August 10, 2013 by Stacy McDonald

How to Respond to Pain and Suffering…Past and Present

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Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. – Ho­ra­tio G. Spaf­ford

A while back, I did a study using Martha Peace’s book, Damsels in Distress. The last chapter focused on responding biblically to trials. It was a good chapter, and I found myself examining the various trials I’ve experienced in my life and whether or not I’ve always responded to them in a godly way. To my shame, I determined that I am often a great big failure at trials; but, thankfully God uses them in my life anyway. With God, nothing is wasted.

And that’s the point. Mrs. Peace reveals how trials may initially bring out the worst in us: anger, bitterness, fear, laziness, self-focus, etc. And isn’t that the truth? Our first reaction to stress or tribulation may expose hidden sin that needs to be purged, as the “worst in us” is revealed. Yet, as Mrs. Peace points out, God uses conflict and trials to expose and show us our sin, prune it off, and grow in us the precious fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

“But thankfully, this ‘worst’ is pruned off as God convicts us of our sin and helps us turn from sin to righteousness. The pain from God’s pruning will fade as the fruit of righteousness flowers for all to see.” – Martha Peace

Often, trials expose in us a wrong understanding or view of God. Many times the “why?” we ask God, in regards to the purpose or meaning of our pain, is actually a sinful demand of Him for an explanation. We may give God a great big list of “all the things” we’ve done for Him, and ask, “This is what I get in return?”

This reveals a spirit of unthankfulness and a wrong view of God. It proves that we are under the impression that God owes us something; when, in fact, we owe Him everything. Forgetting His goodness and mercy, forgetting His sovereignty, forgetting His love for us, forgetting to be grateful to Him for everything He’s done for us, we are blinded and consumed by our pain. We want answers…and we want them now.

However, if we are fully persuaded of His goodness, if we trust His sovereignty, if we know His love, and give Him thanks in all things, including the suffering He brings, then we will walk through suffering praising His name, comforted by His peace, and growing in grace. We will welcome His painful pruning and embrace His healing touch – bearing precious fruit in the end. A proper view of God and His nature matters…a lot.

God is mighty and sovereign. Read Job chapters 38-30 when you’re tempted to question God:

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?…Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.” (Job 38:4-7, 40:2)

When I consider God’s sovereignty, I find myself answering with Job:

“Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40:4)

Another thing this study made me realize is that God uses all of our trials for our good and His glory – even the trials we experienced before we became Christians. After all, before we knew Him, He knew us very well. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…” (Jeremiah 1:5)

The following image is a picture of the type of back brace I wore as a child. I was required to wear this contraption 24 hours a day to slow down the progression of scoliosis in my back. At the end of the seven years, with a remaining 82 degree s-curve, I underwent back surgery to fuse my spine. After that, I wore a body cast for nine months…and then I was “free.” Or so I thought.

I recall all sorts of irreverent thoughts I had during those 7 years, and shudder. Some I even spoke aloud to God in bed at night: “Why are You punishing me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why did You make me – just so that I would be miserable?” “How can You be truly good when You make me suffer like this?” “Please, please, please, just let me die.” I remember these thoughts and the emotions that went with them vividly.

Though I suffered during my “brace years” from physical pain, emotional trauma, humiliation, and fear, nothing compared to the pain brought about by my own sin, and by my misunderstanding of God and His nature. You see, I hated what others could see, my physical deformity and the brace that made it so obvious to others. But secretly, I knew it was even worse than that. I knew how ugly I was on the inside. I knew my secret, wicked thoughts and desires. I knew I was no good – inside or out.

My utter separation from God left me angry, terrified, isolated, broken, and despairing. Yet God used my “poor self image” and my “unresolved anger” to bring me closer to seeing my sin and my deep, deep need for Jesus. Even after I was able to shed my back brace, and body cast, the twisted ugliness inside remained. I was still miserable, bitter, insecure, fearful, and filled with shame. My sin remained. But, in the midst of it, God was working.

Years later, after becoming a Christian, God began to show me the “work” He had begun in me even before I knew Him. He’s still faithfully doing that work. The suffering I experienced those many years ago was not in vain. He is still using it for my good and His greater glory.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

How about you? Are you allowing the trials of life and the trauma of the past to rule your life? Or are you thanking God for your trials and trusting His goodness, His sovereignty, and His love for you, knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose?” (Romans 8:28)

“All things” means all things. Know that God gives us trials because He loves us enough to mold us and conform us into His image. All the trials He sends our way are motivated by His love for us, and He provides rest, preservation, strength, and comfort along the way, even if we aren’t able to to see it at the time. Pray right now that God would prepare you ahead of time to endure trials to His glory. Ask Him to help you respond biblically to deep hurts and minor irritations alike.

If you are a Christian who is dealing with past trauma, remember that Jesus did not sit in some corner helplessly watching your pain, feeling sorry for you. Rather, because of His amazing love, He suffered and experienced it with you, even as He brought you through it. And, because of that, you are made free. All to the glory of God!

Points to remember when going through a trial:

1. God is good. (Psalm 100)
2. God is sovereign (Job 38-30)
3. God loves His own (Heb. 12:6)
4. Pray without ceasing and give thanks to God. (1 Thes. 5:18)
5. The trial is for your good: your discipline, pruning, molding, and shaping. (Rom. 8:28)
6. The purpose is for God’s ultimate glory. (John 11:4)
7. God is merciful toward us (Eph. 2:4)

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5 Responses to “How to Respond to Pain and Suffering…Past and Present”

  1. Cynthia Smith says:

    I, too, have experienced chronic pain. I had scoliosis at 13 years old, not as bad as you or my son. I have had Crohn’s Disease for many years now, but thankfully am in remission. My husband has suffered many years with pain that cannot be explained by doctors. Praying for his health and spiritual well being.
    Please pray for our son, Jacob, as he is 20 years old and is very set in his ways. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and doesn’t show much emotion, but he is very adamant in his beliefs. Recently he told me that he is not sure there is a God. He was raised in church, but never accepted Christ as his Savior. It has been a real trial raising him as I am sure it is difficult for him as well. I want to be a good example to him, and most of all see him accept Jesus into his life. I really appreciate your writings. Thanks so much for sharing your life with so many.

  2. teresa says:

    I really needed this right now I am going through very difficult trial. have been thru many but yet another verry hard one again God bless you you may write back if u desire

  3. Sharon says:

    I will soon be 59 and I have suffered with chronic pain since I was 23 years old. Physical pain is all I have ever known. I inherited Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. I also was born with both of my hips dislocated. That was corrected back in the 50’s as best as they knew how. I didn’t have many problems with both ailments as a kid. But when I got to my early 20’s it started. I had to have a total Hysterectomy 18 days before my 21st birthday. Praise God we were able to adopt two children and now I am a grandmother of 3 girls and 1 lively boy. The all know Jesus as their savior.

    My hips started acting up so I went to an Orthopedist. He said that eventually I would have to have artificial hips. In April of 1984 I had surgery on my left hip. Then in October of 1984 I had the other hip done.

    Moving along I have had approximately 30 assorted surgeries. Then in 2000 he wanted a divorce and filed for one. I was married for 28 years and have been divorced 13 years now. My Muscular Dystrophy is taking a fast toll on me. I can still walk but not very far. I have a power wheelchair thank God. My church is exactly 1/2 mile from my appointment. When the weather is good I ride it to church. Folks at church are just awesome to me. If I don’t have my wheelchair and then sit in a pew I need someone to help me get up.

    I have had my days of depression. Then I have good days as well. I do not believe that I suffer any more than someone else. We all have differing “pain tolerance levels.” I find great comfort in the book of
    Psalms. King David talked about pain in his bones. Perhaps he had arthritis. I also take life one day at a time.

    God is faithful even when we are not.

  4. Beautifully written! I just came across your site, and am very thankful to have been led here.

    I have been focusing on the Present. Living in the Present. It is amazing to me how complex our mind and hearts are that we are easily catapulted into some event of our past, ripping open our scars and bleeding as if it’s the first time. If I wanted, I could stay there, revel in the pain and misery, and feel sorry for myself.

    But, this does not good. How can I glorify God, live a Godly life, and show others the God I know if I am too busy rehashing all that hurt me? So, I actively pray for God to keep me in the Present, calling me to see all He has blessed me with…TODAY!

    God is wonderful! God is Good! When we accept that God is everything we need, and we rely on Him, we can maneuver through this world knowing that we are safe in His hands.

    Praise be to God!!!!

  5. Marisa says:

    God Bless you, Stacy. And God bless your children and grandchildren! You are blessed with the joy of seeing generational curses reversed in Yeshua’s name. Amen

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