by Pastor Red
1 Thessalonians 2:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have received you concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, & I know how to abound. In any & every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty & hunger, abundance & need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Just last Sunday, I was privileged to preach on Jeremiah's cry to God to end his pain, from Jeremiah 15:18. The problem with pain has been a nagging concern of mine for a good many years. As a pastor, I have been in far too many hospitals, nursing homes, rehabs, funeral parlors, & sick rooms. I have sat with those before diagnosis & after diagnosis; before surgery & after surgery; before, during & after physical therapy; before, during & after chemotherapy; before, during & after psychological therapy; & before, during & after funerals. Along with all of the happiest of times (births & birthdays, baptisms & confirmations, weddings & anniversaries), I have seen my share of pain & suffering, misery & trouble. And, taking Paul at his word, I give thanks to God for all of it.
I am not being flip. I am not telling a joke. I am not making light of anyone's pain & anxiety. I truly mean it. I try, in all things, to give thanks to God for even the most terrible things that have happened to me & all those God has given me as parishioners. And the thanks come for a few reasons.
The first reason is that we all have to remember that pain is in the world because of us. In God's original plan for this planet was not in the mix. We were supposed to have nothing less than paradise in the Garden of Eden. There was no physical, emotional, or spiritual suffering anywhere. There was to be no disappointments, failures or depressions. We would not have even scratched our knees. All of the bad stuff we experience today is because of that first rebellion. The physical act may have been simply eating a piece of fruit, but the rejection of God's Law by doing so brought sure & certain death. That curse of final death has a lot of "little deaths" that flow out, around, before & behind it. Yes, it is the sin that we continue to do, breathe, think, & live in that not only create but foster & nurture all the pains the world suffers.
But, just like any good parent, God protects us from so many things, & even turns the pains into good things. Pain, as I said on Sunday, can be turned by our Father into a useful thing. Doctors do use pain to diagnose & treat our sicknesses & ailments. It's the diseases & syndromes that don't immediately cause pain that are insidious & deadly, like heart disease & many cancers.
Pain can also stop us from doing dangerous things to ourselves. Sore muscles & great thirst can & do stop us from getting heat stroke. God does use pain to stop us little children from grabbing at the hot pans on the stove, & the hot open rebellions & sins that look so tempting.
God also uses our pains to teach us. It may not seem like a good thing to us, but it is necessary. We are the rebellious children after all. So the pain of our failures & faults can show us the how & why being closer to God, & trying to keep His rules, is for our good. It is the pain of separation that shows the value of family & friends. It is the suffering of the hangover that teaches the benefit of sobriety. It is the sweet ability to draw a good deep breath that displays the trouble of being a Marlboro man. And the Lord can use our suffering to teach not only us, but everyone around us. In fact, He can use what we go through as trials & strife to show so many that we touch how a believer does handle this life in faith & hope.
And that leads me to the last reason; our pains & aches may be terrible, but we have already had most of them taken away by our Savior. He died not only to destroy the final curse of sin, Death itself, but to break the back of each & every little death that swims in its wake. Yes, we are still in this broken, stained, & disease ridden world, & it will continue in its attempts to hurt us as much as possible, but Jesus, in all His infinite love & mercy, has, does, & will protect us from its worst assaults & injuries. He will give His angels charge to guard & protect us. No matter what the world, the devil, or even we think to inflict upon each other & ourselves, Christ will always be there to save us. If we are helped through miraculous means or through medicines, doctors, nurses, or just a hand to hold & a should to lean on, our Savior gives us His love & care as the Great Physician of body & soul.
So until the day when we will walk the streets of gold, drink the living waters of the stream that flows from the throne, & eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life (which has a new fruit each month), we can know that every pain, great & small (scrape, cut, heart-ache, depression, separation, cancer, broken bone or ingrown toenail) is seen, cared for, & ultimately cured by the Father who wanted to give us Paradise through His So, our Savior, who died to win that perfect, tear-free Garden back for us.