1/22/16

From Painful to Purposeful

Pain. It hurts. No use denying it. And on the surface, our recurring problems make no sense at all.

I know so many who experience "chronic pain" and "chronic problems" every day. For some, it is intense physical pain. For others, it's emotional pain. Or relational, financial, or even spiritual problems that just won't go away.

The persistence of that pain or problem is like the steady, irritating drip of a faucet. We want to shut

off the pain ... but again and again it hits us. We struggle to stay steady.

It is at times like, some these people give us well-meaning platitudes. God love 'em, many can't understand the depths of our very personal pain. Their quick "I'll pray for you" makes us wonderwill they? Really?

We may be in such pain we reject their caring words. Or we refuse to believe what they share from God's Word. We hurt too much.
The truth is, our pain may be an opportunity.
Ongoing pain and persistent problems are like mentors who come alongside to teach us something new and important, something we might not learn any other way. In our weakened, frustrated state, we're often primed to hear from God—to hear what He may want us to know about Himself ... or ourselves.

But are we teachable in that moment?

I've dealt with health issues lately that seem to be stacking up, rather than healing. In frustration, I questioned God, my roles, my ministryso many things. I wept in God's presence and asked, "Why, Lord?"

My update:
The problems are still lingering.
But my heart is changing.

Two choices are making a difference:

(1) I decided to thank God for the problem. He does tell us to thank Him in (not for) all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18); and this is a step of faith when we don't know how things will turn out.

(2) I'm allowing the Lord to tutor me in some key areas of need. I'm asking Him to open my heart, to open my eyes, and to speak truth into my mind (Psalm 119:18).

Once I started saying, "Thank you," and asked God for a teachable spirit, I felt new freedom. And I got a fresh new perspective on life.

This shouldn't have surprised me. Once we get God's perspective, we're better able to face whatever comes.

We discover "...our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18 NIV).

I found hope in these encouraging words:

"So we're not giving up. How could we! 
Even though on the outside
it often looks like things are falling apart on us, 
on the inside, where God is making new life, 
not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. 
These hard times are small potatoes 
compared to the coming good times, 
the lavish celebration prepared for us. 
There's far more here than meets the eye. 
The things we see now are here, today, 
gone tomorrow. 
But the things we can't see now 
will last forever" 
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message).

Our pain, our problems (our "light affliction") are "small potatoes" compared to what God is producing in us through our afflictions to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:29) and to prepare us for a "lavish celebration" someday, the "eternal weight of glory" (v. 17, ESV) we will have in heaven.

Did you get that comparison?

          "Light affliction"  ... here
                    versus
          a heavier "weight" of glory ... in heaven! 

Sometimes our afflictions seem so heavy, but the Apostle Paul wants us to remember their counterweight in eternity. God's purpose for us is far heavier. He is getting rid of the dross and refining our lives for His purposes (Proverbs 17:3; Isaiah 48:10; Zechariah 13:9;1 Peter 1:7).

We can say with the patriarch Job:
"... he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold" (23:10, ESV).

I'm thankful our Father has not left us alone in our earthly struggles. He gives us daily "unfolding grace" to face each challenge. What does that grace look like?
Yes, I believe there is more going on behind the scenes with our pain and problems.

God has a great purpose for us, and He wants us to rest in Him as He accomplishes that purpose in and through us.

What are you struggling with today? Can you ask the Lord to help you say "thank you," and to perhaps show you a glimpse of His purposes in your pain?

Graphic: adapted, "Unbalanced Scales," 
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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