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Life is hard.  2020 has been hard.  The Pandemic and Politics aren’t the only things we have had to deal with.  Many of us have suffered physically and emotionally and have endured relational pains and schedule pressures at the same time.  How can we frame what we have dealt with in a way that will allow us to continue to move forward and even prosper as people and as Christ-followers? 

I want to be clear that pain and trials are not God’s idea.  They are the result of living in a fallen, sinful world, but while God isn’t causing our painful circumstances, because He loves us and because He can do anything, God can (and will) take the painful moments of our lives and make them purposeful so that we can still rejoice and so that we can give voice to the difference that knowing Jesus makes.  Pain without purpose would be a cruel existence, but our God can redeem anything, even the worst of situations.  And what God redeems is valuable. Pain can be valuable.  In the hands of God, it can become an asset to us.  The pains we endure become valuable when we hand them over to a God who knows how to recreate, who knows how to reconstruct, who knows how to revamp our pain into purpose to fit His purposes for our lives. And when He does, we can see how valuable pain becomes because it transforms us, shape us, equips us to assist others and moves us into the future that is waiting.

I’ve identified some benefits of pain, some ways we can find purpose in pain.

  1. Pain helps us acquire and show empathy for others. When we say to someone, “I feel your pain,” we are saying, “I have been where you are to some degree, and I understand what you are going through.”  When we express empathy for other people, God can remove a sense of loneliness from their struggle.  When you have endured what someone else is walking through, you are moved by their pain.  You are stirred to reach out which creates purpose for the pain that you, yourself, have had to walk through. 

When God brings us through our trials and brings healing to our hearts or courage to our souls or hope to our minds, however He enables us to get through things, He is preparing us to be a comfort, a help to someone else.

Paul had this to say on the subject,  II Corinthians 1:3-4- Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Those of us who have Christ on board during painful times are the most blessed because we have resources in Jesus that enable us to be comforted in a supernatural way.  There are many without Christ who don’t have the Words of Scripture to steady their hearts.  They don’t have the hope of Heaven to calm their anxious spirits.  They don’t have the mechanism of prayer whereby the Holy Spirit whispers, “You are going to make it.”  They don’t have a church family to rally around them when extra support is needed.  They don’t have the songs of faith to play on loop in their thoughts.  But you, believer, you who receive the help from God that is needed to get through your trial can not only relate on a human and heart level with those who are hurting, but you will have a testimony about how God has helped you through that can point other people to Him.  Any time we can empathically help a person in pain find the arms of Jesus, our personal pain has served a wonderful purpose.

  1. Pain helps us experience the grace and power of God. 

Our successes could easily point us to our personal hard work, our network of friends, our good reputation, and our self-discipline. Success could puff us up, but pain brings us back down to the place of dependence upon God. Often, God uses pain in our lives to keep us humble and dependent upon Him so that He can do in and through our lives what even our greatest human success never could.  God knew that the Apostle Paul had many reasons to feel pretty good about himself.  He had risen in the ranks of Judaism.  He was a learned scholar.  He was a gifted communicator. He was a self-starter.  He was driven.  He obviously had influence.  He saw results from all of his efforts. 

In order to remind Paul just Who had enabled Paul’s effectiveness, God permitted something in Paul’s life, some kind of pain, some kind of hardship, some kind of weakness, to keep Paul focused on allowing God to work in him so that God could continue to accomplish greater and greater things in Paul’s life.  Next to Jesus, the Apostle Paul is probably the most highlighted person in the Bible.  The miracles God worked through Him, the messages God gave Him, the churches that were founded through His efforts, were all possible because Paul experienced God’s grace at the highest level through a pain that God permitted in His life. 

Listen to II Corinthians 12:7-10 from the Message Translation about Paul’s experience: 7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first, I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. (Paul saw the pain as a gift!) It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Paul experienced incredible spiritual and personal success because he encountered the greatest grace and power which came as a result of a pain in his life.  The pain, the “thorn in his flesh,” that challenge not only reminded him of his weaknesses, but it strategically invited Christ’s strength and power to take over completely.  Does someone here today need to strategically invite Christ’s power to take over a painful situation in their life.  Listen, the power of God can come into someone’s life at the will and direction of God, but this text seems to indicate that one way the power of God is received is in and through our pain.

  1. Pain fosters spiritual growth.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, (REALLY? IS HE OUT OF HIS MIND?) my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Apparently, we grow spiritually, perhaps exponentially, when we walk through trials.  Yes, trials with an “S.”  Plural.  James said to be glad when everything hits at once.  Rejoice when you have many pains and pressures at the same time.  Do you think he was referring to 2020? One trial at a time, Lord, please.  James says, “Be glad when multiple pains come your way because your faith will be tested and as it is tested it will produce perseverance.”  This is one of the purposes of pain, to grow up our faith. Evidently pain will grow in our faith in ways that the absence of pain cannot.

Don’t think for a moment that it was easy for Abraham to obey God when God tested his faith by requesting that he sacrifice his son, Isaac.  That was a trial from the word “go.”  Oh, the pain that would have entered Abraham’s heart the second he heard God utter the words.  Every step to the top of Mount Moriah would have been painful, hard, unwanted, but he made the climb, and because he moved forward, he encountered God in a new way.  He encountered Him as Provider as God provided a lamb as a substitute for the sacrifice of Abraham’s son.  Pain does that for us.  It helps us encounter God in new ways that add to our faith.

James tells us there is a maturing of our faith, a wholeness a completeness that results when we look to God in our times of trouble and heartache.  Job could sure testify to that reality.  He went through immense spiritual, physical and emotional torment because God permitted Satan to put him through the wringer.  And what did Job say in 42:5 when his trials were all over?  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job was basically saying, “God, I have come to know you in a whole new way, a way I would have known You had it not been for my trials.”

I Peter 1:6-7 says, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

There is a purpose to our suffering and one of those purposes is the development of our faith, spiritual maturity and an ability to persevere in tough times. 

Finally, I want to suggest a fourth purpose for pain by asking a question. 

  1. What if a purpose of your pain was to reveal some purpose God has for your life?

What if pain comes packaged as preparation for where God is leading us in the future?  What if the pain we suffer gives us a new direction, a God-direction?  What if pain becomes a sign to show us something new God wants to do in our lives?

Danielle Dials’ Testimony:

On June 19, 2019, we received “the call” that every parent prays that they will never get. In an instant my worst fear, my nightmare became my reality. For 16 months those horrible words have echoed in my mind. “Ms. Dials, I am so sorry to tell you that your daughter has been found deceased”. In that moment, my world stopped turning, and life as I knew it changed forever.

For 2 days I sat in shock waiting for her to be brought from Morgantown to Charleston for an autopsy and then to the funeral home. I had been reading on how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, how he had waited for 2 days after Martha sent for Him to come, because her brother was dying. I knew that when I could hold her in my arms, my Jesus would come, and He could bring her back to life. There was still hope because God is the same yesterday, today and forever. As I held her lifeless body, I cried out from the depths of my soul “Cyleigh come back.  Lord, breathe Your life back into her, just like you did for Lazarus. God please, I can’t do this. You know I can’t do this. I cannot live without her.

God, why? Where were you? How could you allow this to happen? Did you not hear my prayers? Did you not hear my cries to you Lord from the deepest parts of my heart? I prayed. I trusted you. I waited in faith for the day that you would set her free from addiction. I believed. I spoke your Word over her. I stood on Your promises. I thanked You in advance for her healing. I praised You in the storms of addiction and destruction. I came against the enemy and bound the spirit of addiction. I told the devil “You CANNOT have my baby. She is a child of the KING”! Lord, was my faith not enough? Were you watching when I’d sneak into her room as she slept, to anoint her head, her hands and feet and pray the prayer of faith that You would order her steps back to You, that you’d break the chains that bound her and set her free?

“Lord I don’t understand.  Why didn’t she get her chance to live and get it right? Why have you forsaken her? Forsaken me?” As I screamed in anger and questioned my sovereign Savior, who has never failed nor forsaken me, He wrapped me in His presence and ministered to my broken spirit. I knew for certain that I would never understand. This would never make sense, and my pain would never go away on this side of Heaven. I also understood that I could never survive this loss and this pain, without a supernatural touch from my Father. I plead that He would reveal Himself to me in a way that I had never known. In that moment I was filled with the peace that passes all understanding and a strength that I know could only come from the hand of God. I got up off that floor, I wiped my tears and in the precious presence of my Father, I bathed and dressed my girl. I applied her makeup. I fixed her hair, and I honored and loved her in the only way that I had left. And that weekend, we said “Goodbye for now,” to our precious Cyleigh Jade.

The minutes and hours slowly turned into days, then weeks and then months. I was left sifting through the ashes of loss. The loss of my sweet Cyleigh and her future. The loss of college graduation, watching her fall in love, watching her step into her wedding gown and walk down the aisle to the man of God that I had prayed for her to find since she was just a baby, the announcement of “Momma we’re pregnant” and the gift of watching my grandchild draw their first breath. The life that was supposed to be. I was left with what to do when the answer is “no.” When our prayers aren’t answered in the way that we so desperately believed that they would be. I was left with “when the healing doesn’t come”.

God never promised us a life free of pain or heartbreak. In fact, He tells us that this life is hard and full of trouble, but He promises to be with us as we walk through our tragedies and trials. He promises to never leave us, never forsake us. He promises to be our Comforter and to bind up our wounds. He promises to give us beauty for ashes, joy in our mourning, and purpose for our pain- if we will allow Him.

There have been days that I have questioned if I would survive. I have thrown temper tantrums like a child that did not get their way. I have questioned my existence, my purpose. I have been devastated, depressed, anxious, and angry. I don’t understand this and have concluded I’m not supposed to, but in it all, I have purposed to hold tight to the hem of His garment and not let go. I have known God in this valley in ways that I could have never known Him on a mountain top. He has revealed Himself to me in ways that I would have never dreamed possible. I am learning to trust Him, even when my heart doesn’t understand, and my human eyes can’t see the plan or the purpose.

So, when I desperately asked God to give purpose to this pain, to bring my heart back to life, to give me a reason- I have been given a front row seat and watched in awe as Cyleigh’s Daddy gave his heart to Jesus. I have watched my son Caleb fall in love with the girl of his dreams, the one I have prayed for him to find. I have watched in amazement as God has broken shackles and chains and set my son free. My ears have heard the sweetest announcement, “Momma we are pregnant” and we will have the beautiful gift of our first grandchild in February 2021. God is still God and He is still good!!!  

Back in October 2019, God specifically asked me to sow a seed in our church’s building fund. He spoke very clearly to me “One day you will need a building fund.” I did so in obedience, not even knowing what that meant. Every Sunday during praise and worship God would stir within my spirit, an overwhelming burden and hurt for our sons and daughters- our grandchildren, mothers, and fathers that this drug epidemic has stolen from us. He would whisper in a still small voice, “Will you show them my love? Will you show them the way”? This went on for weeks during every church service for a month. And during a November service He asked me “Will you follow where I lead you”? And I whispered, “My God I will you follow you wherever you go”. That day after service, Jason and I walked to the car, and the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit encompassed our car, and we began to weep. Jason looked at me and said, “Danielle I believe that God is telling me that we need to start reaching out to women struggling with addiction, and He’s asked me to follow where He leads.” Right there, weeping in the presence of our Savior, we vowed to follow Him wherever, whenever, and whatsoever. Little did we know that He had gone before us to prepare the way, and we began to walk through doors that we didn’t even know He had opened. He has given us the amazing opportunity to share His love with the lost, broken, hurting, and often forgotten- addict…those who are bound by the chains of addiction, just like our Cyleigh Jade. Those who need the love of a Savior and a safe place to land. In what seems like the blink of an eye, God has opened the doors of Jade’s Landing, a Sober Living residence in Charleston for women who are in the beginning stages of recovery from drugs and/or alcohol. We know firsthand the grueling journey of recovery. God has allowed us to walk this journey many times. He had long ago began preparing us for this call. When we called out “God why”- only He knew that He was preparing us for so much more than what our hearts and minds could understand.

He is good and He is faithful. Even in the heartbreak. Even when we don’t understand. One day He will make all things right. And it will be worth it all. For now, we are all just walking each other home. (End of testimony)

Are you suffering deep pain right now?  Have you wondered why God has allowed it?  Have you submitted it to God?  Have you asked God to redeem it?  Have you requested that He make you more sensitive to the needs of others?  Have you asked to experience God’s grace and power in fullness?  Have you called on Him to help you grow?  Have you petitioned Him to reveal the purpose He might be leading you to, a purpose that can only be achieved by first walking through some pain?

Perhaps we haven’t appreciated the moments of difficulty and challenge correctly.  Maybe we haven’t viewed the pains of life as an opportunity to develop, to grow, and to actually become the steppingstones to a greater perspective and greater life effectiveness.  If you go through pain without inviting God into it, you won’t receive any of the benefits pain could produce in your life.  Don’t waste your pain.  Give purpose to your pain by allowing God to be in charge, by receiving His comfort to comfort others, by receiving His grace and power to do greater things, by becoming spiritually mature in order to have a spirit of perseverance and by looking for the new thing He is actually wanting to prepare you to accomplish.  Let’s move from pain to purpose for the purposes of God. 

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