I remember looking at my dad in amazement when I was a kid. I thought he was the strongest man in the world. Not because he was bigger than anyone else and not just because he was my dad. I was amazed by how much pain he could take. It seemed like he was always getting hurt. Every other day he came home with some scratch or bruise. Most of the time, it was nothing but Every once in a while, it was severe. Even then, my mom would make him go to the doctor or the emergency room, depending on the severity of the injury. The man could take a beating. But, despite all of it, he never slowed down.
This was something I could not understand at a young age. Whenever I got a cut or scratch, it was devastating. All I could think about was the pain. I always wanted a band aide or anything to bring comfort, even if there wasn’t any blood. As a little boy, every injury seemed life-threatening, and getting a shot by the doctor was as traumatizing as war.
Today the roles have reversed. Now I am the dad, and my boys often look at me in disbelief when they see a scratch or bruise on me that I didn’t even know was there.
When we are young, the purpose of life is to pursue comfort, but as we grow, we begin to realize that this is a futile pursuit. Everything is broken. We live in a world where pain is a reality, and no matter how hard we try to avoid it, we will experience it. We will be hurt. So the question becomes not whether or not we will experience pain but how we will respond to it. Will we avoid pain at all costs and, as a result, be left feeling devastated and betrayed by God when it eventually finds us? Or will we know the joy and peace of God amid pain?
Even though we mature in age and our ability to withstand physical pain increases, we still tend to revert to our childish nature. Whether we want to admit it or not, our nature is to seek our comfort above everything else. God rebukes the people of Israel for this in Amos chapter 6:4–7, where he says,
“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile, and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.”
Israel was more concerned with their temporary comfort than with the eternal consequences of their sins and rebellion toward God.
This is true for many of us today, even believers of Christ. The people of Israel knew God, yet they sought his physical blessings over their spiritual sanctification. When God heals us from our spiritual brokenness caused by sin, it can and will cost us some worldly comforts.
My oldest son was very young when playing in the other room one day. Suddenly there was a loud crash. Running to see what had happened, we saw the glass top of our coffee table had shattered, and he was crying and holding his leg. After picking him up and sitting him down, it was clear that the glass had cut his leg. He was so afraid and wouldn’t let me look at it. He just sat there holding it, saying, “I don’t want you to look at it.” It was like he thought that if no one could see it, it didn’t exist, and he would be okay.
“Son, I have to look at it so that I can help you.” Finally, after some convincing, he worked up the courage to move his hands and expose the wound. Luckily it was not a very deep cut, and he didn’t need any stitches. For me to help him, he had to reveal his hurt.
We often think if we pretend we’re okay, then the pain will eventually disappear. It doesn’t. Instead, it becomes infected and makes us very sick. Life is pain, and as long as it remains hidden and we remain afraid of it, it slowly sucks the life out of us. However, when we realize that Christ was wounded so we could be healed, pain is simply an opportunity for us to know his healing.
We can’t hide from pain, nor should we hide the pain that we have. Because of Christ’s wounds, we can now experience healing and one-day complete wholeness in eternity with him. In that, we find comfort far beyond this world’s pleasures. Isaiah 53:5 states “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Trevor Rickard is an Associate Pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship.