Finding God’s promises in our pain
Psalm 22:34 ESV For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.
Pain can be a powerful teacher. It offers valuable lessons on:
- Endurance and focus
- What we value
- The power that comes from surrendering to God’s will
If we desire to understand God’s plans and purpose for us, a good place to look is where we struggle and experience suffering. God doesn’t allow us to suffer for no reason, nor does He ignore or take our pain lightly. God hears our cries and will walk with us through it all. When we suffer, God could be strengthening and equipping us for something more powerful and more meaningful than we could ever imagine.
A higher purpose
Let’s pause for a moment and consider Jesus’s own experience with pain as His naked and broken body was publicly displayed on the cross. He was shamed in public, he put up with injustice and experienced abandonment, sorrow and physical wounds that took his life. In his duress, He recited a prayer taken from Psalm 22, which shows how desperate he felt, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads.” Despite it all, Jesus submitted Himself to the cruelty of those who hated, tortured and murdered Him, so that future generations like ours would know His wondrous love – as prophesied in the same Psalm.
Psalm 22:26-27,30-31 NLT The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy. The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him. Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.
God’s love compels Him to allow His children to go through pain so as to give us a chance to testify of God’s redeeming love. It is when we choose to extend God’s love and grace in the midst of great pain that makes the gospel true and real for others. The greater the pain we endure and overcome through Christ, the greater the credibility we gain in proclaiming His truth and love.
John 3:16-17 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God personally went through great pain on our behalf, and He does not leave us alone when we suffer. Here are His beautiful promises to us all.
- He will remain faithful | Isaiah 54:10 ESV For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
- He will stay close | Psalm 34:18 ESV The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
- He will help us | Isaiah 41:13 ESV For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
- He will honour us | Psalm 91:14-15 ESV “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
- He will protect us | Isaiah 43:2 ESV When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Many of us desire to grow closer to God. Ironically, it is not when things go smoothly that we cling to Him, but when we are in pain. In our hurt, we get to witness firsthand how He works when we choose to obey and follow His ways. As we experience His comfort, healing and deliverance, we will be able to in turn minister to others in powerful ways.
Our past pain gives us the authenticity to speak God’s truths into the lives of those who are hurting.
2 Corinthians 1:4 ESV … we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
How to experience God’s promises in our pain
1. Choose our master wisely
Whatever we submit to becomes our master. When we give in to self-victimisation, self-pity, hatred, resentment, unforgiveness or judgment, we are in essence, making our circumstances our master. Pain is meant to equip and empower us, not become our idol. When we think and meditate on our pain, we become its servant.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 ESV We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
We can be comforted that Jesus also suffered terribly and personally knows the pain we feel. Jesus in His great love for us, chose to suffer so He could say, “My child, remember the wounds in my hands, feet and side as well as the scars that are all over My body. I know your pain. Follow my example and do not give in to sin.”
1 Peter 2:21 ESV For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
Like Jesus, we ought to first acknowledge our feelings of sorrow, grief, heartbreak, anguish and agony to our Father in heaven, and yet choose to praise Him for His higher purposes. It is not our painful experiences that define us as followers of Jesus Christ, but how we overcome them with God that does. Jesus’s never-ending love means we are already more than conquerors in Christ. Let us not forsake our victory and become slaves to sin again.
Romans 8:35,37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
2. Remember that we cause others pain too
It is all too easy to forget that we have been the source of other people’s pain as well. Yet God has repeatedly extended His mercy and grace towards us, while we hurt others over and over again. Let us not be quick to point an accusing finger at others and forget that we are sinners too. We insult Jesus when we condemn those whom He chose to die for as well.
Romans 3:23-24 ESV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Who are we to withhold God’s amazing grace from others? When we submit to spirits of bitterness, resentment, judgment, accusation, hatred and turn our thoughts to of revenge instead, we become children of the devil, instead of God Almighty.
1 John 3:10 NIV This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
3. Check if our pain is our wake up call
Often our first reaction to pain is to blame other people. But if we stop and ask the Holy Spirit for His opinion, we may be surprised to learn that we are at fault too.
We cannot discount the fact that we may bring painful circumstances upon ourselves because of our own sins. Because God loves us too much to leave us to become enslaved to Satan, He will allow us to witness the painful consequences of our sin now, in the hope that we will repent and escape even greater destruction later. This is our Heavenly Father’s loving discipline.
Hebrews 12:6 ESV For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Ezekiel 33:10 NLT “Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: You are saying, ‘Our sins are heavy upon us; we are wasting away! How can we survive?’ As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?
4. Do not judge or curse God
When we cannot visibly see God’s higher plans immediately, we may doubt, judge, curse and blaspheme God when our pain feels overwhelming. We believe Satan’s lie that God must have forsaken, ignored – or even worse, intentionally sabotaged us. Why would God suffer so greatly for us on the cross, only to sabotage us afterwards? Let us not fall for Satan’s evil lies!
God has a reason for allowing the evil in this world to persist. God is constantly preparing many good things to come out of our bleak circumstances. He has a future and a hope for all of us.
Proverbs 16:4 ESV The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Just because we cannot see what is going on “behind the scenes”, let us not judge God prematurely. It is in times of pain that we ought to rely on His guidance and appreciate His great love for us all the more.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Psalm 119:68,71-72 ESV You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Thankfully, God will forgive us for all our doubts, judgments, curses and blasphemy if we repent. The only sin that God will not forgive is if we proclaim that the Holy Spirit’s works are evil or of Satan.
Mark 3:28-29 ESV Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
5. Identify the enemy’s tactics, follow God
Satan knows that pain can be a strong deterrent. When used against God’s people, it can prevent us from obeying Him and receiving our Father’s abundant blessings. Let us not blindly fall for Satan’s schemes because we allow fear to rule over us. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
The devil, whose works have already been defeated by Jesus, is terrified of us and will use whatever means possible to prevent us from walking into God’s greater empowerment and victories.
The enemy often uses fear and intimidation to block us from enjoying God’s perfect and good will. The ironic truth is that the greater the intimidation, the greater are God’s planned blessings.
1 John 3:8 ESV … The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
So instead of instinctively avoiding difficult or painful circumstances in the future, we ought to seek the Holy Spirit and ask if it is God’s will that we walk into them or not. If we make it a habit of simply avoiding pain based on our fleshly emotions, Satan will triumph over us. Our enemy can continue to manipulate us through the threat of pain (real or perceived) and control our decisions.
2 Corinthians 2:11 ESV So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
6. Leave revenge and judgement to God
A common plot behind many action movies is revenge. Similarly, we have been brainwashed into believing that judgment and revenge equal justice – which is the direct opposite of God’s Word. Only God is sinless and righteous, and is the only One who has the right to punish. Revenge belongs to God, and we will not get away with taking over God’s royal throne of justice.
Romans 12:19 ESV Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
7. Forgive others and yoke to God alone
Hurting people hurt other people. Through unresolved pain, people can be provoked by Satan to spread spiritual death and emotional sickness because they have chosen to submit to their circumstances instead of to God (see point 1 above). Before the pain that we have experienced seeps out of us and hurts other people around us, we should confess our hurts to God.
Jesus invites us to be yoked (tied) to Him, so that we do not carry heavy burdens from hurtful words or events. By the same token, we need to spiritually un-yoke ourselves with people who are sources of our painful burdens. We do this by quickly forgiving them and cutting spiritual ties with them in Jesus’ name. Where we are have spoken unkind things or grumbled about them, we ought to confess and repent to God for following Satan’s patterns instead of His. In this way, we prevent other people’s sins and offensive ways from causing us spiritual death through continued aggravations and bitterness.
Matthew 11:28 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Above all, God has good plans for us all – even though it may be hard to imagine at the time. We are to remember to praise Him for the good that He will eventually bring out of every circumstance!
Romans 8:28 ESV And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 ESV But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
8. Embrace the opportunity for character development and record
All the greatest leaders in the Bible triumphed over many personal troubles and pains and their godly works are recorded for all of us to read about.
When God allows us to go through pain, He is giving us the same opportunity to be recorded in His eternal Book of Life as someone who persevered through all earthly tests and passed with flying colours. The records of our godly character and love in the midst of pain will be permanent and eternal, and we need to decide what sort of eternal mark we choose to make during our lives on earth.
1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:3-5 ESV Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
9. Be patient, things may get worse before they get better
A journey through painful times takes perseverance and faith in God’s promises. This is important to remember because sometimes, things will only get worse before they get better. God may not respond to our cries to remove our pain immediately because there might be other unfinished factors of which we are unaware.
Miracles can only be called miracles because something happens when everything else seems hopeless. He may allow things to deteriorate so badly that non-believers have to acknowledge God worked a miracle because things had become so hopeless. So let us wait quietly for God’s salvation because He will be good to those who wait for Him, even if it takes years.
Lamentations 3:25-26 ESV The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
King David constantly faced various enemies and faced a lot of affliction over many years in his life. Yet he never lost sight of God’s higher purposes for him. Here is his encouragement to all of us who are in pain.
Psalm 37:1-6 ESV Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
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