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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Joy of Pain

Much of our lives are spent in avoiding pain and finding pleasure. I'd venture to guess that most of our lives is spent in those two pursuits. Our two primary questions in life are "What gives me pleasure?" (so that I can pursue that) and "What causes me pain?" (to be sure not to do that). Given the amount of time, money, and effort spent on these two things, it might strike you as odd that the Bible takes a very different point of view on it.

According to Scripture, suffering is not a bad thing. After his sufferings, Job said, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." (Job 13:15) But that's more of an enduring of suffering rather than an embrace. No, Paul said, "I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10) Now, who do you know who speaks of being "well content" with distress and persecutions? Paul did. James said we are to "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4) That is, real benefit can be found in trials.

In his first epistle, Peter writes about the blessings we have in Christ. He ends that section with "In this you greatly rejoice," which is fine, except that he didn't end the thought there. Sure you greatly rejoice in the marvelous blessings "even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials." (1 Peter 1:6) Oh, now, see? Trials hurt. Suffering is something to be endured. But wait! Peter gives us a reason for the distress. He says it is "so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:7) Who is it that knows Christ and His blessings and does not want to obtain proof of faith and give praise and glory and honor to Christ? Indeed, Peter says that our sufferings are a revelation of Christ.

Philip Yancey wrote a book entitled Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. Ain't it the truth? But when the apostles were beaten for preaching the Gospel, their response was not the response of the typical American Christian. "They went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) You see, they did consider it a gift to suffer for Christ. James did consider it beneficial to endure trials. Paul did find it a positive to suffer weakness and insults and distresses and persecutions and difficulties. The question, then, is will you and I?


Bob said...

would you agree that the suffering that we endure to test our faith is not of our own choosing ? the Lord will test us in ways that are tailored to each individual. yes we must endure hardships for our growth and His Glory, but we are encouraged to keep our eye on the prize.
it's not all for nothing, we have a great reward, Christ is our inheritance. so when you see these things, lift up your head and rejoice, for your redemption is drawing near..

Stan said...

"Would you agree that the suffering that we endure to test our faith is not of our own choosing?"

I'm trying to picture what that might look like. A suffering buffet? "Um, yeah, I'll take an order of skin cancer and a side of financial difficulties, but hold the fatal cancer and total bankruptcy." Clearly we don't choose it. (We wouldn't have the wit or wisdom to do so.) Clearly He chooses precisely what we need. It is for our growth and His glory, but Paul also says that God "comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Cor 1:4) That is, it is to allow us a ministry of comfort to the next person who is facing the suffering we did.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I wouldn't be citing Philip Yancey for ANYTHING:

Stan said...

I cited Yancey for the name, "Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants", because the name fits. If that's a problem (a phrase that fits), I'd suggest your tolerances are too tight. Even a stopped watch is right twice a day. I might, for instance, quote Adolph Hitler for being right that "If you tell a lie big enough and long enough, people will believe you" without suggesting that he was good or even right about anything else ... ever.

Stan said...

(I never read Yancey's book. I just know that pain is the gift that nobody wants, but that Christians should have a different view on.)

Craig said...

Heaven forbid that Yancey (or anyone else for that matter) could possibly ever have anything of value to say.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I don't think pain is a gift at all, except physical pain, as part of the biological makeup in creating our bodies, is a great gift to signal that there are problems with our system. But pain isn't a gift. It just is and God certainly can use it in our lives. But that doesn't make it a gift. And that's another reason to not listen to Yancey--he just makes it up. Find in the Bible where it says pain is a gift.

Stan said...

"I don't think pain is a gift at all"

Well, of course, you're expressing the normal perspective. I am suggesting that Scripture has a different perspective. Why "count it all joy" when we're in trials if it's not a gift? Why was Paul "well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake" if it wasn't good in some sense? Why would Peter say it was "necessary" (1 Peter 1:6) and what was he possibly talking about when he said that suffering was God's will (1 Peter 3:17)?

Perhaps you're thinking that I'm spewing something from Yancey and his book. I never read Yancey's book. I haven't the slightest clue what Yancey thinks. I'm reading my Bible and these are the things I see in there. You are certainly free to argue with Yancey about whatever he wrote (and I never read), but, please, let me know where your Bible disagrees with what my Bible says so I can get the straight scoop on this stuff.

(Glenn, the name of Yancey's book is there because I searched for something that said that pain was a gift that no one wanted and the title came up. Note the sequence. I thought it. I searched for it. That title -- a book I never read or heard of -- came up. Now, to be truthful, if I had thought that a simple mention of a title of a book that coincided with what I was seeing in my Bible would cause you such a negative response -- arguing against Yancey whose ideas I never referenced -- I would never have included that attribution.)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Heaven forbid that a Mormon would have something to say. I wouldn't cite Mormons who said good stuff about the Christian life either.

Stan, I'm just saying we shouldn't be citing known false teachers, and my article proves Yancey is a false teacher.

I'm also saying that counting something as joy (trials and tribulations, e.g.) are never called gifts in the Bible so I don't think we should be labeling them that either. Your cited passages do not even intimate that pain is a gift.

Stan said...

Word problems again, I suppose. Gift: a thing given willingly to someone without payment. Peter says that God wills our suffering (1 Peter 3:17) and causes calamity (Isa 45:7). We don't find "Trinity" in the Bible and we don't find "Pain is a gift" in the Bible. You agree that the Trinity is still in there and I can't figure out how God willingly bringing pain into the life of a believer for his or her benefit would not be a gift. Word problems.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I guess I would never use the word "gift" for anything painful or causing pain. The word Trinity is used to describe what the Bible plainly puts forth without a defining word. I also see God's permissive will allowing pain, not that HE gives it as a gift. And of course He will use it to His glory.

Bob said...

how do we grow with out pain, how do we learn without suffering, how do we know if we are truly in the faith unless we are challenged. pain is a gift when it is instrumental to your spiritual growth. Even Jesus had to suffer in the desert. lets not get twisted up on who quotes who, the point is that if God requires us to suffer, it must be for a good reason.
no one looks forward to discipline but when it is finished, strong character emerges.

Stan said...

Fair enough. I see when God wills it (1 Peter 3:17) and it is necessary (1 Peter 1:6) and should be met with joy (James 1:2) that it could be classified (at least by those who see it this way) as a gift. The disciples were "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name." (Acts 5:41)

By the way, I would question the implied position that God does not cause pain. I know that as a loving father I sure did with my children and "the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." (Heb 12:6)