Pain and the fear of pain are motivating often enough, but when they don’t motivate; they can easily leave you crippled and helpless.
Struggling to make sense of the situation it’s easy to ask, “Why did this happen?” to blame God or ask him why it happened. The more powerful question is, “God, how are you going to use this for your good?”
If we can escape the endless discussion of God’s role or responsibility to stop bad things from happening in this world, we can consider responses to pain that equip us to act rather than excusing us from faith.
In the words of Jürgen Moltmann, “… the sin of unbelief is manifestly grounded in hopelessness. Temptation then consists not so much in the titanic desire to be as God, but in weakness, timidity, weariness, not wanting to be what God requires of us. God has exalted man and given him the prospect of a life that is wide and free, but man hangs back and lets himself down… man does not believe himself capable of what is required of him. It is not the evil he does, but the good he does not do, not his misdeeds but his omissions, that accuse him.” (p. 22 Theology of Hope, 1965).
Nowhere will this hopelessness be more prevalent than in the face of suffering and nowhere else is God’s love more potent.
God’s love is not what protects us from pain; it’s what prepares us for glory. In no way will living a Godly life prevent bad things from happening to you, often, to truly speak and live according to God’s word will lead to persecution which is full of pain.
The real struggles in life prepare us for greater and greater things. What God does with these unfortunate events is allow for outcomes that make our weaknesses into strength. God’s love is what gives us the ability to endure great pain and to recover, without being ruled by it.
When David when he ran for King Saul, he turned to the priests in the temple to feed him and arm him to survive when he was in flight from the king. He ends up using the sword of Goliath, the weapon of David’s most formidable foe. “‘The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.’ David said, ‘There is none like it; give it to me.'” 1 Samuel 21:9
This sword was once a symbol of Philistine strength. It struck fear into the Israelite army and killed many of their men, but in God’s story it is repurposed and used as David’s weapon in his campaigns for years to come.
God was able to use David as a boy; just the same he is able to use us if we let him.
Choosing to opt into this life of victory is not one of personal gain but one of Godly glory. When we choose the distance from God our experiences are repurposed to serve ourselves, but when we choose God our stories join those of David, Jesus, and the apostles in ways that we can only limit with our own dreams of greatness.
No matter how hard or how painful the situation there is an opportunity to be freed from the bitterness and to use that experience with knowledge in love. Often that opportunity is simply in sharing a testimony with someone in the same place. When we choose to embrace this we can pull the very arrows of Love’s enemies from our chests and fire them right back.
Choosing God as a response to pain is our right. Nothing can stand in God’s way as he answers our call for closeness with him. This means that nothing can prevent God from repurposing our weaknesses for his glory, no matter what they are. So often our pain is wrapped up in a shameful story of our own mistakes or inadequacies. The biggest lie is that these shortcomings are a hindrance in any way to the love of God or his ability use them for good. He works all things for good. He does not always prevent bad things from happening. He allows us to choose hope or despair. He allows us the right to grow. To choose that we must want what God desires for us.