PAIN IS NOT THE ENEMY
Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word. Psalm 119:67
Afflictions come in many shapes and sizes. The prodigal son’s pain brought him home to his father with humility. Paul’s thorn in the flesh fostered humility and dependence on God. Prodigal affliction brings God’s children home; sanctified affliction deepens the faith of the saints.
“Astray” is a tragic condition that leads to a desperate place but not every one who embarks on it sees the danger. Internally, there are two routes I can travel today as I make choices on how to live. I stand at the fork in the road and see two options.
- A six lane superhighway beckons me in one direction. Most everyone is traveling on it at high speeds. They’re laughing, having the time of their lives, and the road signs are beguiling and eye catching. It seems right to go this way. But God’s words play in my ear and warn me that when I travel farther down that road, it is full of traps and dead ends. My company will be comprised of a people numbed out to God’s voice. My circumstances will be a set of scenarios where I am hemmed in on all sides, oftentimes feeling desperate for a way of escape.
- A path through the woods is my other option. There is a straggler or two who has walked the path in front of me and bent down the grass so I can discern their trail. I carry a machete to carve out the way, like going through unchartered woods. Limbs must be moved aside for me to pass. Vines must be cut in order to proceed. It is much harder work to travel this road. At times, I second guess myself as I remember how most of my friends are traveling the superhighway. But the longer I progress on this narrow path, the solitary way begins to pay off. I hear God telling me where to go next. I can think clearly. When I review how far I’ve come, I feel stronger and confident. With prayerful consideration of each obstacle, I know I’m learning wisdom. The narrow way is slowly transforming me into a spiritual athlete.
It is important for me, if I’m in painful circumstances today, to ask God why I’m there. My first impulse is to try to escape discomfort. But if my ‘thorn in the flesh’ is sanctified affliction, the suffering is meant to acquaint me with Jesus and the journey to Calvary. Because others watch me live in my affliction, they are getting a first-hand snapshot of how Jesus responded on his way to the cross. If, however, my painful circumstances is the result of having traveled the superhighway of the prodigal, then I run back home. My pain will bring me back to my Father – ever waiting on the horizon.
Pain is never wasted if I place it in your hands. What a redemptive Savior you are! Amen
Journal Question: Is there a painful area that you’re so desperately trying to escape from that you’re failing to ask God what you’re to learn through it? Can you still yourself to listen instead? What will that require of you?