Thursday, June 26, 2014

3 Encouraging Truths for Those Enduring Pain

By Kristen Wetherell
Your Heavenly father is not aloof to your pain.
He doesn't stand far off, unwilling to meet you in the midst of it.

He doesn't turn his face in shame for how you are handling it (or not handling it).

He doesn't ordain your pain without a purpose.

Yes, sometimes all three of the above statements can feel very true. Especially when we are in the middle of the thicket and cannot seem to fathom how pain could possibly be anything good. 

The thicket has felt like my place of residence recently.

Here is what I've been learning: Pain is not present because God is absent from your life. Rather pain is present because of God's assured presence.

Recently, while on our honeymoon, my husband and I drove the back country roads of Maui with the goal of reaching Hana. This entailed a day-long road trip from the West to the East coast, and back again. The sights were unlike anything else I had ever beheld. From two-hundred-year-old lava fields to majestic horses to the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the beauty of the island kept unfolding before our very eyes.

Then the switchbacks arrived.

In the Hana territory, the topography switches drastically to include lush forests of trees and secret streams and waterfalls. The roads also change, winding their way around the rocky cliffs. For the last few hours of our trip, we literally could not see around each corner of the mountain, as we crept the car along the pavement, brows practically sweating with nervousness.

Switchback upon switchback, curve upon curve, the end seemed like it was never in sight.

In the middle of your pain, can't it seem like traveling the Hana switchbacks? Like the end is never in sight? I cannot begin to guess what type of pain you're suffering. Perhaps it is physical, like mine; perhaps mental; perhaps relational; perhaps financial; perhaps even spiritual. And if you're not enduring a painful season right now, my guess is that you have in the past.

My hope is to encourage you today, sisters. Because I know, in the dark days of pain and hardship, sometimes it's wonderful just to hear that you're not alone. This is how I felt when I read Joni Eareckson Tada's book A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty - so much so that it brought me to tears multiple times! (Read it; you won't be disappointed.) My friend, you are not alone in the midst of your pain.

More than knowing that I'm enduring it alongside you, I pray that you will know - really know and believe deep in your heart - that Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant is near to you. So near that he became perfect through suffering in order to save you from the worst pain possible: sin and death. 

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering...

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:10, 14-18).

This passage is hugely encouraging to me, and I pray it is to you, too. For those of us enduring pain, we learn:

That God is anything but aloof to our pain. He made Jesus, his Son, perfect through suffering. He entered into it, himself. There was no other way to save his children, so he chose suffering and endured pain to the end. 

That God wants to fellowship with us in our pain, not turn his face away from us. Christ "had to be like his brothers in every respect." He gets it; he understands weakness and trials because he lived them, in the flesh. We find sweet, peaceful fellowship with Christ both in his death and in his life...and we cannot have the second apart from the first.

I love this helpful illustration from Pastor Colin Smith:
"Here is something very wonderful: Christ has installed a bell system that connects your heart
with heaven. This is a bell system in reverse, because the bells ring in heaven. It is a bell system
in which the servants ring for the help of the Master.

This is worth thinking about: The Spirit of Christ lives in your heart. He feels the approach of
every trial and temptation, and he pulls the cord that rings the bell in heaven. Christ knows
directly all that you face and feel and fear.

And Christ does not roll his eyes when the bell rings. We have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. Why? He has been downstairs. He has been tempted and tested in every respect. And now, as your advocate, he brings your need before the Father so that all the resources of heaven are available for you.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and
find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Come with confidence, because the bell has already been rung. Christ knows all that you face and feel and fear, and he is for you!" (p. 4, Four Friends for Your Soul)
That God ordains your pain with a purpose. How can we trust this? Because God "deliver[ed] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." If God in his infinite wisdom and lavish love would free us from slavery to death, why would we not trust his ability and desire to have loving, wise purpose in our pain? 

Meditate on this passage from Hebrews today. And if you ever need to talk to someone about the pain you're enduring, I'm your girl. I'd love to connect with you, so send me an email at kristenleighevensen@gmail.com.

Gracious Lord, We praise you that you are not aloof, nor disinterested, nor evil, nor without a purpose when it comes to our suffering! What a burden that removes from our shoulders, that grow heavy with worry and grief when we hurt. Impress on our hearts the gospel, that Christ said Yes to suffering to save us from our worst affliction: our sinful nature. May this wonderful truth cause us to praise you anew today! We want to receive your Word with faith. Help us, O Lord.

Amen. 

PS_I got married recently (woot!), so my name will look different around these parts from now on. I'll let you know when the blog's email address changes so we can stay successfully connected. 

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