find some commonality there…

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