Picture the scene: A small child lives a happy life, secure in the love of her parents who shower her with affection and provide for her needs. Although she’s too young to articulate it she trusts her parents, they never hurt her and she feels safe. Until the day that they take her to the local surgery and do nothing to prevent a white coated stranger from repeatedly and painfully stabbing her with a needle! She cries and feels betrayed. . .(I hear that children receive much nicer vaccinations these days, but I hope the story still works!)
Recently for me, these challenges have included unemployment and ill health. I’m aware that these are nothing compared to what some face, and yet we all find ourselves at times crying out “Father, it hurts!”
How should we respond when this is our experience? How can we encourage ourselves when life hurts, especially when many times those hurts seem meaningless or never-ending?
Prepare to be lied to!
Firstly we must be on our guard, because Satan’s favourite and oldest trick is to make God’s people question his goodness and wisdom. The devil wants us to believe that God doesn’t care, that he is not powerful enough to help, or that we’ve blown it with one too many sins and God’s grace is far from us. When life hurts our hearts may want to agree, but we mustn’t let these lies go unchallenged!
Whatever your pain, or the discouragement in your heart, here are some of the Bible’s reminders for us to hold on to: (I won’t give detailed explanations, but do take time to look at some of these verses in their wider context.)
1. Our pain matters to God:
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? . . .This I know, that God is for me. Psalm 56:7-9
2. God walks with his people:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2
3. God’s Spirit intercedes for us and aids us when we are weak:
. . .the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. . . the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27
4. God enables us, so that we might be endure despite difficulty:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13
5. Our suffering cannot compare to the glory to come:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. . . we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. . . Romans 8:18-24
6. God works ALL things for our good:
Just like the loving parents who subject their child to the seemingly inexplicable pain of vaccinations; our good Father is at work in and through our pain for our good – the culmination of which will be our transformation into the likeness of his perfect son Jesus!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son . . . And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-9
A glorious end in sight
In this life we may face overwhelming pain and sorrow. We will wait for relief that seems slow to arrive. We will tremble at our sin and weakness. We might never see the answers to heartfelt questions or needs. And yet we are comforted by the guaranteed end to our story:
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:3-4