A few weeks ago my wife was awake most of the night with very severe pain. I took her to the emergency room at a local hospital where they determined she was trying to pass a kidney stone. She is a Christian, but suffered. During the past 50 years I have ministered to hundreds of Christian people that were in pain. It may be personal pain or pain observed–Grandmother’s heart attack, a friend struggling with cancer, earthquake victims in a foreign country, the victims of a hurricane–that makes us ask why.
First, it is important to understand that pain can be good. Do you remember how your muscles felt two days after your first session of working out? They hurt but you felt good about getting in shape. Perhaps this is why locker rooms display the cliche “No pain, no gain!” God has given us pain as a warning system. When we eat poorly, our stomachs tells us. When we touch a hot pan on the stove, the pain tells us to quickly remove our hand. A life without any pain would lead to disaster as we unknowingly destroyed our bodies through everyday wear and tear.
Secondly, it is important to understand that pain is part of our mortality. The fact is no one lives forever on this earth. As finite human beings, we have built-in obsolescence–we are falling apart. Most of us live as though pain and suffering were unusual. In reality, “one out of one” of us dies. Pain is part of the package.
Thirdly, it is important to understand that pain can teach us valuable lessons. In other words, God may be allowing you to experience suffering to tell you something about Him or about yourself or to cause you to change your behavior. Romans 8:28 promises that God will weave together for good everything that happens to us, but this does not teach that our life will be pain free. The Bible says everything will “work together for good”, not that “everything will be good.”
Often God will mix the pain with other ingredients that ultimately produce good.
Jesus promised his disciples that their lives would be filled with persecutions, trials, and sorrows (John 16:31-33). Soon after he told them this, he endured the pains of crucifixion. In the midst of suffering, therefore, we should be asking, What can I learn from this? See James 1:2-4 and Philippians 4:11-13 about the importance of our attitude toward suffering.
Fourthly, it is important to understand that our lives on earth are not the whole story. Eternity is infinitely longer than the longest life here, and how we spend it is infinitely more important than the quality of life on earth. God promises us that the mortal will be clothed with immortality (I Corinthians 15:53-57), that our sufferings are for “a little while” (I Peter 5:8-11), and that he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Eventually all suffering will end, death will be destroyed, evil and sin will be punished, and God’s perfect love and justice will reign.