Who likes pain? No one. Except for a friend of mine.
A couple of years ago, he said to me “I love pain and suffering because I grow from it.” When we were done hanging out, he went out to find his car missing. Turns out his owed so many parking tickets that they towed his car. He was upset, frustrated, downright angry. I saw a wrinkle forming on his forehead and said, “Oh man I see you growing right now.”
He didn’t appreciate my comment.
My friend was on to something. Pain can be senseless. It can be brutal, difficult, mess with our spiritual equilibrium, causing us to feel lost, directionless and without purpose.
But many times God uses pain like an artist uses a brush skillfully creating a masterpiece. That masterpiece is you. Our pain has a purpose. Let me outline three specific ways God uses pain for our benefit.
God uses pain to awaken us
Recently I got a $150 ticket. I ran a red light.
I was in denial. That’s not me. The light turned yellow too quickly. Can’t I make a right turn on a red light?
Then I watch the video (yes they had a video of me running a red light). I was guilty. The $150 was painful, but it woke me up.
Now I’m a lot more conscious when I’m driving. I’m slowing down on yellow and not speeding up. That’s what pain does it wakes up to certain realities. The frustration of an argument may wake you up to the reality that your marriage isn’t right. The fees accessed when missing a bill may wake you up to the realities that your finances aren’t right.
Pain awakens us. It makes us more conscious and aware of our circumstances. Being awake means we are aware of our actions, conscious of our responses, more sensitive to God and his purposes in our lives.
God uses pain to heal us.
What if a masked man, stuck a knife in your stomach, and took all of your money. That man could be a thief, or he could be a doctor. The difference between the two options is the purpose behind your pain. The thief harms you and takes all you own. While surgery hurts, both physically and financially, ultimately it leads to healing.
Within the body, pain is an indicator that something is wrong. Maybe something is wrong with your heart, or your back is in bad shape, or your knees are aching. Pain awakens us to the reality that something is wrong. Acknowledging the pain, recognizing that something is wrong is the first step to being healed.
Some of the areas in my life that God has brought to my attention were painful. They reminded me that my family wasn’t perfect, that I wasn’t perfect and that I had a propensity to fail.
But God did not want me to stay living in pain, he used it as an indicator that something was wrong and to lead me towards healing.
God uses pain to free us.
Our attachments turn into our shackles. Whether it’s an unhealthy relationship, a drug dependency, or something we do to try and ease the pressure of life. Those attachments can be shackles that bind us. They might bind our minds, our emotions, our self-view.
And that’s when God uses pain to free us. You may have heard the saying, “Change happens when staying the same hurts more than the price of change.”
God wants to break our unhealthy attachments. He want’s to create a deeper awareness of him. A more rooted dependency on him. More profound longing from him. God desires to unshackle us.
So he allows the shackles to lead us to hurt, shame, disappointment. For the purpose of awakening us to the reality that we are bound, chained, even slaves to unhealthy dependencies. God wants to free us, but before you can be free comes the realization that we are slaves to a cruel master.
Your pain has a purpose to free you from the ways of thinking, habits, mannerisms that lead to dishonoring God.
So you can respond to pain in one of two ways.
The first response is that you can complain about the pain. You don’t want to feel the discomfort that leads to maturity. You’d prefer to relax and take it easy. Unfortunately, that approach leaves us immature. I love how James puts it when he says “the testing of our faith develops perseverance.” I want you to notice the two keywords – “testing” and “develops.”
Which leads me to the second approach to pain, accepting the purpose behind your suffering. Grief that awakens us. Hurt that frees us. A discomfort that leads to growth. Sorrow that benefits us.
My suggestion is wake up to the reality of what God might be doing in your Life through grief. Even deep, deep seeded pain that hurts so much. Yet God uses that to transform us to mold us, to make us into his image and to get our attention.