Nothing can bring us to our knees like a season of pain.
This is the place where romanticism ends and realism begins.
Pressed Out of Measure
I just passed through one of these seasons. Wrestling with a very nasty, oversized kidney stone for about 2 weeks. This was my second tour through that landscape; and I pray that it will be my last.
However, I am hesitant to speak of this. Because there is a danger in writing about this.
For fear that I will trivialize something that should be “set apart” in my experience. I feel like it is something that should be held in a kind of sacred place and not polluted with a lot of talk.
Yet, there are a few things which I can say that may be helpful to others that will also walk through this dark territory.
Beyond Our Strength
The first thought is that the Lord will take us beyond what we can bear.
This is not a popular idea. We want to have this hope that pain and suffering will end when we reach a certain level. I think this is a common misconception that exists within Evangelicalism. That everything is manageable; if we only do the right things and follow the right biblical principles.
So, yes, that is the word I am looking for. Manageable.
The Lord will take us beyond that which we are able to manage. He will bring us to the place where we must trust Him and Him alone. He will allow us to reach the end of our rope.
So that we must let go.
This is one of the great lessons I have just begun to grasp out of this recent nightmare. That pain and suffering are not things that can be neatly wrapped up in a Sunday morning class. Or in a 30-minute sermon. We cannot package this in some neat form and give people hand-out sheets to look up verses and answer inane discussion questions.
This is a domain that the Lord controls in order to bring us closer to Himself. To cut away at the tender flesh and blood tissue of our lives so that He can be more real to us. This is the place where we bleed and weep for His comfort. Beyond what any drugs or home-remedies can manage.
Which brings me to another point.
The Lord’s Domain
That this is God’s special place and method that cannot be understood by the will-power or determination or stamina of the Christian.
This is a special place of God’s dealing with us that we must understand He alone has the power to control. And that we will be brought into “the fellowship of His sufferings” by going through this.
But perhaps the greatest lesson I gained in this experience is that of the meaning of GRACE.
By this, I mean that God only deals with us based upon grace. Based upon His mercy and His love. And not about what we deserve.
In practical terms, this means that He does not add or diminish our sufferings based upon our own goodness or our own worthiness to receive comfort in pain.
If we start to walk down this path, and we all do, we will find ourselves languishing in pain and fear over all that might be wrong in our lives that we must confess, repent of, or be corrected of before the Lord will relieve our suffering.
And that is a terrible place to be.
Because there are always things we need to bring before the Lord. We are never going to be in a place where we are all cleaned up so that we will deserve His comfort and goodness. At least not while we are still in these sinful bodies.
My take-away here is that there is no end to the pain that is possible in any given situation. And Satan will always expose us to the fear of what might get worse instead of better. And there is no principle of pain / comfort that can be reasoned through in order to better traverse that dark valley.
But thanks be to God that we have hope!
The hope that His grace is sufficient! That the Lord, Himself, is sufficient. And that Who He is has no relationship to what we deserve.
Did you get that? That our experience is not based upon what we deserve.
I had a moment when the Lord showed me that I have no idea about the depth of pain He suffered for me. Not a clue.
I saw that pain and suffering is a domain that the Lord Himself went into and overcame. I saw that it is not about my overcoming anything; it is He, by Himself, that overcame.
Pain and suffering is a valley we do not own. It is a dominion that the Lord alone has sovereignty over and not we ourselves. And that we really know nothing of its fierce, raging power.
The thought also came to me of those who claim that this is all just talk about “easy grace”. As in taking the Lord’s grace for granted.
My answer to that is that we have nothing else to rely upon. We have no merits to offer for His blessings. We have only what He has given us. What He has imputed to us. Which means that we are whatever He has declared us to be. We have whatever He has decided to give to us.
All Has Been Conquered
Our wonderful hope is that He has fully conquered death, fear, pain, sin and suffering. He has paid the full price by taking on the full firestorm of suffering in our place.
And has left no corner unvanquished for us.
So that we do not have to go through what He did. Because we cannot.
Yes, He may take us through a valley here and a shadow there; but we only see the surface of the infinite suffering He already went through and conquered. Pain is not some concept to be dissected and theorized about. It is a dominion that is beyond our comprehension.
What the Lord desires for us is to see something in those places which we cannot see unless He takes us there. And for us to see that He is there with us through every moment of it. With His hand on our shoulder.
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” (Philippians 3:10)