Pass the Pain, Please

October 11, 2009

Before we get to today’s article, let me explain the special treat it represents. Terry Francis, of Collierville, TN, is with us this week in a Gospel Meeting. He is preaching about Connecting and Conquering; how we as a congregation can unite and then go out and win the battle against our enemy, the devil. This article is a treat from Terry, an example of his teaching. If you didn’t make today’s assemblies, come join us some time this week. We’ll be meeting Monday through Wednesday at 7 pm. And now, Terry’s article.

Pass the Pain, Please

Children hate eating their vegetables—especially the green leafy variety. Any child given the choice of eating chocolate cake or broccoli is going to choose the cake. The words, “Pass the broccoli, please” would be shocking to the ears of a parent. We all like cake better. But broccoli is better for us. It has a greater nutritional value. We may like the cake, but we need the broccoli.

Life can often be categorized in two ways: pleasure and pain. All of us like pleasure more. We want times of joy and laughter. We want to feel good about life. We don’t want the pain and agony of suffering. The pleasure is the cake. Pain is the broccoli. We need pain. It is vital to our spiritual development.

The statement “we need pain” seems odd. In fact, it seems downright insane. The wise writer said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Eccl. 7:2–4). Mourning is better than feasting? Sorrow is better than laughter? Absolutely. We need pain. We should all consider the benefits of pain.

Pain is a good gift.

We don’t think of pain in that way. But if God allows pain to occur, it must be good for us. Jesus asked the question, “…which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9–11). Everything God gives us is good. It works out to be good for us (Rom. 8:28). Often we think God is giving us a serpent when He is actually handing us fish. The pain helps us grow and mature. It is good for us.

Pain serves as the evidence of our ability to feel. 

Gerald Sittser wrote, “Pain…is the flipside of pleasure. The nerve that tells us of one also tells us of the other” (A Grace Disquised, p. 45). Without pain, we could never experience joy. Without tears, we would never laugh. Perhaps that’s why Paul told the Roman brethren to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:5). It is impossible to cry with people you can’t laugh with. The preacher wrote there was a “time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). The emotions of joy and pain are forever connected. One serves as proof that the other is alive and well. Without pain, we could never rejoice. It is indeed a blessing to us all.

Pain serves as a reminder that we need God. 

Paul prayed three times for the thorn in the flesh to be removed (2 Cor. 12:7–10).  Three times God’s reply was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Whatever Paul’s thorn was, it is quite clear it served as a source of pain—a “…messenger of Satan to harass…” But God allowed the painful thorn to continue to harass Paul. The thorn served as a reminder to Paul that without God he would be nothing. Paul’s weakness was an opportunity for God’s power to be seen. Paul knew that he needed God. We need to be reminded of that fact: “I need God.” Pain shows us that we are weak. God’s grace makes us strong even in times of weakness.

Pain helps us long for heaven.

Perhaps the best benefit of a healthy serving of pain is the motivation it gives us to strive for eternal life. The pain of this life should motivate us for a home in heaven. A place where there is no suffering, no night, no pain, no agony, no crying, etc. (Rev. 21:3–4). Pain reminds us there is a better place than this. This world is truly not our home. And we don’t want it to be! We want a home that is filled with the richness and goodness of heaven—not the pain of earth.

Perhaps a sign of maturity is asking for more broccoli. Adults recognize the nutritional value of broccoli. Some even grow to like the taste. We don’t have to find pleasure in pain but we do need to see it as a healthy part of spiritual growth. It helps us become who we need to be. God’s grace is sufficient for us, too! In weakness we are made strong. Perhaps we should say, “Pass the pain please.” 

-Terry Francis

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