I’ve been thinking a lot about pain and suffering these last few months. More accurately, I’ve been rebelling against pain and suffering. Who wouldn’t? Most of you know my and Elizabeth’s story. Her health continues to be a struggle for us, and sometimes I’m the strong one, sometimes she is. Thank God we’re in this together.
These last few months, though, I’ve had more "this is more than I can handle" moments than I’ve had "we are more than conquerors" moments. Finally, I’m settling down again, and I’ve realized that it’s all a matter of perspective. This is partially due to the insights of a pastor/author I’ve corresponded with named Jim McGuiggan. (If you want to hear from someone who understand pain and suffering, check out his web site at www.jimmcguiggan.com.)
When I contacted Jim seeking some hope/encouragement, he asked that I read and ponder two Bible verses: Colossians 1:24 and Philippians 1:29. I did, and I once again experienced the living power of the Word of God. When I first sat down, I wanted to reject what I was reading — it wasn’t that I didn’t believe it, but I had a "sure, but…" response, not wanting to apply it to my own life. Then, after a few moments, the words began speaking to me. The Holy Spirit began speaking to me.
For right now, I just want to focus on one phrase in Colossians 1:24: "I now rejoice in my sufferings…" (New King James Version) I mentioned earlier that I have been rebelling against pain and suffering the last few months, wanting to get out from under it, to run from it, to have no part of it. But here, the apostle Paul writes that he rejoices in his sufferings. Is this man crazy? How can it be? It’s all a matter of perspective, and this is what I have been lacking.
If you take all of Paul’s writings in the Bible, you see that he understands that pain and suffering has a greater purpose. It works for his good, and it works for the good of others. He even recognizes in Philippians 1:29 that suffering has been granted to us by Christ. He has a different perspective on pain and suffering than most of us do today. He doesn’t enjoy suffering just for sake of suffering — suffering is never enjoyable. But he rejoices in his sufferings because he understands their role.
We must gain this same understanding and this same perspective. The purpose of this post is not to help you gain that perspective. The purpose of this post is only to remind you and encourage you to seek a true understanding of pain and suffering so you will gain that perspective.
Without an understanding of the truth about pain and suffering, we can read that Paul rejoices in his sufferings and then try to psyche ourselves into rejoicing in our sufferings, too. That’s nothing more than positive thinking, and it will very likely work for a short time. But then when it wears off — when you’re fatigued from keeping up the charade — you’ll fall off the cliff and end up lower than you were before.
When we truly understand where pain and suffering comes from and what its purpose is for us and for humanity, we have something that is everlasting. Understanding cannot be swayed. Understanding is solid. Positive thinking is shifting sand.
How do we develop this understanding and gain the proper perspective like Paul? Study God’s word. Stay in it consistently. Sit under the guidance of a wise teacher. Pray. Sincerely seek to know and follow God’s ways above your own.
This is no easy task we’re setting out on. Pain and suffering is pain and suffering. But if we are to victoriously endure it, we must have the proper perspective.
Is this helpful? Confusing? I welcome your comments.