A broken heart, a shattered dream, a betrayal of trust, a catastrophic illness, a debilitating disease, an unexpected setback, the death of a child, a depression that breaks your spirit, massive debt.
“What do I do with all this pain?”
Maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question. Maybe we should ask,
“What should I let this pain do to me?”
It seems to me when the question is, “What should I do with all this pain?” the only answer is – get rid of it as quickly and efficiently as possible. This elimination of pain can take many forms: counseling, divorce, stoic denial, drugs, alcohol, sex, doctors, and medicines. Some of these are legitimate ways of dealing with pain. Others only mask the pain, they don’t eliminate it. Someone has said that alcohol doesn’t drown your problems, it only irrigates them.
When the question is: “What should I do with this pain?” the assumption is that pain can only deform me. When the question is: “What should I let this pain do to me?” the assumption is that pain can be used to reform me. If you have a deforming view of pain, it will lead you to one course of action. If you have a reforming view of pain, it will lead you to another course of action. Make no mistake, pain is leading you, driving you to do something. And, of course, some pain is to be eliminated, but much pain can be illuminating. The elimination of pain often deletes the illumination of pain.
Pain can be your mentor or your tormentor. It can lead you into the bitterness of despair or into the wisdom of discipline. Pain is often interpreted as the punishment of God for your when it should be understood as the discipline of God for sanctification. Be it unto you according to your faith. For many, pain means the absence of a loving God while for others, it means the presence of a holy God.
Pain moves us. It is meant to. But we determine the direction we move. For example, Jesus said that we are to bless those who curse us, bless and curse not. Being despised so much by someone to the point where they curse you is a painful experience. You choose what you do with this, curse or bless in return. To curse is to become like them; to bless is to become like Jesus. The pain of being cursed can either shrivel my soul or grow and mature my soul. Though tempted to eliminate the pain, I am to use the momentum of the pain to push me to Christlikeness.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”
Paul turns his misery into ministry. Pain is a mentor that teaches me how to move into someone else’s pain and despair and extend to them the cup of grace that God has extended to me. Don’t seek to eliminate your pain, make it your servant. Pain can be your mentor or your tormentor. Pain can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone.
An old donkey fell into a pit and its owner did not think it worth his while to rescue the aged animal. The owner thought he would make this pit the donkey’s grave and so he began to shovel dirt down upon the donkey. “Uh-oh,” the donkey thought, “I need to get out of here.” But there was no way out except up. So as the dirt rained down upon his back, he shook it off and stepped up. Eventually, he stepped out of his would-be grave. His stumbling block became a stepping stone. What was meant to bury him, raised him. “What do I do with all this dirt?” He didn’t seek to eliminate the dirt, instead he used it and it brought a new lease on life.
A paraphrase of the opening verses of the book of James. “Count it all joy when you encounter pain. Pain tests your faith, and this testing of your faith produces endurance. Your endurance of this pain will result in your spiritual maturity.”
What we want to eliminate, James calls upon us to endure. Trials and pain seem to be tormenting us when in reality they are mentoring us. To eliminate pain is to kick the teacher out of the room. To eliminate pain is to refuse the lesson it is meant to teach us. This is why many remain in spiritual kindergarten. They eliminate what they are to endure. It’s not “What am I to do with this pain,” it is “What should I let this pain do to me?” Let it teach and mold you. Let it move you in the direction of Christlikeness, endurance, and mercy. If Jesus were hurting the way you are hurting, what would be His response? Make that your response.
Two things are happening:
1) As you respond in faith and endure, you are being conformed to the image of Christ,
2) As you learn in the School of the Holy Spirit, God is making you into a minister of Jesus Christ.
Pain can either deform or reform you. As you run from pain and curse the pain, your soul is being deformed. As you respond in faith, your soul is being transformed by the Spirit of God and conformed into the image of Christ. Don’t let pain be your tormentor, let it be your mentor. Don’t seek to eliminate it, commit to enduring it. So much pain in life is unavoidable. Make it your servant.
A broken heart, a shattered dream, a betrayal of trust, a catastrophic illness, a debilitating disease, an unexpected setback, the death of a child, a depression that breaks your spirit, massive debt. “What do I do with all this pain?” Now you know.