The Purpose of Pain

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.  (Colossians 1:24)

We live in an culture where countless resources (time, talent, and money) are spent trying to escape suffering.  Whether it be the pharmaceutical industry manufacturing drugs to relieve pain, the entertainment industry developing technology to relieve boredom, or the lottery and casino industries creating a false illusion of relief from financial hardships – we are constantly sold the idea that suffering (in all forms) is a terrible enemy to be avoided at all costs.

The Christian view of suffering runs counter to the world’s.  Paul says he rejoices in his suffering.  We don’t know everything that Paul suffered – but from what is revealed, we know that he suffered profoundly – physically, emotionally, relationally, even spiritually.

Yet, Paul saw purpose in his pain.  He believed his personal suffering benefited his brothers and sisters in the church, strengthening the body of Christ.  His willingness to choose the hard road of faith in spite of his suffering has been an inspiration to others throughout the ages who would likewise suffer much.

I think of the suffering a good friend is facing right now as she agonizes over the decision to choose the familiar, seemingly comfortable path of addiction or the long, arduous road of recovery.  I pray for her, and her friends and family who are suffering with her and making choices themselves whether their support is investing in her recovery or contributing to her addiction.

I pray that the pain we are experiencing now would have purpose – that it would strengthen us individually as believers, draw us closer to the body of Christ, and lead us to a deeper relationship with God.

A world of pain and love by Marco Piunti

“A world of pain and love by Marco Piunti” from  Nina Kassai in Pencil + Paper + Idea

7 thoughts on “The Purpose of Pain

  1. I just finished reading a book called Beautiful Battlefields by Bo Stern (a pastor in Bend, OR) that addresses this very topic. I highly recommend it for anyone because all of us, Christian or non-Christian, face battlefields. Stern offers a very real and encouraging perspective of suffering and God’s role in it using her own story. She says in the opening pages before she walks us through her family’s battle: “Some beautiful things can only be found in the hardest times… He has placed treasure [on our battlefield] that we simply would not be able to find in other, more peaceful places.“ What I appreciate is her honesty and transparency because even as a pastor she struggled… yet in the end she’s learned the purpose behind the pain and the God-given strategies and victories found in the battle.

    I am praying for your friend, too, and her support system.

  2. We can learn a lot from children who are experiencing pain and suffering, whether it be through Rheumatoid (juvenile) arthritis, cancer or cystic fibrosis. They never complain and often times are the ones who offer comfort to family and friends who are worried about them. I have chronic osteoarthritis in my knees, hips and back as well as four disintegrating vertebrae in my lower back. Some days it’s a struggle to get out of bed and it’s only through the faithfulness and love of God that I don’t give up. God is awesome, praise His holy name.

    • I also think of Flannery O’Connor. In spite of the profound pain of lupus and debilitating effects of archaic treatment, she composed some of the greatest short stories ever written. She was also a prolific letter writer and encouraged countless others to meditate on the Lord and glorify God as best they could.

      Keep up the good fight, Lyn.

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