Purpose in Pain

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

Psalm 126:5

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Allowing God to mold us can seem like a never ending, painfully human process. It is full of highs and lows, humility and exaltation, and just when you think you have a handle on it, you find yourself in the pit, yet again.

But, just as dough must be kneaded, we too, must be worked. When a baker makes bread he must first press and pound and squeeze and stretch to create texture and strength in its structure. There is a time to roll it out flat and time for it to rise.

During our own kneading process, it is easy to get frustrated or question God by asking the same words He has undoubtedly heard over and over for thousands of years, “Why God? I thought you loved me, why is this so hard?”

When we look to Jesus, our perfect example, we see this question is the same heart’s cry He spoke from the cross in Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

Even Jesus, God himself, felt the pain of perceived abandonment. If we were to layer our own thoughts on top of this Holy scene, we might imagine Jesus, in His immeasurable suffering and with the human part of His existence, allowing His physical pain to generate a spiritual pain, as well. A wide chasm created in the close relationship between obedience and discomfort, proving even awareness of a promise doesn’t make the process of getting there any easier.

In the midst of this hurt it is easy for us to lose sight of the Kingdom purpose. Job was not at ease when he saw his life stripped away from him, David was anxious and heartbroken as he was running from Saul, and Jesus found no physical relief from His wounds. But God is not one to leave us in our troubles, in fact, it is because of them we find our happiness, for “ those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Ps 126). It was because they remained obedient and sought out God in their circumstances that Job eventually doubled his portions, David gained his throne, and Jesus overcame death.

We tend to feel that if we are obedient to God, then we should reap rewards and blessings accordingly, as though we have done Him a favor by doing what was asked of us. But God is in no need of our favors, only our devotion. And because He is full of compassion and mercy, He uses our obedience as a way for us to learn more about who He is, granting us our true Heart’s desire- a closer relationship with Him.

Physical comfort and obedience rarely go hand-in-hand. To be used means just that, “Use me, Lord.” We hand Him our free will and trust His discretion with our lives. This is at the same time a learned behavior and a natural desire for one who has tied his heart to God’s and longs to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

We can not separate our pain from our purpose, the two are wrapped around one another. If there is pain we will endure it and if there is pleasure we will dance in it.  We do not ask to be used in only comfortable places or heroic positions, we simply ask to be used.

 

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Image Credit: “Farmette.” http://farmette.ie/tag/dublin/

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