In last week’s post, we looked at the Bible’s answer to the question, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Christians?”. The Bible says, “Because God orchestrates them.” His DNA’s on every one of them.
This answer raises another tough question: “How can God love us yet subject us to pain?”
A 19th century preacher advised ministers, “Preach to broken hearts and you’ll never lack a congregation.” He’s right. Broken hearted Christians are everywhere. I’ve walked more than one mile in pain’s too tight, blister causing shoes.
Maybe you’re walking in them now.
If you are, you know the question, “How can God love me and let me hurt like this?” isn’t academic.
The Biblical Definition of Pain
Let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. By “pain” I mean what Jesus means when he says, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33) . . . and what Paul and Barnabas mean when they tell new coverts “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22) . . . and what Peter means when he says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
According to Jesus, Paul, Barnabas, and Peter, pain means the searing sorrows that invade our lives. Agonies like divorce, by-pass surgery, a mastectomy, a child suffering from a debilitating illness, miscarriages, job-loss and the thousand and one really, really bad things that cause us to feel like we’re buried alive. So, the question we’re addressing is really this: how can God love us yet subject us to this kind of pain? Severe. Long-lasting. Life-upheaving.
4 Biblical Convictions
I’m a heart patient. I’ve got to take three pills every day to prevent a heart attack. Not one. Not two. Three.
In a similar way, the Bible prescribes four convictions that we must take simultaneously if we’re going to stay spiritually healthy in our heartaches. Leave out a single conviction and you’re a heart patient leaving out life-saving medication. Take all four and you’ll stay soul-healthy even when life hurts.
The four convictions about God’s love and our pains are:
- God’s Fatherly Love for us Governs ALL his dealings with us.
Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene assure us that through him his God and Father is our God and Father: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:12). His prayer in John 17 assures us of the astonishing fact that the Father loves each of us exactly the way he loves Jesus (John 17:23). The writer of Hebrews assures us that our Father’s love is behind everything by assuring us it’s even behind unpleasant things: “The Lord disciplines those whom he loves” (Hebrews 12:6-7).
Being a Christian means God’s fatherly love for you governs all his dealings with you.
2. God can (and sometimes does) keep pain out of our lives.
Our Father faces no overpowering problem. He can keep pain from us or, if he allows it, remove it when he wishes. Just as he prevented Noah from dying in the flood (Genesis 6-8) and Lot from perishing in Sodom (Genesis 19) and Pharaoh from destroying the fleeing Israelites (Exodus 14) and Saul from killing David on numerous occasions (for example, 1 Samuel 23:14) and lions from dining on Daniel (Daniel 6) and fever from ravaging Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31) and death from holding on to Lazarus (John 11:43-44) and a poisonous snake from harming Paul (Acts 28:1-6).
The explanation for any pain we experience is never that our Father didn’t want it present but couldn’t keep it out.
3. Even though he loves us as much as he loves Jesus, our heavenly Father sometimes allows pain to lay siege to our lives.
The emphasis here is on the two-fold reality that God rules our lives with love yet allows us to suffer. Take a single example. Paul was as sure as anyone could be that the heavenly Father loved him. The cross assured him he was a Christ-loved, Christ-prized man. “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:22). And Christ’s love for him testified to the Father’s love for him: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Yet, this deeply loved man was, like his Lord, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Among many sufferings, a chronic pain he describes as a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) lay siege to him and “tormented” him.
In Paul we see that God’s love for us isn’t incompatible with God subjecting us to pain.
4. The Bible doesn’t deny that the pains Christians experience are difficult to bear.
With Drill Sergeant bluntness it says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11). The Great Physician knows that there can be unpleasant side effects to the medicinal pain he prescribes. Trials make demands on our faith (James 1:3), submissiveness (Hebrews 12:9), and patience (Romans 5:3), each of which are graces so seldom used that, when exercised as they are by trial, leave our psyche as sore as a thumb with an in-grown nail. It hurts to hurt. The Bible doesn’t downplay this. And this fact speaks volumes about our pains. It assures us that if the God Who loves us so much he subjected his Son to the pain of the cross for us allows searing sorrow to come into our lives, that sorrow must have some loving purpose.
The point is this: our loving Father will never subject us to unnecessary pain.
The Bible doesn’t deny that the pains Christians experience are difficult to bear. @gfoministries
When you put these four truths together, you find the counterintuitive truth that even our pains are orchestrated by God and sent/permitted/allowed because he loves us and is up to our good.
Simply put, pain is one of God’s love languages.
In our next post, we’ll answer the question, “Does the Bible Teach that God Shows Us His Love by Subjecting Us to Pain?”.
But for now, rest in the truth that ‘O’ is for orchestrated—meaning, even our pains are governed by God and allowed because he loves us.