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Hard to Hear through the Hurt

When our daughter Campbell was still crawling and speaking just a few words, she burnt her arm badly on the oven door. My wife had been preheating the oven, and I think our son must have opened the door. While crawling around, Campbell crawled up to the open preheated oven door, propped her arm up on the inside of it to help herself up, and burned herself from the wrist to the elbow. We heard the scream and rushed in and knew immediately that it was really, really bad. We scooped her up and rushed her to the emergency room. At this point, she wasn’t crying; she was just sort of in shock.

Waiting in that emergency room was excruciating for both my daughter and me, because the burn began to blister up and the pain receptors began to kick in. She began to cry and wail. I’m sitting there as her dad, trying to hold her and comfort her.

I tried to explain to her what had happened and where we were. I tried explaining that the pain would go away soon, and that we were going to do this and that to make the pain go away. But she didn’t understand me.

If I could’ve taken the pain from her right then, I would have. I mean, sign me up! There was even one moment where she started to fight me, like she didn’t want me to hold her. She actually looked at me as if I were the one causing her the pain.

That’s the reaction God must feel from us sometimes.

It’s like we’re in the emergency room, and God is holding us. He’s trying to explain from His Word what happened to us, what He’s going to do to help us, how the pain is going to eventually go away. “Just trust me in this.” Yet we don’t fully understand Him. There are even some moments when we begin to fight Him and begin to look at Him as if He’s the one causing the pain.

So what are some of the things that maybe God would want you to know even in the midst of some of your pain and confusion? Here are some messages I think God would want you to hear in the midst of your hurt:

You are not alone.

There’s power in those words when we know that someone else has actually been where we are currently. Recently I had two friends text me and say, “Hey, can you clear your schedule and just meet me for coffee? I really need a friend,” and then they added this: “And I don’t need you to fix it.” Because they know I’m a fixer. They know I’m tempted to do that. So they basically said, “I just need you to come and don’t have all the answers, don’t come with your pastor hat on. Just be my friend and listen to me and just sit with me in this.”

God wants you to know that you are not alone.

I know how you feel.

There’s something that strengthens us when we talk to somebody who has been through what we are going through. Hebrews 4:15 says that we have a High Priest who can—I love this word—sympathize with us because He’s been tempted in every way that we are and he’s been through everything that we’ve been through. Jesus knows what it’s like to be lonely, depressed, tempted, angry, annoyed, irritated, isolated, and betrayed. He knows what it’s like to lose a friend. Therefore, we can approach his throne with confidence. The ultimate response to pain and suffering is not an explanation; it’s the incarnation—that Jesus would come to be with us. God is not distant.

Pain often has a purpose.

All pain is painful, but not all pain has a purpose. I think that when we understand the purpose behind our pain, it makes it more tolerable. Many of us will subject ourselves to pain. We’ll go to the gym. We’ll actually show some restraint. We’ll actually make a tough decision. It’s painful, but we know the purpose behind it; therefore, it makes the endurance of the pain easier because we can tell what it’s getting us.

From what I’ve been told, the two most painful things that a human being can experience are passing a kidney stone and giving birth to a child. Neither one have I ever experienced. Yet I’ve talked to people who’ve experienced both. They talk about those things very, very differently. Nobody’s showing me pictures of their kidney stones. Nobody’s saying, “Maybe we’ll have another one day,” but people say that all the time about kids. Why? Because there’s purpose behind the pain.

2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us this. It starts out, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience.” What? God wants me to experience sorrow? Yeah. The kind that leads me away from sin, the kind that results in my salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of pain.

I look at my own life and there have been moments where I needed to grow in a certain area of my life and that growth almost exclusively came through the pathway of pain. The times when it wasn’t painful, that’s a gift which I’m thankful for. But the times when I really grew, the times when my character really deepened, I can look back and it was a painful path.

Sometimes God will calm the storm. Other times God sees the raging storm as an opportunity to calm you.

There may be moments when God allows the pain for a time to teach us. As a parent, I understand this. I won’t just swoop in and bail my kids out every time. If I did, they would grow up with very flimsy character.

Maybe God allows the cancer to teach us to develop and to value some relationships. Maybe God allows the difficult boss for a time to teach us self-control. Maybe He allows the unemployment to teach us faith. And it seems so long when we’re going through it, but then once we land another job, we look back and it doesn’t seem like it was all that long at all. Maybe God allows the frustrating experience to teach us obedience without success. Maybe He allows the colicky baby to teach us patience. Maybe God allows the embarrassing moment to teach us some humility.

God doesn’t cause all things, and it may sound like a cliché to you because you’ve heard it so often, but it’s true: He does cause all things to work together for our good and we come out of it on the other side looking a little bit more like Jesus.

Hang on and don’t let go.

Don’t let go. We can endure more pain than we thought possible when we know what’s up ahead. Something to look forward to makes all the difference.

2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.” Come again? But the author is looking at our suffering from the span of eternity. Then he says this: “Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”

Some of you have been dealing with chronic pain since the day you were born and you’ve said, “You know what? God’s never going to take this away from me.”

But in the perspective of eternity, eternity far outweighs the decades that you’ll spend on this planet.

God promises us through John in Revelation 21 that one day our suffering will come to an end. I love how John describes heaven because he doesn’t just tell us what will be there, he tells us what won’t be there.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:3-4).

He’s saying there will be no more death and no more crying and no more pain and no more anxiety and depression. No more abuse. No more cancer. No more car accidents. No more suicide. No more starving stomachs. No more anxious waiting rooms. No more empty tissue boxes. No more tables for one. No more tear-stained divorce papers. No more motionless ultrasounds. No more small caskets. Can you just imagine!

Hang on and don’t let go.

Sometimes God will calm the storm. Other times God sees the raging storm as an opportunity to calm you.
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