Pain and joy

I read some comments by Daniel Henderson this morning about the importance of pain in the lives of Christian leaders.

The point he was making is that pain can make us better leaders – or better Christians.

Quite a few people I know are struggling with physical or emotional pain right now.  I must say that I don’t think about the benefits of pain when I am going through it.  And I am sure that many of my friends are not focused on that either.

The uses of pain are quite clear in scripture.

James says in James 1: 2-3: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  And perseverance, he says, leads to Christian maturity.

In my heart, I react to that by saying quietly: “Maybe I could do without maturity.”

But when I say that, I am overlooking the word “joy” in James’ comment.  In fact, by focusing on the pain, I am missing any joy I may get from drawing closer to God.

It is strange that God is looking for people to find joy in the midst of suffering.  But that’s what I believe he wants.

The secret seems to be that I can find joy in any circumstances if I find it in God.

Nehemiah tells the returning exiles to Jerusalem not to wallow in their misery over their sinful past.  Instead, he says in Nehemiah 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

And Habakkuk says in Habbakkuk 3 that in the midst of famine and drought, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”

The apostle Paul, too, speaks frequently in his letters about being joyful, no matter what the situation.  He tells us to rejoice always in God (Philippians 4:4).

That sounds to me like a command.  I am to do this all the time.

It seems to me that I need to see God at work – even in the pain.

I was bowled over by the reaction of a friend who was victim of a horrific head-on collision.  The other man was at fault.  But my friend did not blame God for his suffering.  Instead, he was overflowing with thankfulness that God preserved his life.

And I recall reading the testimony of Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor, who said he was never closer to Christ than when he was tortured for his faith in a Communist prison.  He actually felt Christ was present in his prison cell.

Most of us go through much less suffering than that.  But, our problems are big to us.

It helps, though, to consciously remember who God is and how much he loves us.  He created us, he redeemed us, he provides for our needs, he heals us, he delivers us, he is our righteousness, he is our peace – and he is with us.

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