How do we accept a God who is ok with pain?
In When Life Explodes — Part One, I said that even in the hardest times, we can rest in God, who must do all.
In When Life Explodes — Part Two, I shared the startling truth that God is ok with pain, but I didn’t tell you what to do with that truth. I left you with a cruel cliffhanger. Apparently, I’m fine with a little pain as well.
Can we accept a God who is ok with pain?
Forgive me for being blunt, but it’s not our place to decide what can and cannot be accepted about God.
He is God and worthy of all our praise, trust, and devotion.
All God does is right and just. All God does is perfect. (More on that in my post When Life Explodes — Part One.)
It’s not a matter of can we accept a God that is ok with pain, but rather:
Can we be ok with pain in the same way God is ok with pain?
Never consider for a second that God doesn’t care about our pain.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
(I Corinthians 13:6)
“For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion,
according to His abundant lovingkindness.”
I’m not saying God is eager to cause pain, but that He’s fine with it when it’s necessary. Consider the butterfly. It must struggle to be released from its chrysalis or it won’t have the strength to survive outside it. It’s not a kindness to cut it loose and spare it the struggle. It’s doom.
Too often I’ve rushed in to solve my children’s problems so they’d be spared pain. I did it because I loved them, or so I thought. I do love them, but the truth is that I love my personal comfort more. Their pain caused me pain, and that was not acceptable. (Such a hard truth to admit!)
Case in point: When my babies’ cries for a middle of the night feeding interrupted my sleep one too many times, I decided right then that I loved them too much not to teach them to sleep through the night. It was good for them, I said—and it was—but the truth is that I wanted to sleep all night. My pain superseded theirs.
I knew my children wouldn’t die if they didn’t get fed in the middle of the night. Generations of children had survived quite well without it. It didn’t require faith on my part. I just needed strength to let them cry it out, which was fueled by my passion to get to uninterrupted sleep. We can say that I had end-from-the-beginning sight in this situation. I knew they’d survive and we’d both get to sleep — which was good for everyone.
I’m fine with God causing pain with my pre-approval,
so long as He gives me end-from-the-beginning
sight or pure faith.
God, however, is not motivated by a desire to be relieved of pain. He doesn’t need faith or strength to allow pain. He has pure end-from-the-beginning sight. He understands it all from the beginning. (Isaiah 46:10)
In God’s omniscience, He understands when pain is necessary,
even when it doesn’t seem necessary to us.
Consider these examples from the Bible:
In John 11, Mary and Martha were heartbroken. They’d sent word to Jesus that their brother, the one He loved, was sick, but Jesus didn’t come. He didn’t even speak a word to command that Lazarus be healed from across the miles, like He’d done for others. He sent a message He knew they wouldn’t understand, and He waited. He waited for Lazarus to die, and Mary and Martha to grieve their loss. Then He came, and even still, as they cried, He didn’t make them understand. He let them remain in the dark until the time He chose. Ouch.
In Mark 5, God was fine with allowing a woman to live twelve long years with “an issue of blood” without relief. Ouch.
In John 9, God was fine with causing a man to be born blind and requiring him to live into his adult years as a blind man in that difficult culture. Ouch.
Why was God fine with all this pain?
As the Author, God knew the glorious end from the beginning.
He knew the extravagant good that would come from every bit of the pain.
Jesus knew He’d raise Lazarus from the dead, bringing him out of the grave four days after he’d died.
He knew He’d heal the bleeding woman instantly as she touched the fringe of His cloak because of her faith.
He knew He’d give the blind man his sight in front of many who could not deny what Christ had done.
In each impossible, painful situation, they experienced joy beyond measure. They experienced more joy than they would had Lazarus been healed before they knew how serious his sickness was, had the woman been healed soon after she began to bleed, and had the blind man been given sight soon after birth. In each of these situations everyone around came to know that God is a God of all power, and God was greatly glorified.
When I remember God is the Author of my story,
I can trust every path He places my loved ones
and me on—even those permeated in pain.
Here’s the hard one, though, and again, the reason why fetal-position faith can be my fallback position:
In Matthew 11, we find John the Baptist in prison. He sent word to Christ, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
If it were in my power, I’d have released John from prison. (Maybe this was even behind John’s question.) I certainly would have spared his life.
What did Jesus do?
He sent word to John quoting passages mostly from Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 61, which describe the works Messiah would do. Jesus was doing these works, but He conspicuously left out the part where Messiah would “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” I’m sure that didn’t go unnoticed by Jesus’ faithful prophet, disciple, and cousin.
Jesus left John to die in prison. Ouch.
It was not in God’s great plan to free John on earth, but to allow him to be beheaded.
Must we accept that we have a God that is, at times, unkind?
To accept that would be to accept a lie.
Our feelings do not determine the truth about God;
they can, however, reveal the frailty of our faith
and the limited scope of our sight.
God is still the wise, perfect God He’s always been. He knows the right path for each of us. He chooses the one that will bring Him the most glory and us the greatest good. As a dear friend always counsels me:
Never forget in the dark
what God has shown you in the light.
John didn’t forget. He didn’t stop believing in Christ just because Jesus didn’t set him free from prison on earth.
I believe John reached out and was fully satisfied that God can be trusted regardless. You have to choose, however, if you’ll believe the truth and walk in the light, or listen to the lie of doubt and cower in the darkness.
Will you confess:
If God is fine with pain, then I’m fine with pain.
(Quick, important disclaimer: As I’ve said before, I am NOT saying you should be fine with abuse. Any abuse is wrong. Wisely seek immediate help. Those who are abused are often too afraid to expose their abuser. Throw yourself face-down before God and trust Him to give you the strength to get to safety. Curling up in a fetal-position will only lead to a worse situation down the road.)
Fetal-Position Faith leads to misery and sleepless nights.
Face-Down Faith breaks the grip of fear
and brings peace and joy.
I’m choosing to die to my selfish will and accept all God has for me, including the pain, because I can trust Him with it all.
The crazy thing is, that as I’ve chosen to be fine with pain, I have been. I’ve not been dragged down by it.
Fear and faith truly cannot reside together! Surpassing peace permeates my heart instead of pain.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
As my Loving Father, Sovereign God,
and the Author of every road I travel,
I can trust each road to be
the right road for me at that time.
No doubt when life explodes I may still be inclined to curl up into a fetal position. I’m human, and sometimes as the pain screams, my faith fails. But, it’s always my choice whether I’ll stay in a fetal position.
After Christ fell face-down before God in the Garden of Gethsemane, He rose and went out to meet His future. As He said to His disciples, He says to us, “Rise! Let us go!” (Mark 14:42)
Let’s rise and walk out to meet our future without fear, no matter what it holds.
Christ’s immediate future was to meet His betrayer Judas and face a gruesome death on the cross, but it was followed by His glorious resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father Almighty and freedom from the power of sin to all who believe.
When life explodes,
will you choose fetal-position faith,
which leads to fear and misery,
or face-down faith that rises to confidence
in a God Who can be trusted?
I hope this series blessed you! If it has, will you please share it with others? Not because I want others to read what I’ve written, but because I want others to experience the freedom from fear found in God.
How has God set you free When Life Explodes? Share your story by clicking on “Comment.”