i don’t know about you, but i am a wimp when it comes to pain. When i go to the dentist, Novocaine is my best friend! i recently had surgery on my eyes and the surgeon asked me if i would like to stay awake, or if i would prefer to be put to sleep. He asked me the question in a way that clearly communicated his view that a manly man would stay awake. But i failed to be intimidated – i told him i would enjoy the good sleep! i mean, if i can sleep and avoid the pain and discomfort, why not? Given the choice to go through pain and suffering or not, why would i? Every part of my being screams that pain and suffering is to be avoided at all cost.
That’s not only true for physical pain, but also for emotional or relational pain. i am ashamed to admit that there have been times in my life where i have failed to stand up and make my voice heard regarding wrongs for fear of rejection or persecution, and the emotional pain that could result. There have been times i have failed to confront a wrong with truth in order to avoid an emotional flare-up. There have been times i have failed to lovingly confront a family member or friend in his/her sin for fear of the repercussions that would result. The choice to walk through pain and suffering of any kind, even when it is the right thing to do, too often seems to be too great a price. And it is never the easy choice.
The reality is that all of us will endure pain and suffering to some degree. As much as we may want to avoid it, it is a part of life. And it is what God sometimes permits in order to mold us and shape us more into the image of His Son. Let’s remember – God is not the author of pain and suffering – sin is the author. But, as a Sovereign God, He has permitted the trial to enter into our lives. The writer of Hebrews writes, “Even though Jesus was God's Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8 NLT). There were some things that even Jesus could only learn through suffering. His suffering made the Son of God a greater High Priest as He now intercedes on our behalf (Hebrews 4:15). Our salvation was made possible only through the crucible of His pain and His suffering on the cross. If Jesus had avoided the pain and the suffering – like Satan attempted to convince Him to do – we would be without hope! His blood would have never been shed. Each of us would be left to pay our own price for our sin. All would be lost!
But all praise to Him – He endured the pain and the suffering. The sinless Son of God endured the cross. “In this way, God qualified Him as a perfect High Priest, and He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9 NLT). Having suffered, He became the complete and perfect Savior through whom you and i – and an entire world – can find salvation.
Jesus has called us to follow Him. As we do, we will encounter pain and suffering. Some of the work He intends to do in and through our lives can only be accomplished through it. If we choose to avoid it, deny it or become bitter about it, we will deny our Lord the ability to make us complete. Not that He is not able – He’s sovereign! Rather, we are not willing – our free will. If we become bitter over our hardship, we will prevent ourselves from being made complete. Our Lord has important things to teach us that can only be learned through our trials. He has important work to accomplish through us that can only be completed through our suffering.
Each of our paths is unique. As we walk in the steps that the Lord has set before each one of us, we will experience very different circumstances. Some will experience extreme hardship. Some will experience severe health challenges. Some will experience painful losses. Some will experience abundant blessing. Some will experience abundant loss.
Whatever the path is that He has set before us, as we take up the cross to follow Jesus, we would do well to remember the words of our Savior to Peter – “As for you, follow Me”(John 21:22).Hold on to Him! Our times are in His hands. Our circumstances are in His hands. Our very lives are in His hands. And He has permitted it all. He has ordered our steps through it all. Don't resent the suffering God has allowed in your life. Don't make all your decisions and invest everything you have into avoiding hardship. God did not spare His own Son. How can we expect Him to spare us? Don’t embrace the pain and the suffering; rather, embrace Him through it. Hold on to Him!
Earlier this week, i heard a pastor say, “our true affections are revealed in our moments of pain.” That was true for Jesus. He revealed His love for the Father, and He revealed the Father’s love for us. In our moments of pain, will we hold on to Him and reveal our true love – and our trust – for Him?
Portion excerpted from Taking Up The Cross