Pain is common to all of us. But– have you noticed?– our reactions to it can be wildly different.
And I’m convinced– it’s all in how you look at it.
When our eyes are on our pain & circumstances:
- We become disconnected from others (even others in the Body of Christ).
- No one is “qualified” to encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach us (even with the authority of Scripture!), unless they’ve experienced the exact. same. thing. that we are experiencing (which of course disqualifies, basically, everyone), because our own experience is what is authoritative to us.
- Thus, we believe we can’t encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach others (even with the authority of Scripture), because we see others’ experiences as what is authoritative in their lives.
- The only acceptable method of communication with/to anyone in pain is listening. The therapeutic counselor’s couch who only listens, and never really says anything, becomes the best and highest hope we can offer anyone, because everyone is the sole arbiter of his/her own pain and needs.
- Pain becomes the great separator. We will tend to exalt our unique version of pain as higher, worse, more difficult, more tragic, more unapproachable, more hard-to-endure, (etc.) than anyone else’s pain.
- Gifts are either expected/demanded or refused. We may feel that others “owe” us because of our pain, or we may be unwilling to be vulnerable enough to accept help or gifts from others. Either way, it’s all about “me.”
- Instead of exalting Christ, SELF is exalted. Instead of, “there is no one like Jesus. He satisfies and cares for me like no other.”, the heart says things like, “No one else is hurting like me. No one else can understand me. No one else has been through what I’ve been through.”
But when we focus on our great REDEEMER, our SAVIOR, and HIS BEAUTIFUL ANSWERS for our pain & circumstances:
- We become connected with others in the Body because we view ourselves as intricately connected through a wonderful Savior who sustains us through the common experience of human pain and challenges.
- Others can encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach us with Scripture, wisdom, and the God-given comfort with which they themselves have been comforted, whether or not they’ve experienced the exact set of details we are experiencing, because we recognize Scripture as authoritative, all wisdom as from the Lord, and other humans as fellow-journeyers.
- We can encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach others with Scripture, because we recognize that it is the one thing that can divide between soul and spirit, and gives us the only words we can speak that can offer hope and healing.
- We are free to take time with hurting people using a variety of methods to connect and minister: listening, asking questions, sharing Scripture, exhorting, instructing, and sharing our experiences (and more) all become valid ways of connection and ministry, because we view Christ as the only One who can be all that someone needs, or give them all that they need in the exact “right” package.
- Pain becomes the great equalizer. We exalt Christ as the One who can break every chain, soothe every hurting heart, and heal every form of pain, no matter how tragic or different from the pain we’ve experienced.
- Gifts are gratefully received as evidence of God’s grace and care for us. When our eyes are on God, we see gifts and financial provision– whether from a believer, unbeliever, insurance company, or some other source– as ways that God is nurturing us and providing for us in our difficulties.
- Christ is exalted as the Great Mediator, the Great Suffering Servant, the Great Savior, who we all need, who identifies with us in our sorrows, and who has Himself borne more grief, shame, and suffering than any of us.
IN THE COMMENTS: Which is your experience with pain & suffering?
- Do your hurts drive you to Christ, and toward His Body?
- Or do they drive you inward, pushing you further and further into isolation and self-exaltation?