On my blog, Near to the Healer, I write to encourage those who are suffering with chronic physical pain, illness, and disability. I have learned much over the last decade or so about pain, and especially about how our thinking affects our pain. Today, I’d like to share some of that with you, but please don’t stop reading this post if you don’t happen to suffer with chronic pain or disability. What I’ll share has application for all kinds of pain—physical, emotional, relational—and I believe you will glean some insight, regardless of your current circumstances.
The Bible says that we are made of two parts—body and soul/spirit. These parts of man are inseparable, and there is nothing that happens in one of them that doesn’t affect the other. When the body experiences pain, the mind responds, and vice versa.
So, let’s apply this to real life: Let’s say that we have pain of some kind. Perhaps it is physical pain, like rheumatoid arthritis or migraine headaches. Or maybe it is emotional pain, like a history of abuse, or the grief of loss. That pain, whether it is in the material man or the immaterial, is real and undeniable. It doesn’t go away no matter what we do. We can try to ignore it, but it has a way of becoming louder and more insistent when we do that. We may try to stuff it down, but it will pop back up when and where we least expect it. Neither of these options will heal our pain. In fact, both will tend to increase our focus on the pain, making it worse than it has to be.
So, what is the solution for dealing with pain? What does God tell us is the right response to pain? Well, to answer that question, we have to back up and ask another one. Who is God? Does he change as our pain changes, becoming harsher and less merciful when it hurts more, but gentler and kinder when the pain subsides? In other words, is God’s character dependent on our circumstances? According to the Bible, the answer is no.
God is God, and He is who He says He is regardless of our circumstances. So, who does He say that He is? Let’s check the Bible for our answer:
According to 1 John 4:8, God is love—even when what is happening to me doesn’t feel like love.
Deuteronomy 32:4 says that He is perfect, just, faithful, and upright—even when life doesn’t seem fair.
Titus 1:2 says that He never lies—even when I feel betrayed.
Numbers 23:19 says that He is nothing like people, who change their mind. He follows through on His promises—even if it doesn’t seem to me like he’s doing that.
Genesis 1:1 says that He created everything. This means He is the most creative being that ever existed or will exist. If He wants something to happen, He can make a way—even when I think there is no way.
Malachi 3:6 says that He never changes—even when it seems that I can count on almost nothing in this life.
Exodus 34:6-7 says that He is merciful and gracious, and slow to anger, so I can trust that He is patient with me as I strive to put sin to death.
Finally, my favorite statement about God in the entire Bible, Isaiah 40:28-29:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
So, let’s go back to our original question: What does this God of the Bible say is the right response to pain? His answer is, “Trust Me with your pain.” Once we have determined who God is, and believe that He is who He says He is, then we can learn to trust Him with our pain.
This is the God who promises that we don’t need to be afraid because we have great worth in His eyes, and He cares about every detail of our lives:
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Luke 12:7, Phillips Paraphrase)
This is the God who died for our sins before even one of them was committed, and before He even knew us. Think of that. His love was so huge that, even though He knew that we would betray and grieve Him, He made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He did this so that He could be with us, to help us in our pain. He did this so that we could be with Him forever.
Dear friend, have you gotten confused? When did you start judging God in light of your circumstances, instead of judging your circumstances in light of who God is? Take another look at what’s going on in your life. How are you responding to your pain? Are you seeing God for who He says He is, and lining up your response with that truth? Or are you believing the lie that your pain means that God is not good, loving, kind and merciful? God is God, and He is who He says He is, especially in your trial. Your thinking about your pain will help to determine how it affects your life. Think rightly. Think biblically!