Everyone struggles with some form of pain and suffering in their lives. Perhaps a long standing illness, or unresolved relationship issues. You may be struggling with job loss or financial hardship. Or maybe it’s a faith issue, God seems absent, silent or distant. Pain in some form will always be present in our lives. I wonder many times if there is a purpose to the pain I experience. Let me encourage you with 3 ways pain has a purpose in your life.
Pain and suffering is a much debated subject that seems to have few satisfactory answers. As a Christian, I look to the Scriptures for wisdom and guidance, because God’s Word never changes. Many other philosophies change with the times, but the Bible remains steadfast. Even when God seems silent, He encourages me to seek Him for the answers to my pain. The first chapter of the letter of James offers help to understand trials of all kinds. I found 3 ways pain has a purpose in my life that I’ll share with you.
pain produces something needed
I am guilty of a common misconception among Christians. Sadly, many Christians are taught that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” God does love you and He has a wonderful plan for your life. However, we are not exempt from suffering. For many years I angrily questioned God about the suffering in my life. I threw back at Him the ways I had obeyed Him, even “gave up everything” and went to the mission field. I had the same malady many Christians have; “entitlement”. I thought when I became a Christian, obeyed and did all the good works, God would exclude me from suffering. It doesn’t work that way.
Ever since sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, pain and suffering has existed. People choose to sin against one another in various ways causing suffering. We make bad choices and cause ourselves suffering. Nothing works the way that it should, our bodies suffer health issues, even nature itself is flawed causing natural disasters. The truth is everyone suffers, Christians, non-Christians, good or bad, all suffer. The difference is in what the suffering produces. In someone who does not love the Lord, suffering produces anger, hopelessness and unending brokenness. But in those who know God, suffering produces something far more valuable.
pain has a limited timeframe
Considering James 1:2-4, we are reminded to “count it all joy when we face trials because we know that God is doing what He promised to do in perfecting our faith. We know that suffering has a limited period of time to go on. That’s why James tells us to count it all joy when you encounter suffering. On the other side of the suffering, when it completes its perfect work in us, there is joy.
Whether the pain and suffering is self inflicted or happens for another reason, our faith is tested. James tells us in verse 3, that the testing of our faith through suffering produces perseverance. He goes on to say that perseverance leads to maturity and completeness. Pain and suffering are unpleasant, yet they are performing a work in our lives that cannot be done otherwise.
3 ways pain has a purpose
Pain and suffering accomplish a great many things in our lives, but they are the things we avoid most. Understanding 3 ways pain has a purpose in your life will help you view trials from a different perspective.
Pain Produces Perseverance
When you’re tested in the furnace of pain, perseverance or endurance is produced. Not the “white knuckle”, grit your teeth and bear it resignation type endurance. This perseverance is a patient but active waiting. The type of perseverance produced by pain is a hope-filled perseverance. We know as James said that this suffering, this pain is time limited.
The testing of your faith that produces perseverance also strengthens your faith. Until you experience pain and suffering you rely on your own strength. When you walk through dark valleys you learn to know God more deeply and your faith is strengthened. You learn He is faithful and His promises are true.
Pain Produces Maturity
Another purpose of pain is that it produces maturity. As perseverance is developed in our lives, we “grow up”. Knowing God more deeply helps us understand His purposes in pain and suffering are good. We are no more like little children who whine and complain about every inconvenience. Learning to respect submission and obedience and their work of conforming us to the image of Christ.
Knowing our own need for growth, we accept that growth sometimes involves pain. Hardship builds character, integrity and mental toughness. We learn to see things from a broader perspective than our myopic little worlds. We acknowledge we prefer our comfortable little lives, but also know we will not grow in that environment.
Pain Gives You What Pleasure Never Can
Without pain we could not fully experience joy; we would not understand hope. Apart from pain and suffering we forget God. We become overly self sufficient and self focused. Pain heightens our awareness of what is truly important. We learn to hold dear family, loving relationships and life itself.
Consider the example of two children brought up as follows. One had a difficult childhood, they had to work for everything they wanted. They made many mistakes, learning tough lessons through trial and error. However, this developed resiliency, gratitude, strength and integrity. Receiving everything on a silver platter the other child never worked for anything. Their parents shielded them from all pain and difficulty.Which one is mature and complete? The answer is clear because a life of ease will not produce strength of character.
pain is the price for a greater reward
While accepting pain and suffering in my own life is never easy, knowing God has a loving purpose for it helps. God is not always the author of pain and suffering in my life, but He does allow it. He is lovingly the God of all comfort; strengthening, and walking with me in every trial.
Pain and suffering revealed selfishness, anger, unkindness and unforgiveness in my heart. The continual work of trials slowly replacing the hardness of these traits with the softness of compassion, empathy and forgiveness. Precisely the way a piece of carbon mineral endures extreme pressure and temperatures to produce a diamond; I am refined. Through the process of pain and suffering, God removes the harshness of sin, revealing His glory in me.
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