This past week I preached possibly the most difficult sermon of my career. The subject of the sermon was not necessarily challenging, nor controversial.
I spoke about pain. As I stepped into the pulpit I saw my friends who have lost close loved ones, friends who are walking through unexplainable pain at home, and other hurts which may not heal. I knew as I preached that my words would hit many open wounds where my people were walking.
I measured every word that came from my mouth. My hope was to both challenge and comfort my people.
I preached a text which seemed strange from the outset. In the passage God purposely walked the people of Israel through pain, heartache, and need to teach them to depend on Him.
Deuteronomy 8:3 states “He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
The passage is simple, God walked His people through weakness so that they would find strength in Him.
When it comes to pain, we rarely see a greater good beyond the momentary pain. We may say, “God will work this for good” as if it is a consolation prize for walking through pain, but our shallow hope in the midst of pain most times is an escape from the pain.
In reality, there are pains in our lives that will never go away. There are scars on my heart that will remain and will return to hurt no matter the distance of time that passes. A parent that loses a child will not cease to hurt. A spouse that loses their loved one will not cease to hurt. A senior walking through terminal illness will not cease to hurt. People who have been the victims of horrendous crimes will never stop feeling those pains.
Our hope, though, is not that God would remove the pain but instead use our pain. It is through pain that we draw near to God. It is in walking through cancer that one might learn to depend on God in a way that you would never know otherwise. It is in loss that you can say, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil because God is with me.”
My message this week was simple: when in pain, don’t waste it, run from it, or bury it, but instead embrace it. Embrace your pain knowing that God uses every part of your life to draw you to Him. Welcome pain, seeing it as a way to lean in on God.
It is only through pain that we can truly understand what it means that God is our shepherd and learn to lean on Him when we have nothing left.
We embrace pain because we know that our hope is in God who will heal us, perhaps not in this world, but instead eternally as we embrace Him and the forever healing He has for us.