I was sent an article earlier this year that was a transcript of a speech Tony Dungy gave before the 2006-2007 Super Bowl. This speech was given shortly after his son died. And as amazing as it was that he would speak so shortly after such a tragedy, I picked up on something else he mentioned in the speech.
Dungy spoke of his youngest son, Jordan, who has a rare condition that doesn’t allow him to feel pain. If cookies are baking in the oven, Jordan doesn’t realize that if he opens the door and reaches in he will be burned. Or that if he places that steaming hot cookie in his mouth it will scorch his tongue. Jordan can’t feel pain. Because of this Jordan could seriously injure himself without even knowing it.
If I was given the choice to feel pain or not, I must admit that I would probably choose not to feel pain. But such a decision would be short-sighted
and foolish. Pain is actually a gift; a blessing. I know it is hard to envision
pain this way all the time. But think of Jordan and the Dungy family. Would
they not consider it a tremendous blessing for Jordan to feel pain? Not to have to worry every moment of every day whether he is going to poke his finger into an electrical socket or turn on the hot water in the bathtub and climb in? Pain truly is a blessing.
But is all pain a blessing? Tough to say, but I’m becoming more convinced that pain is more often a blessing than it is not. For example, I was pretty ill back in mid-February. Hadn’t been that sick in a while. Just a funky sort of sick. Stuffy head, fever, aches all over, and fatigue like I had never felt. Weird, uncomfortable stuff. Pain. Was it a blessing? Actually, yes. You see, I had been on the road for three straight weeks, working myself to the bone, unwilling to slow down and get the rest my body needed. Getting sick was actually a blessing because it forced me to do that which I wouldn’t do on my own. Pain often works as such a tool of correction in our lives.
I see pain as God’s agent of mercy. I know this sounds weird, even contradictory, but go with me for a minute. How often do you or I force our way in a certain direction even though it may not be good for us? We say we are going to make self-centered decisions in our marriage regardless of God’s
instruction to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). We choose to lie to our boss (just a “little” one) to make him believe we are doing more work than we are, even though God’s Word tells us “do not lie to each other” (Col. 3:9). We choose not to go to church or worship with other believers for whatever reason, regardless of God’s clear exhortation to “not give up meeting together” (Heb. 10:25). Well, whenever we choose to make our own way without regard to God, pain ensues. The self-centered spouse reaps the pain of a tension-riddled marriage. The lying employee reaps the pain of a reprimand, demotion, or layoff. The stay-at-home Christian reaps the pain of loneliness and growing bitterness toward other believers.
How, then, is such pain the agent of God’s mercy? Because, if we will allow it,
this pain draws us back to the truth and invites us to once again seek God. It
is merciful for God to allow the natural consequences of our stubborn pride to bring us to our knees. The Bible says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance…” (2 Cor. 7:10a). Pain often produces godly sorrow. This sorrow reminds us that we have needs that go beyond our own ability to meet. We remember in our pain that we weren’t designed to live our lives independently, but rather in total dependence upon God. And even though our dependence on God
doesn’t forever eliminate pain, it does give us a point of reference for
understanding and enduring it.
Is pain a blessing? It can be if you will let it. However, we often only intensify our pain by squirming in our pride to find some solution apart from surrendering to God. Just as a child would increase his injuries if he refused
to listen to his parents when they instructed him to remove his hand from a hot burner on a stove, we too increase the injury to our spiritual and emotional selves when we refuse to respond obediently to God’s loving instruction. It is pain that often drives us to eventually surrender when we otherwise would not. Therefore, pain does act as God’s agent of mercy, preventing us from further injuring ourselves and instead embracing the grace and truth that God offers.
Why don’t you begin today to allow the pain in your life to draw you back to
the promises of your good and loving God? After all, he made you. He does
know what is best for you. And He wants you to enjoy His goodness, even if it requires getting some scraped knees and blistered hands along the way.
It can be incredibly difficult to see pain as a blessing. If you are in pain, we’d like to help. Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.