Purpose to the Pain

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

The Reality of Pain

Purpose to the Pain – Audio version. Includes “Nightseasons” from Heirborne by Richard Souther, Copyright 1986, used with permission.

If you could ask God any one question, what would it be?

It may not surprise you to learn that when asked that question in a recent Barna survey, the number one answer was, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”

There is no question that there is pain and suffering in the world. The evidence of that is presented to us every morning and every night on the news.

Throughout the history of mankind, the problem of pain has been tackled. Ancient tablets have been found in the Middle East that were written to explore conclusions to the answer of why there is pain. The answer? There are good gods and there are bad gods.

Further East, in the philosophy/religion of Confucianism, the question is answered with the “yin and yang.” Just as there are polar opposites that are interconnected, like hot and cold and light and dark, so we also experience good and bad.

But these ideas and philosophies don’t really answer the burning question. They answer that there is pain and suffering, but they do not answer why there is pain and suffering.

The Question of Purpose

I will not lie to you. I do not have the answer to the “why” of pain. I don’t know why there is suffering and pain in the world.

The reason I don’t know the answer is because I didn’t make this world. I was not the creator nor the originator of this universe that includes pain and suffering.

That leads us to ask the question, “Why?” of the Creator of the universe. Surely, He has the answer!

However, that leads many to believe – at best – that there is no God! Many atheists argue that God would certainly not allow suffering and outright evil to exist in his creation. But suffering and evil do exist, therefore God does not (or, if he does, he isn’t to be deemed a “good” god.)

The Answer in the Results

While I don’t have an answer to the why of pain and suffering, I do believe that we can get closer to the answer when we look at the results of pain and suffering.

For example, a gifted athlete was working hard to make it to the professional leagues. Then one day he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The treatments he underwent put the cancer into remission but also left him unable to compete on the level needed to be a professional.  

However, he was able to turn his passion for competing and performing into coaching and actually has touched the lives of many more people – and for much longer – than he ever could have being a professional athlete.

Cancer, eating disorders, chronic pain, the loss of a career, the death of a loved one – all this pain and suffering leads so many to ask “why?” But the answer rarely, if ever, comes at the time.

But the subsequent results of the life lived after the pain and suffering (or even through the pain and suffering) provides a powerful answer.

A Promise of God

Then there is the promise of God in pain and suffering. In Romans 5, Saint Paul writes that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

God will produce you – the you that he created you to be – out of the pain and suffering you endure.

Saint Paul would later write, “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).

We can love God because God first loved us in the sending of his only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to forgive our sin. Jesus endured pain and suffering – the ultimate pain and suffering – and the result was the forgiveness of our sin, life, and salvation!

Pain and Suffering Get Our Attention

The best answer to the question of pain and suffering that I have seen (to date) is by Christian author C. S. Lewis.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: Harper, 2001), 91).

Pain is one of God’s ways to turn our attention to him. Most of the time we don’t have a choice about enduring pain and suffering. But we do have a choice in what we do with the experience.

What will you do?

Prayer

Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure pain and suffering. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives so that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the glory of the world to come. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

© 2019 True Men Ministries

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