Monday, January 17, 2011

Pain with a Positive Purpose - In Other Words

"God loves you.  He loves you so much that He's allowed this trial to push you to the point where you have no choice but to look to Him."          When Life is Hard by James MacDonald

Divine love and permitted suffering - those are two concepts that, when considered side by side, most of us have struggled with at one time or another.  As believers, we have accepted the fact that God loves us.  Not that he "tolerates us" or "watches us in amused detachment" or "plays with as as some kind of toy."  His word is clear that he loves us.

But when our everyday life is disrupted by pain and suffering, we tend to slip back into a humanistic line of thinking that may include asking him  "What have you done for me lately?"
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What God has done for some of us, lately, is that he has allowed us to be "pushed to the point" as MacDonald says, where we have no choice but to trust him.  We don't like that much.

Nevertheless, "God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want."  (from The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, 53.)

 We like to view ourselves as graciously surrendering our will to his in humble obedience.  The truth is much more likely to be that we have been brought to our knees by a load which we can no longer bear alone - and then, and often only then - do we look to him. 

All too often we are like the man who fell, while up on his roof doing some repair work.  As he is sliding down the shingles, knowing he is going to break an arm or a leg when he lands, he desperately calls out to God, "Please, Lord, help me.  I'm falling."

Then his suspenders suddenly snag on a large nail, holding him in place until he can carefully regain his footing and his handhold.  He looks up and says, "Never mind, Lord.  That nail took care of it."
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Realist Style African American Dentist Working on a Boy - Royalty Free Clipart Picture
I do not recall in which C.S. Lewis book he writes that God allows human suffering, much like a parent allows a child to endure some pain and suffering when going to the dentist.  The conscientious parent actually takes the child to the dentist, and requires him or her to stay put, while the dentist does his work. 

Why does the parent do this?  The mother or dad might say, "Because I care enough about you to ignore your pitiful cries to be allowed to skip this experience."  Because to give in to the child's pleas to be allowed to "skip the dentist" is to assure worse pain, in the form of toothaches and extractions, down the road.

God does not cause suffering, but he does sometimes "take us to the dentist" knowing that the present trial will cause us to become much stronger and healthier down the road.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
 James 1:2-4 NIV
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Admittedly, I am not there yet.  I sometimes plead to please be given a heavenly hall pass for this one, Lord.  Just this time, ok?

But trials focus my attention on him like little else can do.  When the gas tank in my car is full, I pay no attention to the gas gauge.  But when I am almost on empty, I am focused on just where that needle is resting.  Is it actually touching the red part yet?  It is still a hair above it?              car dash board petrol meter, fuel gauge Stock Photo - 6295122     

Running on spiritual empty, recognizing that I have been pushed to the point where I must look to him, humbles me.  It reminds me of how distracted my life can become - and so quickly, too.

So then, perhaps, I am willing to "consider it pure joy" - this very tough situation that I am facing; knowing that God has prepared a solution, a way through, if I am willing to cooperate with him.

After all, "...the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials...".  II Peter 2:9 (a)
I'm truly thankful for that!  God bless you ... Marsha
In Other Words is being hosted today by Debbie at Heart Choices.  Please stop by.


  1. Marsha, your take on this quote has helped me and I thank you for that. I need to be reminded as I go through a very trying time. I am clinging to the Lord. Thank you for participating this week in IOWT. You are indeed a great writer.

    Blessings and love,

  2. Thank you so much for sharing, Marsha! We both used one of the same verses . . . but I so appreciated the last verse you used in Peter. I am going to read that chapter tonight. You encouraged me!

  3. Debbie and Loni,
    Thank you both for your kind feedback. I had a bit of an eye-opener last week, and I am genuinely trying to follow through on writing what God puts on my heart.

    Thank you for your encouragement. God bless you both - Marsha

  4. Hi Marsha,

    I read your comment on Debbie's blog "Heart Choices" on her Jan.17th post " Where do you look in your trials?"

    Your comment stood out to me, because you directed the focus onto things that are eternal " Our eternal Home with the Lord."

    I loved reading your post, it is very well written, and it honors the Lord. I feel so blessed to have found it.

    God bless you,

  5. Marsha this is soooo good! I am not a gracious surrenderer. Not in my nature or personality, so God definitely has used things in the past to force me to bend my knee. And in turn is teaching me gracious surrender!

    Love the gas gauge illustration. Perfect.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. That was really good. It's hard to think of pain having a purpose, a good purpose but it does. Its where we learn and where we grow up. Thanks for sharing today.

  7. "Running on spiritual empty, recognizing that I have been pushed to the point where I must look to him, humbles me. It reminds me of how distracted my life can become - and so quickly, too."

    I really appreciated the gas gauge illlustration - very appropriate and spoke volumes to me today. Thanks for sharing Marsha.

  8. Michele Katerine - Nice to meet you and welcome. I am glad you found something of value here today. Hope to hear from you again.

    Miriam Pauline, I was read your blog today and really liked the "mottos vs. lifeline" thoughts. Thank you for your feedback, too.

    Karen, It certainly would be hard to think of pain having a positive purpose with what you are currently dealing with. When I read the post where you laid your head on your desk at work, well... I just stopped and prayed for you. And a lot of us are continuing to do so. God bless you.

    Bonnie W. - Glad you visited again today. I appreciate your kind comments. Yep - my own tank has been empty more often than I was willing to admit. Have a good week.

  9. "...the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials..."

    Aaah. How soothing. I'll be thinking on that all day. Thanks friend.

  10. Marsha:

    Boy am I glad you came by to visit my blog! I came over here and found a bucket of wisdom. I read through a few of your past blogs and have had a such a precious visit. I am joining as a follower so I can keep hearing what God is giving you to share. What a blessing this has been.

  11. Sonja - I am so glad you came by. Nice to meet you. I'll be looking forward to hearing from you from time to time. God bless you - Marsha