From “And Jesus Wept,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Whether or not any of the other questions about pain have been answered, every sufferer wonders about how to relieve, or palliate, his pain. Thus, the treatment of pain is a growing and respected medical science these days. Since the mid-1960’s multitudes of “Pain Clinics” with resident Dolorologists (pain-specialists) have arisen across America.

With specialization in the area of pain research the questions are growing: Should I see a Myotherapist to treat my muscular pain? My uncle was helped by a Chiropractor, but would he be able to help me? There is talk about Acupuncture these days, but is this really scientific? How about Acupressure? Can I raise my pain threshold through mind-control? Should I try more drugs? What about surgery? Some people are turning to Eastern mysticism for relief, should I leave my Christian heritage? A woman down at work has gone into the occult and gotten relief from her pain. Aunt Betty has been reading about shamanism and certain psychic phenomenon that have helped people. Where should I go? Would (hee, hee) a lobotomy be the answer?

Obviously a great many suffering people, down through the ages have turned to “religion” for solutions to their pain. Despite a few outspoken and growing cults, all of the major religions of the world began in days before there were any really effective medical treatments for pain. In fact the majority of those religions have had suffering at their very hearts from the outset. Elsewhere we spoke of Siddhartha Guatama and the beginning of Buddhism. Didn’t Judaism begin initially in the slavery of Egypt? Wasn’t Christianity founded on a Roman gibbet? Religion and pain often can be found in the same breath.

Yes, and the right kind of “religion” can be effective in this war with bodily decay and inner corruption, but it’s definitely not without great effort. So far no one has published “The Roman’s Road to Recovery” or “Painlessness Left Behind.” Nevertheless, there are Biblical steps that Christian sufferers can take in this struggle which may lead to real victory.

In conventional conflicts success usually goes to the soldier or army with the best weapons. They must not only be good weapons but the best for that particular kind of combat. The man with the bow and arrow usually defeated the man with only the spear. The man with the rifle in turn defeated the man with the bow, and the one with the jet bomber now overcomes them all. More often than not in any struggle, greater strength of mind or heart without the right weapon doesn’t guarantee triumph. Ah, but the strength and armor of God ALWAYS does.

In the battle against pain the same thing is true. It is not necessarily won by soldiers with bulging biceps, whether physical, mental or spiritual. Rather, these conflicts are won by the warriors who are best arrayed. Which of the three men on Calvary would you surmise was the strongest physically? But who best handled the pain of crucifixion? David wisely threw off the armor of Saul to face Goliath in the strength of the Lord, and won. Gideon sent home nearly 32,000 willing soldiers in order to face the Midianites with an army of 300 men and the Lord.

Despite the fact that our painful adversary may have been sent to us by one of several enemies, the encouragement that Paul gives to us in Ephesians 6 is simply very good advice: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:11-17). Any suffering Christian with this armor covering his body and soul will be infinitely better equipped to fight any enemy, including pain.

Another characteristic of many victorious soldiers is that they stand with other victorious soldiers; they are the best accompanied. And there is no better ally than Jehovah. “With him (the enemy) is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (II Chron. 32:8). “Let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee” (Ps. 5:11). Those who draw nigh to God will always do better than those who don’t; it’s just that simple!

The Primary Focus

Most people who call themselves “Christians” today are unquestionably too “worldly,” when they should be “heavenly.” Paul knew this and rebuked the Colossians: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). John saw this too: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I Jn. 2:15-17). James rebuked his readers as well: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

“This world” is basically experienced and enjoyed with our physical bodies, and it is our physical bodies that must bear the brunt of the majority of our pain as well. Our hand may be burnt fixing the hot chocolate to flush out the shivers that we caught trying to thrill ourselves by skiing down the mountain. Our heart aches because the great looking girl on the next street turned us down for a date. We burn with envy at the neighbor’s new car.

It stands to reason that if we could move from “this world” to the “other world” we would be far better off. In other words: if we move from being mostly physical to being more spiritual it would be a great improvement. John had things in proper perspective when he said to Gaius, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (III Jn. 2). Let’s not put the cart before the horse and our physical health or prosperity before our spiritual or eternal needs.

This is exactly what our Saviour has taught the wise-hearted Bible student. The Lord looks not on one’s countenance or the height of his stature; “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). If that is where the Lord looks, then that is where we should concentrate. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). This is good advice not just when facing the Goliath of Philistines but also for the Goliath of all our problems.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-20). The intention of the Lord in this passage is to encourage us to focus on the spiritual.

The Gospels give us an illustration of this when Jesus tried to move his disciples from the earthly plain with its earthly pain to a new spiritual level. In Luke 8:22-25 Jesus and his men were trapped on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a violent storm. It appeared that the boat would sink while Jesus slept. Since it is difficult to believe that Christ could sleep while in such imminent danger, we are led to assume that He knew of the danger but delayed in treating the problem until His people gave up their feeble attempts at saving themselves. The Lord did not send the storm but permitted it for a purpose, then “rebuked” the wind and waves. When everything was calm once again, Jesus took his disciples back into their own hearts with the question: “Where is your faith?” “Lift up your eyes from the pain of your fear, from the wicked circumstances around you and look upon me. I am in control of these waves and every other situation that you must face.” Christian lift up your faith!

Our Lord Jesus further illustrated this principle when in his own painful temptation He set his attention on divine truths. He answered Satan and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God…It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God…Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:4-10).

For the very reason that we are commanded not to worry about physical THINGS, we should not worry about physical PAINS. “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Lk. 12:4-5). There are several kinds of pain implied here: for example, fear is a very real kind of emotional pain. But beyond this, fear can be used to cause excruciating physical suffering. Death, too, is a kind of pain, and there are varying degrees of pain that some must endure while dying. The Lord commands us to hide all of these pains behind that very special “fear of the Lord.”

In the context of unbelievers, fear of the Lord means terror, because He will deal with them as unrepentant sinners. But in the context of the believer, fear of the Lord is the very best place to be. “What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose” (Ps. 25:12). “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men” (Ps. 31:19). God’s “mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Lk. 1:50). This special kind of fear is not worldly, but spiritual. In other words, what we all need to learn is to live in the Spirit rather than in the flesh.

If someone drilled a hole in the wall of your house, would you feel the pain? No. You may feel anger, and maybe a pinch in the wallet, but the drill didn’t hurt you. Your body has a similar relationship to your soul and spirit. A burn on your hand, can affect your soul only as you allow it. Thus, many martyrs bore up well under their pain, because they refused to let it bother their spirits. In fact many times they rejoiced in their pain, because it brought them nearer to the Lord.

In a sense it is difficult to hurt the kind of person that God wants you to be. The spiritual man knows that God’s will and God’s glory are always best. He also knows that since God is sovereign, his pain must come from the permission of the Lord. He knows that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He knows that there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness that fadeth not away (II Tim. 4:8). So, the man with this assurance is usually joyful, being confident of God’s love and control in all circumstances, including this current one. As Elkanah said to Hannah, sorrowing over her barrenness, “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (I Sam. 1:8) Is not the love of the Lord infinitely better than our suffering on this earth?

“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165). “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction” (Ps. 119:92).

The first step in palliating our pain is focusing on the right things.

Attitude Readjustment

Twenty-five years ago, at the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Asenath Petrie witnessed people undergoing assorted varieties of treatment and observed their many different reactions to pain. She found that although a person’s culture, will-power, or sex had nothing to do with their ability to endure their suffering, they could be roughly placed in three different categories. Further experiments on both pain patients and healthy volunteers indicated to her that some people are “pain augmenters.” These folk had personalities that seemed to make more of pain and other sensations than did their neighbors under the same stimulus. There were also people who could be called “pain moderators.” These people simply had little reaction to their aches and stings; they responded moderately. Then there were the “pain reducers.” This group could minimize and actually cut back the pain that they were feeling, thus, they could sustain more pain than others, and they could increase, what some people call, their pain thresholds.

Although research in this area is still going on, the question remains: Can someone defect from the “pain augmenting” camp and join that of the “pain reducers?” Science may not have an adequate answer as yet, but the Bible may have when it says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

It may have been Ben Franklin who first wrote, “No pain; No gain.” Lately that thought has really taken off. The athlete wears this sentiment on his sweat shirt as he runs his hundredth lap around the track. The dieter quotes it to himself as he gnaws his finger during the tortilla chip commercial. And the physio-therapist whispers it once again in the ear of the young man recovering from the terrible car accident. Pain seems to be just fine when we know that it’s doing good.

But is it possible to make pain ALWAYS do us good? What saith the Scriptures?

The Apostle Paul did not find that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ forever rescued him from the world of suffering and pain as some people are erroneously teaching today. Paul was stoned at Lystra and left for dead (Acts 14:19), apparently badly mutilated. His enemies at Corinth sneered at his weakness (II Cor. 10:10). He was beaten “with stripes above measure…in death oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods…” (II Cor. 11:23-25). These things undoubtedly left their mark in his body (Gal. 6:17), and may have disfigured him somewhat, painfully affecting him. Some of his illnesses made him feel that he was a burden to others (Gal. 4:14), and he felt the frailty of his body more than most (II Cor. 4:7) groaning for his “new heavenly body” (II Cor. 5:4). Some even think that he suffered from bad eye-sight (Gal. 4:15).

II Corinthians 12:7-10 is an especially important passage in relation to Paul and his sufferings. After speaking of a special revelation he received from the Lord, Paul said, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” This “thorn in the flesh” that Paul received was some sort of bodily ailment, and if you have experienced a thorn you may understand that it involved no small pain. We notice too that Satan was the thorn’s deliverer under the will of the Father in Heaven. It is interesting that Paul does not here tell us what his pains were. If he had done so, you in your pain may have decided that yours was worse than Paul’s, and thus you might have an excuse not to glory in the Lord and turn to Him.

Now, the lesson is this: “Let us draw comfort from the blessed fact that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was not sent but given by God as a divine favor! It is thus that we should regard each painful trial-as a merciful bestowment from God…” (A. W. Pink, Gleanings from Paul, pg. 76).

Paul endured the pain, because in his case, not only did he know that it came by the permission of God, but that it was there for a purpose, “Lest I should be exalted above measure.” Now for us, perhaps the purpose is not always so immediately recognizable, but be assured that there always is a purpose (“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Rom. 8:28), and it would do us good to look around to see if we can see it. One word of caution however, it may be that the Lord doesn’t want us to see that design, so if it isn’t quickly revealed, simply trust it to the wisdom of God.

We also see in Paul’s suffering that he strengthened his prayer life through it. He didn’t become an introvert or worry wart but a man of even further prayer.

Puritan, William Bridge, in 1648, said, “A praying man can never be very miserable, whatever his condition be, for he has the ear of God; the Spirit within to indite, a Friend in heaven to present, and God Himself to receive his desires as a Father” (William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast, pg. 55).

Paul overcame the pain by setting his affections on the Lord. “If the Lord can be glorified in this, then I accept my pain and rejoice that I am ‘counted worthy to suffer for his name'” (Acts 5:41). Paul’s words, obviously, indicate more than just a meek submission to the will of the Lord, but a delight that God had so chosen him to bear His marks in his body. Through this attitude Paul did, indeed, make the pain something good in his life. He became a “pain reducer” as he drew near to Christ. Was there a trick that enabled Paul to become so great a victor? Not really. He was simply wanting to see God’s will done, whatever the personal expense might be. That is the attitude readjustment that makes some Christian people “pain reducers.”

In Acts 16 we have the description of one of Paul’s cruel beatings. Afterwards, both he and Silas were “thrust into the inner prison,” and had their feet held fast in the stocks; a most painful way to spend the evening. But “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God…” (vss. 24-25). This pair of missionaries were able to have victory over their pain by trusting that God was accomplishing His will. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray” (James 5:13).

“We glory in tribulations also,” Paul wrote in Romans 5:3. How can he do that? Tribulations often mean pain and usually sorrow of some sort. He did it, “knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3-5). When a person is CONVINCED that Jehovah is in control and accomplishing His will, the pain moderates.

Absalom hurt his father David like few sons have ever done, through murder, treason, incest, and more. When David was forced to flee Jerusalem, a man named Shimei attacked the king with stones and curses, just adding to his pain. But that pain wasn’t given a chance to hurt because of David’s attitude. “Let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David….Let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him” (II Sam. 16:10,11). When we know that it is the Lord’s will that we hurt, then we can take it just a bit more easily.

James, also, knew the value of trusting one’s life to the Lord when it comes to battling the pains and temptations of life. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). When we know that God is in the process of “perfecting” his weak saints, like the trainer working with an athlete or a physiotherapist helping an accident victim, the pain should become a kind of blessing.

Peter repeats this same thought, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:6-7). “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:14-15). “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” (I Pet. 4:1).

The principle is this: in the midst of our pain, let us look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:2-3). Paul, Peter, James, Job, and David are all excellent examples of men who overcame the torment of their pains. But let us not forget our Saviour. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21).

I wonder how many preachers have experienced this: About 4:00 Sunday afternoon the beginnings of a headache can be felt just above his right temple. He takes no thought of it and takes no medicine, because he stays away from such things as much as possible. As he leaves the house, heading towards the church for the evening service, the pain seems to grow. Then with the second congregational song it seems that his head will just burst from the pain. No time for aspirin now; just get up there and preach the word, “instant in season and OUT OF SEASON” (II Tim. 4:2). But the Spirit takes control as he gets well into his introduction, and with power the Word is delivered. Where is the pain? He doesn’t feel it at all! Finally, the last “Amen!” is pronounced and many hands are shaken. Then when he is on the way home he says to his wife, “Oh, what a headache I have this evening!”

Science tells us that, depending on the person, pain falls 19% to 45% if our attentions are diverted. What better diversion than the preaching of God’s Word? Whether or not you have been called to preach, there is still service that you can perform for the Lord. If your whole heart is in that service, you likely will consider less and less your body’s aches and pains, no matter how strong they may be.

Poor Naomi returned to Bethlehem grieving and poverty-stricken. “Call me Mara – bitterness,” she told her old neighbors. At her side was Ruth, the Moabitess, whose love and faith refused to participate in the forsaking of her mother-in-law. The reader of the Book of Ruth can see a transformation in Naomi as she begins to look past her pain into the face of the foreigner who had a growing dependence upon her. In chapters 2 and 3 we don’t read of Noami’s problems; there she seeks to solve the problems of Ruth. Her diverted attention works a minor miracle. Then in chapter 4 the attention lavished upon the Moabitess fills Naomi with a joy that gives her victory over her past heart-aches. Naomi joined the “Pain Moderators Club” of Bethlehem-Judah.

Our problem is like the boxer, now shaky-kneed in the tenth round. With one more punch on the chin he simply can’t see straight. Like him, most of us are cross-eyed through pain’s whack on our nose, and if it’s been repeated blows, our sight simply gets fuzzier and fuzzier; our minds get twisted, and often our hearts turn upside down. It’s time to get back to our corner, or our prayer-closet, and get a refreshing “attitude adjustment.”

Don’t Over-rate your Pain

This dreadful mistake can come about in several different ways.

Oh, how quickly we forget who we really are. We are children of a man who deliberately chose to forsake evening fellowship meetings with God in His lovely garden (Gen. 3). We are descendants of a drunken man laying naked before his family (Gen. 9). We are sinners by choice and by nature. We were born children of Satan (John 8:44). “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf;” no wonder our iniquities, “like the wind, have taken us away” (Isa. 64:6). It should not surprise us that we suffer; rather it should surprise us that God at times is so gracious that we are permitted only to suffer but a little! We have never felt any pain that is more that what we actually deserve as sinners.

Don’t over-rate your pain, you haven’t seen anything yet. I know that the sufferer might tell his doctor, “I’ve been going through hell the last couple of days,” but the fact is–he hasn’t! There is no pain on earth that can compare with the torment of that dreadful place. “Dives” died and immediately “in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23). The very worst pain that you have ever felt is far less than what God can inflict upon us with nothing more than His little finger, and because we are sinners we deserve the very worst.

Heman, the Ezrahite, over-rated his pain, “For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave…I am as a man that hath no strength…Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me WITH ALL THY WAVES” (Ps. 88:3-7). Heman, you wimp, you’ve got it wrong, it can be far worse than this!

Contrast him with Ezra who had a little better perspective: looking back on all that Israel had suffered, he could still say, “Lord, ‘after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass’, You still have ‘punished us less than our iniquities deserve'” (Ezra 9:13).

Don’t over-rate your suffering. Besides, likely your neighbor would argue with you, saying that his hurt is greater than yours.

Pain might be likened to Moses’ rod/snake. In Exodus 4: “The LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand” (vs. 2-4). God then told Moses what this was all about: “That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers…hath appeared unto thee” (vs.5). Oh, that more of God’s people would stand up to their pain, grab it by the tail and show to the world that God’s grace indeed is sufficient for me in my pain (II Cor. 12:9). It may be that more of God’s people, and Satan’s people too, would trust the Lord if those of us who are suffering today would stop over-rating our pain and grow in our own personal faith in Christ!

Don’t Over-work your Pain

In regard to another matter David recorded Psalm 30. In verses 4 and 5 he exhorted, “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Christian, there is no pain that you groan under today that is not TEMPORARY. What you are experiencing today may last only a few hours, or perhaps a few decades, but IT IS transient.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:18-23).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). Are you going to say that you KNOW that your afflictions are greater than Paul’s? Whatever yours happens to be, the inspired Word of God says that they are light. Not only that, but for whatever length of time you are permitted to suffer on this earth, the time is short in comparison to eternity.

People with chronic pain, pain that simply will not leave them alone for any length of time, find themselves prone to discouragement. Many of them can’t sleep well, and thus wake up even more tired and irritable with each passing day. That in turn robs them of the physical abilities to muscle the hurt of pain away. How much more do these people need our prayers and God’s extraordinary grace. If these can’t live in the Spirit they are sure to be defeated. Some of them have a further complication in that they don’t look the way people in pain are SUPPOSED to look. People don’t believe that they are true sufferers, and their pain just continues to grow.

Christian don’t despair! The Lord knew of Israel’s suffering and groaning in Egypt (Ex. 3:7), and He knows about yours. Trust His wisdom and love for deliverance in His time and don’t discourage yourself looking for IMMEDIATE solutions. That simply may not be His will for some very special reason. There is no reason for hopeless; your pain will come to an end – guaranteed!

Don’t Let Pain Drive you from God

Anything which inhibits a person’s relationship to Christ can, in a sense, become an idol. Some idols are made of gold with beautiful and intricate engraving, but some idols are rock or wood of hideous shapes and visages. If you allow your pain to step between the glory of Christ and your own soul, you have taken up a very ugly idol indeed.

And if that which casts a shadow across your Saviour’s face happens to be your own upraised fist, the matter is doubly iniquitous and dangerous. Who are we to compete with God? And “how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered” (Job 9:2-5)? The little spider may take a fearsome stance against the housewife, but he stands little chance against her mighty broom. “If it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:39).

Hostility, of any kind, whether against the drunk driver who ran you down, against the boss who worked you nearly to death, or against the Lord Who permitted such things, will not only increase your pain, but will also decrease your body’s ability to control the discomfort. This is apparently because anger inhibits our bodies from producing sufficient natural painkillers.

Remember Nehemiah 9:33, “Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly” and thus deserve thy chastisement. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I Jn. 1:10). You who are so angry with the Lord right now, are you willing to look God in the face and pray “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me…” (Ps. 139:23-24) and then go on to tell Him that you have no cause to suffer; that you have no sin in you?

Don’t let your pain sever you from the “God of all comfort” (II Cor. 1:3).

An Healthy Response

Abraham Lincoln looked on the disastrous Civil War and said in his Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865, “Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if it be God’s will that it continue … so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'” (Ps. 19:9). This man who so tragically felt the sting of death, knew the best way to cope with pain.

Another has, while suffering from rheumatism, gout, asthma and seven other separate complaints said, “But apart from that, I never was better in my life.” People really can get through their pain. But how?

Work on Your faith

Can you trust God? Oh sure, you’ve entrusted your eternal soul to His keeping, and today you have no doubt that He is “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). But the soul is so, so … ethereal. It is far different to trust the Lord and His will for that very sore body of yours. Can you trust God to care for the heart which is aching so badly that you’re sure its broken beyond repair? Can you believe that He really “careth for you” (I Pet. 5:7)? Do you remember at all times that God is love (I Jn. 4:8)?

Oh, how poor Job suffered, with the eventual loss of just about everything, including his wife. Still Job could say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” (Job 13:15). Is this the kind of faith that you have? Was Job a fool for having such trust? No! Was he not justified and blessed at the end of the book? Will God not remember his promises to you and me?

Work on your faith. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Ps. 23:1,4). The Lord is the rock of Matthew 7:24, and faith is the construction technique through which we build on Him. When the storms of adversity come, if the foundation is right and the house is firmly planted, that house cannot fall. Indeed, “Faith is the Victory!” “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa. 26:3). Compare the people of Israel to Moses, their leader as they all stood in mortal danger before the Red Sea (Ex. 14:10-14).

Remember that comfort was a part of Jesus’ foreordained ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted…to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Isa. 61:1-3). Trust in the Lord. As someone has said, “I am here by His appointment, in His keeping, under His trying, and for His time.”

A few years ago, I spent some time in the hospital. Laying beside me at all times was a button that was guaranteed to summon help the moment I needed it. Instantaneously? Don’t count on it. But Christian remember, whether nurses come or not, you can never escape God’s love, presence or care. “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not neither be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8; see also Isa. 43:2-3; Rom. 8:37-39; Ps. 42:5; 119:50; 138:7).

Oh yet we trust —
That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivelled in a fruitless fire,
Oh, but subserves another’s gain.”

– Tennyson

Work on Your Surrender

Undoubtedly Moses had some problems with his spiritual life before he came to the burning bush, but his heart was, at the very least, pointed towards the Lord. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11:24-26). There were other factors, but it was Moses’ submission to the Lord that enabled him to endure some of the tremendous hardships that he faced during the middle and latter parts of his life.

One segment of this surrender can be seen in a person’s patient waiting for the Lord’s proper time. In Paul’s general exhortations to the Romans he says that one of the characteristics of the saint ought to be patience in tribulation (Rom. 12:12). James added, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4).

It was surrender to the Lord that aided David when his men blamed him for the sacking of Ziklag. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (I Sam. 30:6). “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Ps. 56:3).

Even our Saviour displayed this surrender to His Father at a time of severe distress in His life: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).

Why is it that in our pain we can submit ourselves to others, but we find submission to the Lord so difficult? With the early signs of an ulcer, sometimes caused by our sinful lack of faith, we go to doctor that we hardly know and whose name we sometimes can’t even pronounce. We don’t know if he has been properly trained or licensed, but we give ourselves to him without hesitation. When he hands us a prescription written in Latin, we take it to a druggist who gives us a man-made chemical that we have no way of understanding. Then with some degree of faith and submission, hardly even reading the label, we swallow a medicine that in some laboratory rats has been proven to be poison. That is faith. But submit to God? Has it come to that?

Work on Your Hope

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps. 42:11). The hope of the saint of God is made up of the return of Christ and the Christian’s upward call (Tit. 2:13). The fact that the Lord Jesus is coming for the saint can be powerful ammunition in the battle against pain.

Have you ever taken three weeks off work and made arrangements to spend part of that time in a particularly delightful spot half way across the continent? After two days of hard driving and with expectations of arriving the next afternoon, you simply want a bed for the night. The motel looks clean enough and is certainly reasonably priced, but once inside the room your opinion is dashed. Dirt! Move out? Demand a refund? Maybe if it was another day and a shorter trip. These poor lodgings aren’t really quite so bad, realizing that tomorrow you shall be at your destination. This world is that cheap hotel and your Christian life is that uncomfortable night. Tomorrow we shall be THERE. “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:23,21).

Remember that our Master said, “Blessed are they that mourn {with the right kind of sorrow}: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). That comfort is guaranteed under the Saviour’s signature. Simply put: Your suffering is nothing that Jesus can’t repay. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

“And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:13-17).

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

One of the great pains of our lives comes when we have lost a loved one in death. Paul wanted his Thessalonian friends to take comfort in the hope of the saints: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:13,16,18).

Work on Your Praise

Even the casual student of the Word of God is forced to see that in nearly every chapter the true Christian learns to praise, glorify and live in thankfulness to the Lord. From the crossing of the Red Sea, to Jesus’ healing of the lepers, following the bestowal of God’s grace there were opened mouths full of heartfelt praise. We are even COMMANDED to have such hearts and mouths: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thess. 5:18).

What the casual student often fails to see in this exhortation from Paul are the three little words, “In every thing.” Most people are like the first Jewish High Priest when his two eldest sons died under judgment: “And Aaron held his peace” and said nothing (Lev. 10:3). What Aaron DID NOT do was to praise his Lord “in every thing.” This reticence is something that most of us can understand; it is against our sinful natures to honor the Lord in everything. Nevertheless, we’d be better off if we learned this art.

Have you ever considered the relationship of praise to the process of healing and deliverance from pain? When everyone else has forsaken the sufferer, the right kind of praise can become a very helpful companion. Here are some Biblical examples:

When Job was amid the first avalanche of his disasters, he comforted himself with praise, “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). God then honored Job’s attitude and met the needs of his heart.

Paul also learned to honestly “glory in tribulation” (Rom. 5:3). When he and Silas sat wounded and bleeding with their feet securely fastened in the stocks, they eased their pain when they “prayed, and sang praised unto God” (Acts 16:25). When he wrote to the Colossians Paul spoke of rejoicing in his sufferings (Col. 1:24), as did also Peter (I Pet. 1:7) and James (James 1:2).

David, who was no stranger to affliction filled his psalter with words such as, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1), and “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). Among the many examples of worship that King David has given to us, these two came from periods in his life when he was in extreme anxiety and pain. This we can see from the psalms themselves. His attitude towards the Lord never changed because praise was an integral part of his life.

C.H. Spurgeon, in a message preached in 1895, spoke about two men who were going out to preach. As they came to the crossroads and parted, one shouted to the other, “Brother Jones, may you get the light of His countenance in your preaching today!” “I hope so, brother,” Jones answered, “but if I do not, I will speak well of Him behind His back.” Certainly, all of us would like to see nothing but the smile of the Lord in our lives, but when it is His will to face some other soul, we need to continue to praise His name anyway. It will not only magnify Him, but it will help us.

“Praise the Lord, anyhow,” may not be the best attitude, but it is fairly healthy.

Go to Chapter Eleven »