SUFFERING AND PAIN
Let’s look at a definition of suffering.
There are two distinct meanings of suffering. One definition is to
“permit”, “allow”, or “to give leave to”. The other definition is to undergo
pain, loss, distress or unpleasantness. In Mark 5:26 suffering means to
“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent
all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” In Acts 5:41 we see the use of
suffering to indicate suffering wrongly: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing
because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
The definition for pain -- an unpleasant sensation in varying
degrees of severity caused by injury, disease, or emotional disorder. There
can be pain as it says in Matthew 4:24 “News about him spread all over Syria, and people
brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering
severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed,
and he healed them.”
Most of the time when we have severe pain or suffer from something, we frequently call to God for help or ask Him why are you letting me hurt so. We frequently blame God when we hurt, but do we thank God for our pleasure? Most of the time we think it is our doing that creates the pleasure. It is human nature to dislike pain. But pain serves a useful purpose. It tells us when something is wrong with our bodies or mental state. It reminds us to get some help to cure our bodies or minds. While we might not regard pain as a benefit, it is a blessing from God. The people who have leprosy have an ineffective nerves system that doesn’t register pain. So leprosy sufferers burn themselves without knowing it or damage themselves without awareness. Let’s look at the scriptures to see what we can learn.
In the Old Testament, Psalm 78:38-41 “But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His wrath. Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return. How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel.” We can see from this passage that God is pained by the disregard for mankind’s carelessness in honoring God for His blessings.
When Jesus went to the cross He had been flogged and made to carry His cross to the place of execution. He died an agonizing death by suffocation. On His head was a crown of thorns placed by those who chose to mock Him. There is little that God chooses to tell us about pain. What He did do was to experience it Himself. Lest we think Jesus was indifferent about pain there are several verses in scripture that tells us Jesus’ reaction to pain. We read in John 11:33-36 “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" and in another scripture, Luke 5:12-13 “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him.” So, we see that Jesus helped the ailing when He was requested to help. The response from Jesus on these occasions should teach us that He did not enjoy the suffering of mankind.
When Jesus hung on the cross His reaction
was like our reaction when we are hurting with pain. Matthew 27:45-46
sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the
ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-which means, "My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?" We recoil from the thought that we might be
deserted by God. We cling to this hope of our relationship with God as
strongly as we cling to life.
At the last supper Christ made this declaration as seen in John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." What did the word “overcome” mean? In this case overcome mean to literally or figuratively to subdue. The time element of His statement was not covered, so we don’t know the time that Jesus will overcome the world, but we know when – at His second coming. We need to focus on the Christ’s resurrection, so our doubts won’t diminish our faith. We apparently have the same short-term perspective when we are in some pain. Paul in Romans 8:18-19 tells us that the future is more glorious than we can imagine, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” We need to judge the trials of the present by the promises for the future. The disciple Paul has some words of comfort in Romans 8:23-25 for us “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” And in Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” And we can add without the pain and suffering of our human bodies.
Conclusion: While we wince from the pang of pain, we must recognize that pain prompts us to attend to the cause of the pain. If we believe in Jesus Christ, then we have a glorious future even though the suffering and pain may be dreadful at the moment. In Hebrews 4:15 we learn that our Lord Jesus empathizes with our pain and suffering for He has suffered also, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin.” And a second verse from Hebrews 2:10 adds emphasis to Christ’s suffering, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Jesus Christ who is perfect was made complete through His suffering. We have seen many people who have suffered greatly creates in them a more Christ-like character. Our hope is that by our suffering our character will become more Christ-like.
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