“God is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18
It has been said throughout the ages that love is the universal language– no matter where you go around the world in every tribe and tongue, people will understand the sentiment and the experience of love. Sadly, I don’t believe it. While I would like to think this is true, there are many, many people who have never experienced real, unconditional love because of the brokenness in the world.
I believe the universal language is something very different from love. It is pain. While this sounds pessimistic, the reality is that everyone faces pain. No one is immune. The fallenness and presence of sin in the world guarantees we will all feel suffering. It is part of the human condition.
It is interesting how much of our time and energy is devoted to pain-avoidance. We go to great lengths to protect ourselves from feeling the ache of unmet expectations, damaged relationships, discord and a broken heart. It’s in our DNA to steer clear from being hurt. It is comforting, however, to read what the Bible tells us about suffering.
-we are certain to face it (John 16:33, 1 Pet 1:6, James 1:2)
-there are blessings if we endure it (1 Pet. 1:7, James 1:3, Rom. 8:28)
-our experience allows us to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
-God is present with us in it (Is. 51:12a, Is. 66:13a)
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Pain wakes us all up and we are forced to react or respond. There are two options: either we will grow closer to Jesus and truly depend on Him or, as Larry Crabb suggests, we will seek to alleviate the pain by denying, distracting or deadening it.
I have learned a great deal about myself and the Lord through periods of pain in my life. The most profound lesson? Pain changes me. It isn’t so much the hurt itself changing me, it is the fact that in those dark places I have met my Savior and I have come away different. In those moments He turns my doubt to belief, my fear to hope, my anxiety to peace and my despair to joy. I learn His promises are true. I discover He is good when everything around me doesn’t look good at all. At times, He reveals purposes behind the pain. He makes beauty from ashes. This doesn’t all happen overnight but as I look back over the darkest seasons of my life I see God’s presence at every turn.
My favorite devotional, Streams in the Desert, includes this quote in the Jan 23rd entry: “He [God] permits trouble to pursue us, as though He were indifferent to its overwhelming pressure, that we may be brought to the end of ourselves, and led to discover the treasure of darkness, the unmeasurable gains of tribulation. We may be sure that He who permits the suffering is with us in it.”
I don’t believe that God is the causative agent of pain but He does allow it. If we are patient, the blessed byproduct is a dependence on the Lord, truly transforming us. There is a sweetness which draws me to those who have endured a great deal of suffering and come through it with deeper love for Jesus. It’s as if they have discovered a secret known only to them and the Lord and they beam with joy and peace. I want that. I want unshakable joy and I know where to find it. You find it by walking through the dark valleys hand-in-hand with your Savior knowing that you are never alone. And you’ll never be the same. ~Courtney