The Problem of Pain

Resource share: A collection of writings edited by Nancy Guthrie, Be Still, My Soul

Pain is an inevitable part of life. It is an intrinsic part of humanness. And it is unavoidable and inescapable. And to state the obvious, pain hurts.

But is pain the real problem? Is it the pain in and of itself that is our biggest hurdle to overcome?

Or is the real problem how we deal with the pain?

Does the real problem of pain come from how we deflect, protect, isolate with defensive walls, project how people will respond, self medicate or seek comfort at all costs so we don’t have to feel.  I ask again, is the problem of pain the presence of pain or does the problem arise when we enter into “dealing with” the pain?

Guthrie’s compilation of various insightful theologians calls readers to consider God’s purpose for the pain and how he amply provides through suffering. The voices of pastors and lay ministers all resound in a supportive mission, to help us see the purpose in the pain. The intention God has at taking what looks like a defeat and disaster and makes it a turning point, a reset and refocus of our eyes on Him.

In chapter 11 we read the writings of Dr. Helen Roseveare, a medical missionary to the Congo. Guthrie selected an excerpt from her book entitled, “Living Sacrifice: Willing to be Whittled as an Arrow” for this chapter. Dr. Roseveare’s chapter called, “When Cost Becomes Privilege” stirred my heart most out of all the writings in Guthrie’s book.

In this chapter Roseveare expounds on what loving the Lord our God with all our soul, mind and strength may look like. I found this passage to be profound and insightful for the season of grieving and walking out the pain present in my heart.

Roseveare says, “To love the Lord my God with all my souls will involve a spiritual cost. I’ll have to give him my heart, and let him love through it whom and how he wills, even if it seems at times to break my heart…, involves a volitional and emotional cost. I’ll have to give him my will, my rights to decide and choose, and all my relationships, for him to guide and control, even when I cannot understand his reasoning.” (Guthrie, pg. 85-86)

Sit in those words for a minute. What does it mean, what does it look like to love the Lord your God with all your soul? Do you recognize that the pain and suffering you are walking through, or have walked through is leading you into a deeper love of God, propelling you into a love that encourages loving God with all your soul as Roseveare describes?

What about loving God with all your mind? Roseveare goes on to explain that loving the Lord our God with all our minds, “will involve an intellectual cost. I must give him my mind, my intelligence, my reasoning powers, and trust him to work through them, even when he may appear to act in contradiction to common sense.” (Guthrie, pg 86)

Have you ever felt that? God pings your heart to do something that doesn’t seem to make sense in the moment. I have felt prompted to buy extras of things at the store on occasion, or buy a gift for someone that I don’t know that well, and when I have had the extra and purchased the gift, there has always been a reason for it that I understand after the fact. Obeying those prompts is an example of loving God with our minds, because we have to lay aside our “common sense” and trust “God’s sense”.

And how about loving God with all your strength? Have you thought about what this means? What does it mean to love God with your strength through and amid the pain going on if your life? Roseveare shares her understanding with us, “to love the Lord my God with all my strength will involve a physical cost. I must give my body to indwell, and through which to speak, whether he chooses by health or sickness, by strength or weakness, and trust him utterly with the outcome.” (Guthrie, pg 86)

Those are tough words to consider. Tough because it means we are willing to relinquish control – even of our physical bodies. Trusting God’s plan whether healthy or sick. Roseveare sums up that loving the Lord with our whole selves is a response of gratitude as we understand all God has done for us – through giving up His son, through Christ’s sacrifice, through Christ’s suffering, through Christ’s defeat of death, hell & the grave.

Our suffering and our pain give us a glimpse, perhaps a deeper understanding and empathy for all that Christ endured on our behalf, even when we choose to go our own way. He gave us his all. Jesus gave us his very life, in order for us to have life eternal. The problem of our pain is not the pain itself. The problem of our pain is what we choose to do with it. If we choose to entrust our pain to God.

What pain or suffering are you walking through in your life? Are you willing to entrust your suffering to God? Are you willing to love your God with all your soul, mind and strength? What is the pain you are experiencing teaching you? Josh Shipp, a motivational speaker says, “You either get bitter, or you get better”. Which will it be? Which will you choose?

Feeling stagnant? Feeling stuck? Want to grow in your faith? Check out Ascent to Know Him, and 8 week devotional that will draw you closer to the heart of God.

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