by Lory Lina
Our faces may paint a smile, our voices lilt with laughter, but the truth is that many of us move about our normal lives hiding aches and pains and wounds of every sort. Some of these are physical — a lingering illness, a disability or a deformity. More are emotional or mental in nature; for example, the knowledge that a loved one has been unfaithful or the haunting memory of an abusive parent.
Often, we hole up in prayer in our rooms — with Bible and devotional and a box of tissue in tow. Our prayer time becomes an anguished session where we cry out our hearts to the Lord. After an hour or so, we’re too tired to accomplish anything. And yet the hurts and emotional wounds we carried remain within us still unhealed.
The dictionary says that “to hurt” is “to knock against” something. I’d say we hurt because while we strive to live new lives in the Spirit, we continue to “knock against” or struggle, with our carnal, fallen, sinful nature.
Cain and Sarah
Look at Cain. Genesis 4 tells us that Cain was “crestfallen.” He was deeply hurt because the Lord had delighted in his brother Abel’s offering and did not look with favor on his own offering. So Cain thought that he could get rid of the hurt by killing his brother. But the pain did not go away because it didn’t stem from Abel. It came from Cain’s own carnal nature. He could not overcome his mediocrity, pride, jealousy and ambition. Instead of getting rid of his hurt, his murderous act cursed him for life.
Sarah also suffered as a consequence of giving in to her carnal nature (see Genesis 16). After the Lord had promised Abraham that his descendants would number as the stars and that he would be the father of many nations, Sarah made her own plans to bring it about. Figuring that she was too old to have his children, she gave Abraham her slave Hagar instead. Their offspring only became a continual source of strife for the family. Even after Sarah had caused Abraham to send Hagar and her son away, the pain remained. Even to this day, their descendants — the Jews and the Muslims — are still locked in struggle.
It’s the same with us now. When we react according to our carnal nature, we will never be rid of the hurt we feel.
Why does God allow us to experience hurt? Doesn’t His salvation exempt us from having to undergo pain and suffering? Some people think that just because we already accepted Jesus as our Savior, we should no longer suffer. But God sent His Son to rescue us from sin, not from suffering.
Paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada wrote, “Despite Christ’s compassionate death for our sins, God’s plan calls all Christians to suffer.” The word “suffer” includes the elements of consent and endurance. And so a person who suffers makes the decision to allow himself to endure suffering, pain or hurt. A person consents with God’s plan to go through a time of brokenness. Why? So that we learn to hate our sins, decisively break away from them, and grow in loving Him.
A Man of Sorrows
Jesus agreed to His suffering. He knew of the prophetic words in Isaiah 53:3 describing Christ as “spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity.” The honing of the man Jesus into the Savior was no crushy deal. He was sickly. He knew ridicule, isolation, deprivation and injustice. He was rumored to be a bastard. He was the only Child of a father who died early in His life. He was of poor means, living in a Roman colony. His own relatives and entire hometown rejected Him. Through all these, the Spirit was constantly revealing to Him His divinity.
At the Last Supper, He knew His close friend was going to betray Him to an undeserved, unjust, shameful and painful death. But He allowed it. At Gethsemane, He was nearly overwhelmed and tried to share the load with the apostles.
He began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed.... He said to them, “My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying with sorrow. Stay here and keep awake and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:37, AMP)
But His bosom friends couldn’t even stay up an hour with Him. God allowed His Son to be completely isolated. Three times, Jesus looked for human comfort. Each time, His Father would not allow Him anything but His consolation. And each time, Jesus accepted it. He had to experience human sorrow in every way so that the full weight of the sins of all humanity would be upon Him at His crucifixion. He had to be completely focused, dependent and surrendered to His Father’s plan — because it was only then that Jesus could be fully empowered to overlook suffering for the pure joy of the victory of His Father’s plan of salvation.
Joy in Suffering
The life of longsuffering experienced by the apostle Paul showed that he fully understood the example of joy in suffering shown by Jesus. Of his life Paul said:
I consider that the sufferings of this time are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us. For all creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-19, emphasis added)
We are children of God. The Lord allows us to suffer so that we might grasp the full meaning and exercise the full power of a child of God. We need to suffer so as to realize the power of Jesus’ triumphant suffering. So that when someone slaps us, we have the power to turn the other cheek and smile. So that when someone steals our shirt, we have the power to love the thief so much that we can hand over our coat as well.
Our joy in suffering allows us to witness to God’s glory. Devotional writer Oswald Chamber calls it “enjoying adversity.” As we triumph over every hurt, the pain is as nothing compared to the victory of Jesus manifested in us, His sweetness shining through our very bodies.
If only for this, we can thank God endlessly, joyfully...even if it hurts.
Lory Lina is a Teacher of the Word in Elim Communities.