Don't be afraid of suffering and pain.
I think one of the things I fear the most is pain. I fear physical pain that can't be relieved. I fear the emotional pain of loss and disappointment. I think we all want to be comfortable and "happy", but lately the Lord has been teaching me not to fear pain. And here are some of the reasons:
1. Pain, if rightly responded to, drives us to trust our Father and rest in our Savior. It seems like painful days are the days when I am clinging tightest to my Lord. I can see clearly how much I depend on Him for every moment of my life.
2. God is good. He just is. And He knows exactly what is good for me. A friend of mine told me recently, "I am the worst at deciding what's best for me." And my Father is the Best at knowing what's best for me! In a sermon I listened to a few days ago the pastor likened trials to surgery. He referenced James 1:2-3
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith PRODUCES steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and COMPLETE lacking in nothing."
He likened trials that God brings into our lives to surgery. God has a specific purpose for each trial and a fruit for it to produce in us, but the process of the trial is like surgery, and we need to resist the temptation to get out of the pain before God has brought about its "full effect". To do that would be like someone getting up off the operating table in the middle of a surgical procedure and saying "OK that's enough, this is too much, I can't handle it, sew me up right now and let me out of here!" How ridiculous that would be! The result would most likely be very serious and possibly deadly. So we need to remember in our pain that God is good, and that He is doing something very good in us. "LET steadfastness have its FULL EFFECT"
3.God can be trusted. I've discovered that I'll never know this to be true unless I actually have to TRUST HIM! That means that I have to be pressed into situations that leave me without any other resource but HIM! That means painful, sometimes frightening circumstances that cause me to run to my Father, and in running to Him I find peace and unbelievably, JOY! I have experienced some of the most joyful moments right in the middle of some of my most gut wrenching pain.
4.Pain causes us to let go of this world and long to be with Christ. We are so stuck to this planet we live on. Everything here seems so real and sturdy and trustworthy. The world beyond this seems ethereal and intangible, until pain shatters that reality and makes us realize that this world has very little to offer us BUT pain. "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!" John 16:33 Yes, there are precious blessings that God showers on us here, but they are nothing compared to HIM. Pain and loss peel our fingers from the here and now and focus our eyes on Christ who is our life.
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4
5.Pain humbles us. It reminds us that we are really nothing, after all, and that's a great place to be, because that's the place of grace. "God resists the proud, but gives GRACE to the HUMBLE. Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace , who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. TO HIM BE DOMINION FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN!" Wow, don't you love God's Word?!
In Paul's suffering from the thorn in the flesh that God GAVE him, he was told by God Himself, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." And Paul responded, "Therefore I will BOAST all the more GLADLY of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am CONTENT with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul was crying out a few verses earlier "take it out! make it stop" (my paraphrase) and then when he realizes that it is the means for God to show His strength in him, he basically says, "bring it on! If it exalts Christ, it it makes His power known in me, I'd rather have the pain!" (my paraphrase again)
6. And finally, pain is the means by which God comforts us so we can then comfort each other. Nothing so tenderizes our hearts to the pain of others as experiencing pain ourselves. And when we have walked through it with the Lord as our Helper, we can encourage another believer when they are walking through something painful that our God is gracious and He is enough, because He was gracious and He was enough for me. What a great encouragement we can be to one another. What a great and worthy reason to rejoice in our sufferings! To think that this pain may be the means of comfort one day to brother or sister in Christ.
" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and GOD OF ALL COMFORT, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, IT IS FOR YOUR COMFORT and salvation,; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Still, my Soul be Still
Words and music by Keith and Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend
"Still, my soul be still,
And do not fear, though winds of change may rage tomorrow.
God is at your side, no longer dread
the fires of unexpected sorrow.
God, You are my God,
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew, a steadfast spirit within me,
to rest in You alone.
Still, my soul be still,
Do not be moved, by lesser lights and fleeting shadows.
Hold onto His ways, with Shield of Faith,
against temptation's flaming arrows.
Still, my soul be still,
Do not forsake, the Truth you learned in the beginning,
Wait upon the Lord, and Hope will rise
As stars appear when day is dimming.
DON'T FEAR, but rather TRUST in your GOOD and GRACIOUS FATHER!
"Rejoice in hope,
Be patient in tribulation,
Be constant in prayer."