Saturday, May 28, 2011

Purpose for the Pain

I recall having a coach in high school whom I thought to be a certifiable maniac. It seemed that he inflicted pain upon us just for his personal enjoyment.

One day, while enduring a painful session, I just flat out refused to do any more.  The coach responded to my rebellion by asking a question.

“If your house was on fire and you needed to climb down from the second story window to escape, could you do it?  Would you have sufficient upper body strength?”

I knew the answer to that.  I was a fat, overweight slob whose favorite exercise was lifting a fork up to my mouth.  I then had an epiphany.  The coach was not some brain-damaged masochist.  He was, in fact, trying to save my life.  And so I came to realize that there was a purpose for the pain.

Just like a good coach looking out for his athletes, God will often direct us into situations where the pain may not make sense to our finite minds.  Pastor Lon Solomon pointed us to the pain that Esther suffered en route to becoming the most powerful woman in the then known world:

Now there was a Jew who lived in the palace complex in Susa. His name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish—a Benjaminite. His ancestors had been taken from Jerusalem with the exiles and carried off with King Jehoiachin of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon into exile. Mordecai had reared his cousin Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, since she had no father or mother. The girl had a good figure and a beautiful face. After her parents died, Mordecai had adopted her.
Esther 2:5-7 [MSG]

Esther was a young girl whose mother and father had died as a result of some unmentioned circumstances.  To lose one’s parents is a traumatic thing.  Even more so for a young girl.  And, to add insult to injury, this young girl was sent to live with a middle-aged bachelor.  Perhaps this was the inspiration for the television series Family Affair

No... I didn’t think so either. 

Moving right along...

Esther probably didn’t know at the time that the death of her parents... followed by the paradigm shift of moving in with cousin Mordecai and turning his world upside down... would lead to her occupying the powerful position that ultimately would lead to her singlehandedly saving all of the Jewish people who resided in ancient Persia.

Nobody knows where their circumstances, which may be difficult if not downright painful, will lead them.  There was a young boy whose mother dragged him to a foreign country where he would be ridiculed and mistreated.  Later, his mother dumped the young boy on his grandparents’ doorstep and then went off thousands of miles away to live with her new husband and new baby daughter.  That had to be a painful experience.  Yet... it was part of what made Barack Obama the man he would become.  And who knew during those early years where he would wind up.

Many of you have heard Joyce Meyer’s story. Years of abuse by her father is difficult to imagine.  Yet, Joyce acknowledges that it was all a part of God’s plan to make her the internationally known evangelist that she is today.

The bottom line...

[But what of that?] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!
Romans 8:18 [AMP]

The Apostle Paul reminds us that whatever we suffer in this life is nothing compared with the joys of eternity in God’s kingdom. However, there is another perspective to consider.  God has good plans for us.  Consider Joseph in the Old Testament.  His brothers wanted to murder him... but as a compromise they sold him into slavery.  Joseph spent time as an innocent man in prison.  He was subjected to great indignities.  Yet, Joseph rose to become the second in command to the mightiest nation at that time, Egypt.  Joseph’s take on his path from the pit to the prison to the palace:

Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart.
Genesis 50:19-21 [MSG]

God is Soverign. God is also good. Although the plans He has for you may seem difficult to understand, they do have a good purpose. Many people shake their fists toward heaven and curse God.  They just don’t understand the promise that the prophet Jeremiah relayed from our Creator:

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.
Jeremiah 29:11 [AMP]

Although the path may seem difficult, there is a purpose. And it is a good purpose. But it requires us to trust in God... to cooperate with God... to allow our faith in Him to be a constant.  Jesus is the ultimate example of this principle.

At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.
Mark 1:12-13 [MSG]

Jesus left the comforts of friends of family.  He left the comforts of the city.  He went out into the wilderness where satan pounded Him relentlessly.  Yet, we all know that His pain was for our gain.
My good friend and mentor Pastor Mike Macintosh wrote the following, regarding the above scripture:
The Holy Spirit sent Jesus out into the wilderness where He would be tempted in all areas of His life. The Book of Matthew gives us a fuller account of Jesus' temptation, and there we see that the devil was pounding Jesus. Do you ever feel that way? That the enemy is just pounding you? The pain hurts. But the good thing is this: the pain points us to Jesus Christ.
Stop and think about that; you don't really grow up until you've felt pain in your life. Our society tells us to hide the pain, to mask it. They tell us that using drugs or alcohol or having affairs will dull the pain, making us feel good. But all it does is drive us to an even greater, excruciating and senseless agony in our lives and in our marriages.
Maybe you have been thrust or driven into a situation. The natural human reaction in the flesh is to run away. But to be mature, many times we have to face the music and stay where we are. One of the great sins of our nation is the divorce rate. You can get a divorce for any reason you want these days; sort of like trading in an older car for a newer one. Well, a marriage isn't like a car! And we forget the vows we take are serious things. The devil wants to ruin your marriage. He will tempt you in every way to break up your family. There are times when God puts you into situations that don't always make you feel comfortable. Maybe it's with people who rub you the wrong way, or maybe it's a job that causes you stress. But God wants you to be in these situations to strengthen your faith and to rely on Him more.
The pain of obedience and patience will be rewarded to you. Pain reminds us that we are alive; people that are in the grave feel no pain. When things get hard and painful for you, just realize that God is using that to remind you that you are alive and that you are dependent on Him to get you through. Look to Jesus for your answers to life's pains, not the bottle or the pills. Look to the Holy Spirit's guidance in your life to keep you from the enemy's lies. Go to the Father in prayer, asking Him for the supernatural strength to endure. Only then in your pain will you find true happiness and joy.
Judy Ann provides us with the following prayer based upon Psalm 42 & 43 and Psalm 4.  This may be a prayer you may wish to offer up to the Lord when you find yourself going through those painful periods of life.
As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for you, the living God. In the name of Jesus, I resist discouragement because I expect you to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise you for all that you will do. You are my help! You are my God! I place my trust in you, and I shall again praise you for your wondrous help; you make me smile again, for you are my God. Amen and Amen.
When I call, give me answers. God, take my side! Once, in a tight place, You gave me room; now I'm in trouble again: grace me! Hear me! In my anger I will not sin; when I’m on my bed, I will search my heart and be silent. My trust is in You, Jehovah, my LORD. Let the light of Your face shine upon me. Thank You for filling my heart with great joy. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. In Jesus name. Amen.

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