Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thank You for the Pain

Once we mature enough to accept (most of the time!) that God doesn't owe us instant gratification, we find it easier to thank Him for the "good things" in life: food, clothing, health, home, family, productive work, and the occasional moment of sudden and extravagant blessing. But suppose the "sudden and extravagant" happening isn't an obvious blessing at all, but seeming catastrophe, as happened to Job? Or suppose we have to live without some of the basic blessings of life? Can an ordinary Christian maintain faith in the face of chronic and painful illness, months of unemployment, or continuing singleness among happily married friends? Job may have been able to say, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21, NIV) after being informed his family and fortune had been wiped out; and Paul may have "delighted" in his suffering "for Christ's sake" (2 Cor. 12:7-10); but is it really fair to expect us "only human" types to react like the supersaints?

Actually, Job and Paul were "only human" men (indeed, reading the 2 Corinthians passage in context makes it clear that one purpose of Paul's suffering was to remind him he was only human) who had learned--and through a fair amount of complaining and begging for things to get "better"--that God always knows best. God doesn't deprive His children of the obvious "good" because He enjoys seeing them suffer, nor even always to punish them for doing wrong. His desired best for each of us is not that we would live out our lives in shallow "happiness" unmarred by pain, but that we would find the deeper happiness which can only be attained through the Christlikeness found in total submission to God. Even when we can see no possible way that what is happening to us could serve any good purpose, we can trust that God, Who knows everything, sees it as ultimately the best thing for our lives.

Life has often seemed hard to bear:
How often have I longed for sunshine,
While it continued to rain?
How often have I screamed at heaven,
"Lord, don't You even care?"
Yet as I grow, the time has come
When I can say: Lord, thank You for the pain.

Life has often been a struggle:
How often have I longed for riches,
Yet seen poverty remain?
How often have I screamed at heaven,
"Lord, why all this trouble?"
Yet as I increase in wisdom,
I can even say: Lord, thank You for the pain.

Thank You, Lord, for Your denials;
Thank You even for the hardest times,
Even for the stress and strain.
My Lord, great God of earth and heaven,
Who shines forth through trials,
From Whom come all growth and wisdom,
I can know Your greatest blessings through the pain.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Katherine,

You seem to have the same insight about "pain" that C.S. Lewis did. While I have enjoyed reading through all of your blogs, this one was particularly memorable.

Why on earth haven't you composed your thoughts into a "devotional" book (for lack of a better word)?

Katherine said...

Answer to "Why haven't you [yet] written a devotional book?": I plan to, as soon as I complete a book's worth of poems/commentary (I figure it at a minimum of 91 entries) and look up who's publishing such things these days.