This past week I had the opportunity to speak at a family camp in Forest Glen, Nova Scotia, Canada. While I really do enjoy ministering the Word of God through preaching I probably feel I make a greater contribution afterward in the “one on one” settings with people. It gets personal. We go deeper. People open up and tell their stories. And almost without exception their story is filled with pain, struggle, and the working of the grace of God.
As I think back on my own life, I cannot remember a time that I enjoyed any measure of growth without a significant amount of accompanying pain. It seems that pain is what really gets my attention. I think it is true for all of us. Pain sends us on a search for answers. Our first response is to escape. If that doesn’t work we try to “suck it up” and “endure to the end.” When it comes to be more than we can bear we are broken enough to take the first step in real spiritual growth. The only place things get resolved are in Christ and His super-abounding grace.
Honestly, I wish there was another way. It’s hard to hear stories that are told through tears. And yet this is the way that God has chosen to grow us and to communicate His grace to the world. You can hear it in Paul’s voice when he says, “… I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b, 8) I love Paul’s writings because so often I find myself right in the same place – then he helps me work through it. He doesn’t leave me hanging. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in pesecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)
I do hate pain. But it has become the stimulus that drives me to Christ and His grace and it is what sets the stage for Him to write “another story” that tells the world about HImself. So, I thank Him for the pain. And, I lift my eyes in hope.