At birth, I weighed two pounds, 12 ounces and came six weeks early. The doctors held little hope for my survival. Even with some serious illnesses and a need for a blood transfusion and surgery on my intestines, I survived. Even today, I battle chronic illness.
Although I don’t suffer as much as other people I know, my pain can be downright frustrating, tempting me to give up on life. After I became a Christian, I realized that God gives me pain for a purpose. He has a plan for my life – pain-filled days and all. The same is true for you.
Although at times it is easy to lose sight of what God is doing, God accomplishes many things when we are in pain. Here are 10 amazing ways God is at work in your suffering, even today:
1. He is Growing Your Hunger for Healing
The Bible is filled with stories of a God who heals some of the most debilitating illnesses. God’s glory is revealed every time Jesus (or the disciples) healed someone. Without pain, there could be no need for healing. Plus, God would not be able to use His people to make Him known throughout the world. As much as I wish I was the one doing the healing, it helps to know that God can (and might) still heal me if He chooses. When we learn to be the recipient of healing, it makes us more motivated to ask the Spirit to use us as vessels of healing to others.
2. He is increasing Your Discipline of Prayer
When we are in so much pain we can’t function, this is when we cry out to God. Jesus teaches us a parable that compares praying to a man knocking on the door of a neighbor to ask for a loaf of bread. It says, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need” (Luke 11:9).
When things are going well, we treat prayer as an option, something to fit into an already overpacked schedule. Yet, when pain becomes too intense to bear, it makes us beg the Lord for His mercy and relief, much like that man banged on the door for the bread. In these moments, we cling to God and pray in ways that go beyond the superficial and connect us with God in intimate ways.
3. He Grows Your Belief in the Word
Scripture says when we have an illness, we are to call the elders and ask them to lay hands on us and pray. It is easy to ignore the importance of this when we are not ill. Yet, when we need the church, the church is there for us. God receives glory when His children call upon His name for healing. This gives us the opportunity to believe that God may use the elders of my church to aid in our healing. If, once they have laid hands, we feel better, we now can testify that what the word of God says is true.
4. He is Developing Your Compassion
When we have suffered intense pain, it makes us empathize with those who are also suffering. This makes us more compassionate toward their plight. When we see someone suffering, it brings us to our knees in prayer and helps us pray on behalf of those too weak to pray for themselves. When we are compassionate, it increases our love for our neighbors and allows us to cultivate the fruits a life led by the Holy Spirit.
5. He is Deepening Your Walk with Him
When life is good, we don’t treat our relationship with God as necessary as we do when we are in pain. Physical pain affects our overall wellbeing; it weakens our emotional and mental states as well. When we feel hopeless because of the amount of pain we’re in, we walk with God more closely. We need Him to lift us up in our weakness, and we rejoice when God always does. When we are in pain, we grow in ways we wouldn’t normally, had we not experienced the pain in the first place.
6. He Reveals the Truth of His Promises
When I am at my sickest, I still have hope that I can read through God’s promises and know that what He has promised is true. God promised He would make our burdens light, we could cast our cares on Him, and that when we are weak, He is strong. When we believe His promises and align our lives in accordance with that belief, it speaks a testimony far louder than what we could shout from the rooftops. In this relativistic world, people are looking for a true experience. What could be truer than seeing the word of God come alive in situations that appear the most hopeless?
7. He Helps You Set an Example for Others Who Suffer
I have a friend who has suffered from ulcerative colitis for many years. At times she is in so much pain she must be admitted to the hospital. Although she is a believer and has prayed for healing many times, she has never received it. Yet, she gets up every day and serves the Lord in whatever way He calls her to. This is what I believe Paul was saying when he wrote, “do not let anyone look down upon you because you are young, but set the example for the believers in love, in speech and in purity.”
She is an example of what perseverance in the midst of trials looks like. We can be that same example through our pain. When we continue to serve and worship the Lord through our pain, we become an example of what Christlike character looks like too.
8. He Makes You Lean on Your Brothers and Sisters
Exodus 17:10-12 says, “So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.
Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” For much of my Christian walk, I was embarrassed to ask for help, fearing a perception of needing help would equate with being weak. Yet in our weakness, that is when we are the strongest.
God is glorified when He chooses to heal, but He also is glorified when His children use their gifts to help those who are weak. Like Moses who needed Aaron and Hur’s help to keep his hands up to win the war, when we are in pain, we need the same type of help. If we don’t ask our brothers and sisters in Christ for help, we rob God of His glory as well as the help we need to function.
9. He Humbles You
Needing God so desperately increases our humility and decreases our pride. It is hard to have an inflated ego when our bodies are not working properly and our endurance is deflated. When we ask God or others for prayer and healing, we have to rely on them to be our hands when we’re too weak to use them and our feet when we’re in too much pain to put one foot in front of the other. Humility is essential to be used in powerful ways. Pain places me in a position to be used by God in ways I could never have been used in perfect health.
10. He Gives You Hope
Above all, being in pain gives me hope. Why? Because I still believe that God will help me through my times of trouble. During those difficult times, we know that the good God we serve will either rescue us from the situation or walk alongside us in our time of need. Pain is never easy and we’re tempted to pray it away, but in the end, God doesn’t waste pain. He’s going to use it for his—and our—good.
Being in poor health is never easy. In fact, it can be downright discouraging at times. Yet in my weakness, God demonstrates His strength and power. Because of our pain, we get close enough to lean on Him, deepening our relationships and giving us hope that the Word of god is true and God will make good on His promises.
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