Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I was talking about pain that doesn’t go away. What am I talking about? Not just the physical pain but obviously there are sometimes issues of mental pain and emotional pain. And I spoke about Job who said, “…if I speak, my pain is not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away.”
I thought also of what Kind David said in Psalm 6, again from the Old Testament:
Have pity on me [Lord] and heal
my feeble body.
My bones tremble with fear,
and I am in deep distress.
How long will it be?
Turn and come to my rescue.
Show your wonderful love
and save me, Lord.
Sorrow has made my eyes dim,
and my sight has failed
because of my enemies.
You have answered my prayer
and my plea for mercy.
He was in physical and emotional pain. He had been crying and not sleeping, with enemies after him. If that wasn’t bad enough he felt that God had let him down.
We’ve all felt like that at some point in our lives, and probably will again. We feel like at the lowest, most painful point in our life, when everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, everyone is against us, we’re physically sick, we feel like the Lord is far from us and not hearing our prayers for mercy.
That’s the situation that David was in when he penned Psalm 6. As you read this Psalm, you see David did one thing under those circumstances that most of us fail to do when we are in similar circumstances. David begins his prayer by stating his complaints. We can do that, we can state our complaints to anyone who will listen, we can easily get stuck in a complaining frame of mind.
However David did not end his prayer with complaining; he ends by speaking faith. David’s example in Psalms 6 teaches us how to pray when we are in physical or emotional pain. David was a physically strong man of war. He was also a spiritually strong man, a man after God’s own heart.
David was a man of great power and wealth, the King of Israel. None of these things kept sickness and emotional distress from touching his life, but David’s ability to pray, to know how to talk to the Lord his God, delivered him from the physical and emotional distress he was in.
The Purpose of Pain
I think all this leads to some questions:
- Why is there so much pain in our world—physical, emotional, spiritual? What possible good comes from our hurts? We say to a friend who has lost their loved one, I know how you feel. But we really don’t. We don’t understand the physical ripping that happens with that kind of loss.
- Why do we have to live on the one planet where cars go hurtling off roads and into trees?
- Why here—and why us?
- Is there a divine purpose to pain?
As we’ve seen in the film Shadowlands, C. S. Lewis, the great Christian author, spoke to audiences across England about pain, and said:
It is because God loves us that He makes us the gift of suffering. Pain is God’s megaphone to rock a deaf world. We are like blocks of stone out of which the Sculptor carves the form of man. And the blows of His chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect.
But those glib words were before Lewis himself felt the blows, felt the hollow pain, almost overwhelming, of losing his own wife, Joy.
Sometimes long-term, unremitting, unblinking pain is part of someone’s human existence. We all know someone who hasn’t had relief in decades. Year after year, doctor after doctor, prescription after prescription—it just keeps on coming.
Some of these people are the most courageous, brave men and women we’ve ever encountered. They admit their trials, but end by saying, I still praise God. Others confess that they honestly don’t think they can go on. How much longer can they face a life filled with such pain? Why can’t they just die and be done with it?
- In Matthew 9 there is the story of a woman who’d suffered from a bleeding disorder for 12 years. Nothing had worked—medicines, doctor’s visits, phoney cures—for 12 years!
- In John 5 is the experience of a crippled man who’d been ill for 38 years. And to make his life experience more painful, he’d been at the edge of the Pool of Siloam, which was alleged to have healing powers. But because he was lame, he couldn’t ever be the first one in the water for the miracle moment. Imagine being so close to the hope of a cure—and yet his pain and handicap had filled his life for nearly four decades.
God isn’t the author of pain. The world he created was a world without pain, a paradise where the word ‘suffering’ wasn’t in the dictionary. Jesus clearly explains in John 10:10 that there is a thief out there in the darkness. Someone who wants to kill and to destroy and to bring pain. But then he adds this: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”