God’s Purposes Versus Our Pain
It’s only in recent years, thanks to great preaching from our pulpit, that I am beginning to better understand God’s design for Creation, for you and me, to glorify Himself. As a sinful, self-centered human being, this is wholly out of my realm of fleshly understanding. My flesh says, “What do You mean this pain, this life, this circumstance, this whatever, isn’t about me? Of course, it’s about me! I’m the one living it out!” I’m sure there’s been a time or two or more, when I’ve done, in one form or another, a childish stomping of my foot and asked, “God? Do you see how much pain I’m in here? Is this really necessary?” (There are times I consider myself very blessed that no thunderbolt has yet hit me…)
On the other hand, as an older Christian cognizant of how wholly sinful I am and in need of a Savior, the wiser woman in me has learned I can only try to gracefully submit as the clay to the potter, willing to be shaped and used as He wills…for His glory. I would, however, like to more readily enjoy His process of using me, reflect more often on how good it is to be used by Him, trust Him more fully, focus more on His glory and less on my pain. But that’s not always the case because the circumstances can be, and often are, incredibly painful. I can be distracted from His glory, by my pain. The very thing He’s using in me, to glorify Himself, I can too easily turn into a stumbling block of distraction either through being overwhelmed, fearful, self-pitying, self-centered, you name it.
As you can see, it’s a bit of a conundrum to me. I haven’t reached perfection yet, that’s for sure. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. I know what I ought to do, but sometimes pain is just downright painful.
Comfort came to me recently regarding this conundrum. I was reading about Lazarus, and thinking of how Jesus at first was capable of not being distracted from His work by the news of His friend’s death because He knew it was all ordained and a huge miracle was coming. How could He grieve when He knew God was going to do the ultimate miracle—raise Lazarus to life again? Jesus knew the incredible joy that was awaiting all who would witness it! He knew the lasting good and glory God would get for millennia because of this one miracle! He tried to tell His disciples this, but they didn’t really get it at the time. He patiently waited until the right time to depart, and then headed towards the miracle.
And yet, when Jesus arrived and walked in the midst of His grieving friends, saw their grief and lived it with them, He was overwhelmed with sorrow. He knew the impact of Lazarus’s death from their perspective, the cost, their sense of aching loss. He felt their pain and it hurt him. He wept. With them. For them. He loved them. He understood them. He grieved with compassion, despite knowing the great hope and joy ahead, because the pain was real, the loss was devastating. He didn’t deny its impact. He didn’t minimize it. He didn’t shush them or shame them because they were in pain. When He first received the news, He had told His disciples that God would be glorified in it, but He didn’t say that later to the grieving family. Instead, He wept with them.
What is your loss, your pain, today? Yes, God wants to be glorified in it. Yes, Jesus knows the incredible joy of the coming miracles in your life, and yet, as the Holy Spirit resides within you, walking with you through it, He grieves with you as you feel pain, as you experience the loss, the ache, the grief. God in His wisdom gave us Jesus and the Holy Spirit to intercede to the Father on your behalf, because They know your pain is real. They bridge the gap of our limited understanding of God being glorified, with all His good intentions towards His children, and the real pain we experience. His good purpose, including being glorified, includes loving us in the midst of our pain as we live out our fallen, broken lives with hope and a willing spirit to try to glorify Him, weeping with us and for us when the cost is high, when the pain changes us and attempts to distract us. So great is His wisdom in ordaining it to be this way. So great is His love for us. I pray you, and I, will be able to both glorify Him, whatever that may look like in each individual circumstance, and remember that His eyes are on us, He is weeping with us as we struggle with the pain and losses inherent in this life.
If you’re in pain today, please be assured that His purpose to be glorified is not at odds with your pain. It’s not an either/or proposition. It’s a both/and. God’s purpose is to be glorified in our lives, and He is compassionate and weeps with us in our pain as we live out our lives. I end with the words of a favorite, comforting old hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
by Jill Cristao, Director of Connections and Communications
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