Updated: Mar 22, 2021
How universally troubling is the truth that all of creation groans—plants, insects, animals, humans, and spirits. We know this from experience and especially from Scripture:
— God’s curse, a judgment of sin, affects all of earthly creation (Gen 3:16-19),
which will not be lifted until after restored heaven and earth are complete
and all pain is ended (Rev 22:3).
— Sufferings or groanings of God’s people and all of creation (Rom 8:17-19,
— Numerous biblical stories of life, struggle, and death including Christ’s
suffering on earth (Heb 5:8) and God’s, the Spirit’s, present pain (Rom
8:26; Eph 4:30)
If only God’s love, gifts, and promises would be sufficient to keep us, His own people, on a righteous path and satisfy us. If only the good things in life could lead us to resist temptation, contain our sin, and become more like Christ, then suffering’s only purpose in this world would be a judgment for the sins of those outside the kingdom of God.
Yet suffering is a necessary partner to blessings in this life, both of which help ensure we don’t passively move through life without thought. Thoughts about where good and evil come from and why they exist. Thoughts that help prepare the way for people’s recognition of their need for and openness to salvation, to a relationship with God. In this way, goodness and suffering are both a gift from God.
For sure, the kind nature of God and His loving actions toward us, yield pleasurable experiences which can move us to appreciation and thankfulness and provide a stable sense of security. A needed, inner security that comes from faith, from trusting in His continued generosity. Because of what He has done for us we can remain confident He will continue to give to and do good things for us, today and tomorrow. The comfort, joy, and peace gleaned from His loving kindnesses help minimize the strength of temptations and motivate us to live righteously.
Yet all the good things in this life are insufficient to bring about our God-required sanctification and maturity into Christlikeness. We Know “the eyes of man are never satisfied” (Prov 27:20). Something more than goodness is needed, especially for those who are stubbornly wayward, deceived, or fail to see God’s actions of grace. Suffering is needed. It becomes a necessary sort of evil. And suffering becomes an indispensable tool in the hands of God. But, to be clear, not all suffering comes from God, not all is His will. Satan and the sin of others and our own sin nature also wound.
We see God’s use of pain in numerous Bible verses, such as 1 Timothy 1:19-20, “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” These Christian men were teaching things contrary to the gospel. Consequently, they were subjected to sufferings meant to alter their course of thinking and behavior, for the good of everyone.
How much individuals suffer in this life does not solely rest in the hands of God, but our own. We each possess some power and control over our own suffering. It is influenced by the following examples, some of which help us see what we can do to minimize our own pain:
— The amount of evil that exists and is restrained or expressed in the world
during our time on earth.
— The company one chooses to keep and management of relational conflict.
— The impact of one’s own sin nature on others that results in reaping what is
— A person’s comfortability, resistance, and openness to change.
— How self-aware and self-deceived a person is.
— One’s willingness and efforts to gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom
that inform thoughts, feelings, and decision-making.
— Each person’s cultivated attitude and response to painful situations. Research
has shown that one’s thoughts and beliefs about pain can increase or
decrease felt pain.
Can you identify three things you can do today to amend your pain?