“For this momentary light affliction is working for us an exceeding weight of glory, far beyond all comprehension….” (II Corinthians 4:17)
President John F. Kennedy had severe back problems and often experienced excruciating pain. He told friends he could endure any pain so long as he knew it was temporary.
Your pain is temporary, my friend.
In this life, we all know physical ailments. “We who are in this body do groan” (II Corinthians 5:2). We also know psychological and relationship pains. Financial, environmental, emotional, psychological, you name it. The list is endless. Life on this wonderful miracle-saturated planet brings with it an endless array of sufferings.
But they are temporary.
1) Pain is not “par for the course;” it is the course.
Paul and Barnabas said, “Let’s retrace our footsteps now and go back to the churches we started on this initial missionary journey. And let’s make these new believers aware of this great truth: ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.'” (My version of Acts 14:21-22)
That is to say, between here and Heaven, we may expect difficulties and hardships. It’s called life.
2) Much of the pain of this life results from our own foolishness and wrongheadedness.
The college student who had gotten drunk and wrecked his car, killing his girlfriend, was lying in the hospital’s intensive care unit. He must have broken half the bones in his body.
“Brother Joe,” he said to me one day through his pain, “why did God do this?” I said, “My friend, God had nothing to do with this. You did this all by yourself.”
God and the devil get blamed for our own wickedness, I fear. But God is too good and the devil too limited to be responsible for all this. Much of it we did it all by ourselves and we ought to “man up” and admit it.
3) Once you start following Jesus Christ as a way of life, you may expect pain of a different nature.
You will be swimming upstream in a downstream world and should expect to encounter opposition and obstacles from the guardians of the status quo. It’s the nature of what you have set about to do.
If you suffer as a Christian, Scripture says, then rejoice and glorify God (I Peter 4:16). Don’t be ashamed of it, Peter says.
However, if you suffer as a wrongdoer, then you’re on your own, pretty much.
“In this world you will have tribulation,” our Lord cautioned us. “But be of good courage. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
4) Life is brief. So, even if pain should fill every one of your days, it still has an expiration date.
I walked through an old cemetery in rural Alabama this week. In the oldest section, one comes upon fallen headstones that caretakers have tried to arrange the best they could. Names, dates, and tributes are almost illegible. Here and there you find in large letters: “My husband” or “Our beloved child.” And yet….
They’re all gone now, those who died prematurely and the ones who mourned their passing. At this distance and from our perspective, whether the deceased lived six months or a hundred and ten years hardly matters. They’re gone.
As we shall be.
5) All that counts is giving the pain up to the Lord along with everything else about our earthly days.
If we are painfree—and I say with gratitude that I have lived so many years without a single physical ache or pain, I almost feel guilty!–then we should:
–give thanks to the Lord.
–use our energies and resources to comfort and assist those who are struggling.
–know that our day is coming.
But when it does–when finally, we who have luxuriated in painfree days and comfortable years find ourselves feeling the aches and pains others have lived with for ages–as it will, let us offer it to the Lord as an offering of righteousness.
“Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Now, there is a prayer worth offering every day of our lives no matter how hard the way or heavy the burden.