When we are in pain, then it is when God can really get our attention. When we are in pain we come face-to-face with our own needs and inadequacies. We realise that we need help and can’t do it all on our own.
It is often in our pain that we tend to also begin to pay a little more attention to God. We might get angry at the Creator for allowing bad things to happen to us, without always taking responsibility for our part in getting in the situation in the first place.
We might cry out for rescue, or help, or healing in desperation: Help! I’m at the end of my rope! Pain puts us in a place that we can hear God shout to us, Here I am! Just stick out your hand! I’m already reaching out to you. I can hold you up, heal you and bring you through this.
This is not to say that the Creator makes the painful things happen in our lives. Pain and life go hand in hand. God doesn’t bring us hurt just to get our attention. But no matter who we are, there is going to be garbage that comes to us—there are going to be hurtful things done to us, painful situations that we cannot avoid.
Some of it is of our own making. Some of it is because of other broken people around us. Still more is just that life throws us rubbish. But no matter where it came from, God is there to shout, I love you! in the middle of it all. The Creator is able to take that garbage, reshape it and make it into a work of art that heals.
Are We Listening?
The question that we are left with is, Will we listen? When life is painful, will we listen to put our lives into the Creator’s hands and receive healing and new life? Will we listen when God says, I love you; will you love me back? When we begin to listen to God’s shouts in our pain, it becomes easier and easier to then hear that same voice in our conscience so we begin to make better choices, and eventually to hear that same voice in the pleasures of life.
I think God, through the megaphone of pain, calls us not just to the truth, but to himself. God doesn’t just want our attention; he wants us. In Romans 5, Paul talks about this great peace with God we have through our Lord Jesus Christ. And we rejoice because of the hope that peace gives us—our hope of the glory of God. But then he goes on,
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)
Instead of yelling at God that the pain and suffering you’re experiencing is not fair, stop and listen to what God wants to say to you through this. Christian singer Laura Story has a song called “Blessings” that says:
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life
are Your mercies in disguise?
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise.
Someone noted that painful circumstances will make you either bitter or better. I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel blessed by God when things are going well but have a tendency to complain when things go wrong or not according to our plan. Some fall into despair and turn away from God while others respond to painful times by turning to God. Others confess that their difficulties taught them spiritual lessons and brought them into closer fellowship with God and later testify about God’s help in their time of need.
Listen, Look, Learn
Sooner or later each of us will be roused by the deafening decibels of difficulties and pain. When you hear God shouting to you through your pain, stop what you are doing and turn to him. Determine that you will listen and learn from him. Consider the possibility that God could be trying to discipline or teach you and determine to respond positively to such measures.
Difficulties and painful times will come. When they do, remember that some but not all suffering is sent as discipline from God. However, all experiences of suffering can help us to grow spiritually. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you experience painful periods:
- Listen—listen to God. Be sensitive to how he may be speaking to you. Consider that he may be using pain or adversity to get your attention.
- Look—take a close look at your life. God may be using adversity to give you guidance about some area of your life or to turn you from destructive patterns of thought and behaviour.
- Learn—ask God to help you learn the lessons that will help you to honour him with your life. Take the time to re-evaluate and, if necessary, to reorder your values and priorities.