Article 13 Series July 8, 2017

13 Reasons Why Not | Reason 13: God Has Purpose in Your Pain

13 Reasons Why became an immensely popular Netflix show.  13 different episodes outlined the 13 reasons why Hannah, a young teen and the show’s major character, finally decided to take her life.  She was in such great pain that she decided death was her only way out.

Picture of a woman rock climbing on a tall cliff.

I’ve tried to offer Hannah, and others contemplating suicide---especially teens---13 reasons why you should not take your life.  All my reasons are rooted in faith and a biblical perspective.  This entry is my final one.

 

What is it?  God has purpose in your pain.  It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?  Many spiritual skeptics conclude that pain is the Achilles heel in the existence of God.  Their argument goes something like this: “If God is good, and he can alleviate pain and doesn’t, then he’s evil.  If God is good, and he can’t alleviate pain, then he’s impotent.”  

 

Either scenario doesn’t give a positive caricature of the Almighty, does it?

 

Unless there is a third alternative.  Perhaps God is good and chooses not to alleviate pain, for a larger purpose.  He knows we are eternal creatures.  He realizes our home is with him in heaven.  Therefore, God uses all things, especially pain, to prepare his children for heaven.

 

The world of athletics knows this reality.  One of the favorite mantras of good coaches is, “No pain, no gain.”  They realize that pain is one of sport’s greatest teachers.  It causes athletes to change behavior, learn valuable lessons, and push forward to being the best player possible.

 

The same is true with the physical body.  A muscle becomes stronger through resistance.  Using the resistance and repetition of weights, a muscle strains, then relaxes.  Over the next 24-36 hours, the weakened muscle is rebuilt stronger than before.  Over months, as weight training is repeated, the muscle is eventually constructed to its maximum strength.  

 

Counterintuitively, in weakness, a person become stronger.

 

The same is true in the spiritual life.  It’s what Paul claimed in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “When I am weak, then I’m strong.”  What led to Paul saying this?  It’s found in 2 Corinthians 11.  He talked about beatings, being tortured, shipwrecked, deserted, and abandoned.  Few have experienced the grueling pain he went through.  Yet he still declared that his weakness led to his strength.

 

Paul’s faith grew strong in these trials.  They taught him that Jesus’s grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).  He believed that his present pain was light and momentary in comparison to the glory he was going to experience in heaven (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  

 

Paul saw heaven as his ultimate prize and eternity as his eventual home.  He knew this world was terribly fallen and not operating as God intended.  He believed that pain wasn’t a part of God’s original intent in creation and was caused by human sin.  

 

But Paul also knew that God was using pain.  He was convinced that there was a place to where God’s children were going where there was no pain, tears, or trials.  Trusting God in the pain developed spiritual muscles like nothing else.  

 

Paul understood that faith best occurs when there is pain but you don’t let doubt win.  Amidst suffering, you continually choose to believe God is good.  You know that an exquisitely beautiful, eternal person is being formed inside.

 

I know it’s true.  I’ve known teasing, bullying, betrayal, near death by burglars, being physically abused, illness, disappointment, and unrealized dreams.  Yet each experience offered me this option: Will I choose to become bitter or better?  Will I wallow in the pain or use it to learn valuable life lessons?  Will I doubt God’s goodness or choose to believe there is purpose in the pain?

 

I have chosen to trust God.  I believed there was purpose in the pain.  Slowly but surely, I’ve seen God’s will for my life: my eternal heart being conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

 

For Christians, the ultimate example of this truth is the cross.  Jesus experienced six hours of excruciating pain.  Nails were jammed into his hands and feet.  A spear was aggressively thrust into his side.  A crown of thorns was matted on his brow.  He eventually died of asphyxiation---too weary to raise on his toes for another breath after six hours of anguishing pain.

 

Yet I’m convinced Jesus’ greatest pain was not physical but spiritual.  From eternity, he had been one with his Father.  But at that moment when he took God’s wrath for our sins upon himself, the Father could no longer be one with this son.  That’s why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Jesus was spiritually abandoned and forsaken by his Father.  There could be no greater pain for him.

 

But Jesus also knew that the story was not over.  He committed his spirit into his Father’s hands (Luke 23:46).  He had faith in the Father’s goodness.  He believed there was purpose in his pain.

 

And there was.  On the third day, Jesus was raised from the dead.  Forgiveness was now granted to all those who believe in Jesus.  Eternity was secured.  Jesus’ followers know there is a world to come---free from all pain.  They look forward to and live for that place.  On the cross, they see that God is good and he is using pain for his purpose.

 

I wish Hannah could have grasped that reality.  If so, she’d still be alive today.  God would be using her to touch others going through her pain (2 Corinthians 1:4).  She’d know that without a test, there’s no testimony.  Without life’s messes, there’s no message to share.

 

Hannah would be looking forward to a glorious eternity with Jesus.

 

How about you?  Would you dare trust God in your pain?  Would you believe that without pain, there is no eternal gain?  Would you choose to know that all pain here is light and momentary in comparison to the glory and beauty of what’s yet to come?

 

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will never die” (John 11:25).  

 

Believe it’s true!

 

And you’ll discover God’s purpose in your pain.

 

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison...

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

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