12 May Why O Why am I in Pain?
I read about a Christian working for a mission hospital in North India who died in an accident, leaving two children orphaned. I heard of a woman who was in love with a musician. She was married to a church pastor against her wishes and has suffered abuse and ill-treatment ever since. With two children, she is scared to walk out.
A young Christian, well educated man has been trying to get a job for years without much success. We see tragedies and pain all around us. It could be a sickness, bereavement, financial crisis, broken families, violence, or even an innocent caught up in trials. Suffering spares no one; rich and poor, old and young, men, women and children have this in common.
Why do we suffer? What do we do when nothing makes sense?
Joni Erikson Tada can be called a modern day Job. She grew up in a wonderful family of love, happiness, and security. The Erickson family shared various outdoor activities. A diving accident in 1967 left Joni, then 17, a quadriplegic who was paralysed from waist down. Her life turned upside down and she did not want to live. She batted depression and disability. During rehab, she realized that God was working in her life. That was the beginning of Joni’s journey to wholeness. She emerged with new skills that taught her how to live with her disabilities and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. She immersed herself in God’s Word to become spiritually strong. She married Ken Tada in 1982 and along with her husband she proclaims God’s love and works and speaks for the cause of the physically challenged.
In an interview she says, “Whether hardship is brought on by our own negligence or through the direct assault of the hand of a wicked person, or our own ignorance and misinformed decisions, or our lack of awareness or misdoings, or some catastrophe of nature-these things fall under the purview of God’s overarching decree. A close look at the New Testament shows that God’s sovereignty extends over all these things God permits all sorts of things that He doesn’t approve of. He doesn’t approve of my spinal-cord injury or my cancer, but in his sovereign decree he has allowed them. It goes back to God being in charge. The greater thing Jesus promises we can do is the advancement of the Gospel, reclaiming what is rightfully His. Suffering is hardship and heartache. It’s one package. Yes, God could have prevented it. He could prevent a thief from breaking in and stealing, He could prevent a wicked man with a gun from fi ring it, and He could have prevented my cancer. But, there are clear promises. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This is one of the most important promises in the Bible for handling suffering – everything that happens in our lives is used by God for our good”.
Corrie Ten Boom tells of a time she discovered that God was working even in the most horrific circumstances. Corrie and her family had been imprisoned by the Nazis for hiding Jews behind the wall of their Holland home. Both Corrie and her sister Betsie were forced to perform backbreaking manual labor. They were stripped and made to walk naked and laughed at by the prison guards. Conditions in the Nazi prisons were hellish. Betsie died while a clerical error freed Corrie from prison. In her book The hiding Place, Corrie writes: “Barracks 8 was in the quarantine compound. Next to us–perhaps as a deliberate warning to newcomers- -were located the punishment barracks. From there, all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten-deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make
the sounds stop. “It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.” Yet, in the midst of the suffering, the women prisoners around Corrie and Betsie found comfort in the little Bible studies they held in the barracks. Corrie writes they gathered around the Bible “like waifs clustered around a blazing fi re…The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.” When they were moved to Barracks 28, Corrie was horrified by the fact that their reeking, straw-bed platforms swarmed with fl eas. How could they live in such a place? It was Betsie who discovered God’s answer:
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ “I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room…” They thanked God for the fact they were together. They thanked God they had a Bible. They even thanked God for the horrible crowds of prisoners, that more people would be able to hear God’s Word. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas.
“The fl eas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’ “Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. ‘It doesn’t say, “in pleasant circumstances.” Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.’ “And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.” It turned out that Betsie was not wrong; the fleas were a nuisance, but a blessing after all. The women were able to have Bible studies in the barracks with a great deal of freedom, never bothered by supervisors coming in and abusing them. They finally discovered that it was the fleas that kept those
supervisors out.Dozens of desperate women were free to hear the comforting, hope giving Word of God. Through those fleas, God protected the women from much worse things and made sure they had their deepest, truest needs met.
Corrie, Betsie and Joni have gone through enormous amounts of suffering. Our trials at times will pale when we read their life stories. But our pain does seem more than we can bear. We can take comfort in reading about how God’s people coped and emerged with greater blessings. Our finite mind thinks only of life in this world. God is preparing us for an eternal life with Him.
Whatever we go through on this earth have eternal implications; our choices, failures, our joys and sorrows. God wants us to be holy more than happy. He will turn our pain to bless us and many others. There is more to our life and suffering than we can comprehend. I quote from Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith: God is wise enough to foresee that we need some pain for reasons which we may not understand but which he foresees as being necessary to some eventual good. Sometimes God allows suffering and deprives us of the lesser good of pleasure in order to help us toward the greater good of moral and spiritual education.
James 5: 7, 8: Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming
About the Author
The author, an avid reader and writer lives in Chennai with her husband Isaac and two children.