Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In the middle of some excruciating pain, do you thank God for the pain? Probably not. And if you are in any kind of pain at this moment, either physically, emotionally or spiritually, you probably don’t feel like praising God saying, Thank God for pain!
Pain is something we try to avoid: It’s uncomfortable; it’s unpleasant; it makes us jump and twist and clench our teeth; it makes us moan and groan and cry and scream. We complain about pain.
Pain causes us to withdraw from people as we try to hide or suppress the external signs of pain. We want pain to go away so we go to doctors, dentists, physios, chiropractors, and chemists or take painkillers of some kind. Giving thanks when you’re suffering seems like an idea so farfetched nobody could take it seriously. Yet that is exactly what God asks us to do. What about those living with chronic pain—day and night?
The Apostle Paul, who knew more than his share of sorrow, counseled his young apprentice Timothy to do just that: Paul wrote these words we find in the New Testament:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
Pain—An Essential Experience
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian writer who endured prison and forced-labor camps under Joseph Stalin. It was there he became a Christian, and went on to write:
It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” (The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Vol. 2, 615-617).
Joni Eareckson Tada is a Christian author, speaker and ministry leader who became a quadriplegic at age 17 after a diving accident. Joni says:
Most of us are able to thank God for His grace, comfort and sustaining power in a trial, but we don’t thank Him for the problem, just finding Him in it…
But many decades in a wheelchair have taught me to not segregate my Savior from the suffering He allows, as though a broken neck—or in your case, a broken ankle, heart or home—merely “happens” and then God shows up after the fact to wrestle something good out of it. No, the God of the Bible is bigger than that. Much bigger.
And so is the capacity of your soul. Maybe this wheelchair felt like a horrible tragedy in the beginning, but I give God thanks in my wheelchair…I’m grateful for my quadriplegia. It’s a bruising of a blessing. A gift wrapped in black. It’s the shadowy companion that walks with me daily, pulling and pushing me into the arms of my Savior. And that’s where the joy is.
…your “wheelchair,” whatever it is—falls well within the overarching decrees of God. Your hardship and heartache come from His wise and kind hand and for that, you can be grateful. In it and for it. (Joni’s foreword to Nancy Leigh DeMoss book, Choosing Gratitude)