For the widow the word pain immediately takes you to a familiar experience with an uncomfortable reality. Life includes moments and seasons of suffering whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. A lot of us can acknowledge feeling pain, especially in recent days, whether that be from a disappointment, physical illness, loss of loved one, or life as we once knew it rapidly changing before our eyes.
Pain gets our attention, for sure, acting as a type of alarm for action. To state the obvious, pain hurts!
The mystery of pain
Pain is often wrapped up in mystery. We may never know why God allowed pain to intersect our life, yet pain will eventually serve a purpose. Most of the time, pain lasts longer than we desire tempting us to choose pity over purpose. We must be careful to fight against a negative inward focus when things aren’t going our way.
A woe-is-me attitude is available to all, but not a path that leads to healing or peace. At the root are lies from the enemy: you are alone, no one cares, you should… you shouldn’t… The deadly companions of these lies are envy, jealousy, and bitterness. Self-pity is contagious and addictive. Beware of this sin that so easily entangles us!
The 6 purposes in pain
- Pain teaches how to comfort. Pain also generates compassion. We all find more joy in giving comfort vs. receiving it. However, spending time on the uncomfortable receiving end of the spectrum makes us a student of the comforter. The experience of pain teaches how to give back this important gift during times when others around us are suffering.
- Pain produces sanctification. Pain weans us from self-reliance, “Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
- Pain provides a platform for God’s glory. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). More examples in Scripture:
- Lazarus: “But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
- The blind man: The disciples say, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). And Jesus said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). All these years of blindness are about glory.
- Pain opens the door for evangelistic opportunities. “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:12).
“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
- Pain works for our good. Even when meant for evil as Joseph testifies after being mistreated by his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:19-20).
- Pain tests our faith. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).