August 30, 2018
“Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" Romans 2:4 (NLT)
My friend limped into the doctor's office, barely able to move the offending leg; I went along for support.
"Where does it hurt?" her doctor probed. "What happened?"
Hiking had happened.
More accurately, falling while hiking. My friend rolled her ankle coming down the rocky crag of a mountain. She took some pain pills and hobbled around for a few days, but eventually with even the slightest movement, the pain caused her to recoil in tears as the doctor leaned in to assess the affected area.
"I know it doesn't feel good," the doctor said with a smile, cupping the ankle with one hand and gently touching the inflamed area. "But the pain is actually a good thing!"
Yes, spoken with a smile.
My friend and I still joke about the look she gave the doctor. It was as if a combination of her thoughts came out through her expression and her eyes. A mix of "Wait, what?" and "Well if pain is so good, lean in again, and I'll give you all the ‘goodness' you can handle." Mercy.
The doctor went on, "The nerves in your ankle send pain signals to your brain. Your brain processes the pain as something is wrong, and you seek care for your trauma. It's really genius the way God created our bodies to respond to pain. If you sprained your ankle but didn't have pain, you would go about your daily activities and eventually experience a break or worse."
Until that day, I'd never heard anyone call pain good. I'd always thought of pain as discomfort to dodge at all costs or an ache to avoid with continuous doses of ibuprofen - not a tool designed by God for my good.
That day in the doctor's office, I realized that physical elements of pain often mirror the spiritual sorrow I experience when I ignore God's kindness in the discomfort of my distress.
Romans 2:4 explains it well. "Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?"
God's kindness is what draws us to Himself in salvation, but God is also kind in the details of our day-to-day lives. I'm convinced He sometimes uses pain signals deep within our souls to call to us to seek help, seek Him and avoid further suffering.
It's sad to say, but:
- We might never pay attention to an addiction until the pain of a destroyed life seems eminent.
- We might never get hold of our anger or selfishness until the pain of a loved one leaving the relationship becomes our reality.
Maybe we feel an ache within, but over the years we've developed a high threshold for the pain. Or perhaps the stinging stopped because we're heavily medicated with "spiritual ibuprofen" - numbing the pain with whatever (or whomever) will give us temporary relief.
However, God designed us to respond to pain in a way that will bring goodness if we won't run, but instead remain in Him or return to Him.
If we live in awareness of pain instead of avoidance, I believe we'll see God's kindness leading us to peace and healing.
Now when I experience soul pangs, instead of looking for the easiest escape, I often find myself thanking God for His kindness to me. I ask Him to show me why the pain is there. I plead with Him to have mercy on me and heal me.
Pain brings us to an end of ourselves and drives us to seek help for the trauma in our lives. This, my friends, is a good thing.
Dear God, thank You that in Your kindness, sometimes even pain is good. I confess that when I experience spiritual pain my first instinct is to run toward whatever will give me quick relief. Sadly, I often rush in to find it's not sustaining, and the pain worsens. Please forgive me for turning to things or people; in my weakness, Father, help me turn to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 31:9, "Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away." (NLT)
Psalm 119:71, "My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees." (NLT)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How has God used previous pain in your life for good? If you're comfortable, share a bit of your story today in our comments section.
Take a moment to write a prayer to God recognizing His kindness in your current point of pain. Thank Him for His compassion and love toward you. Ask Him to heal you as you turn to Him.
© 2018 by Kenisha Bethea. All rights reserved.