Most of us dream of a life free from pain. “Pain” is an experience that is shared by all people. At the same time, there is nothing that we work harder at than to try and free ourselves from pain. If we can’t figure a way out of the pain, if we can’t stop the pulsating reminders that we are hurting, then we turn to other options to deal with our pain. We want something that will distract us or numb us to the pain that we experience in life, navigate to this website for more information.
It is so important for you and me to understand the biblical teaching that our God is a God of purpose. He loves you and me so much that He desires to use every experience we have in life, the pleasurable and the painful, to draw us to Him and to shape us into the people that He desires for us to become. As much as we desire the pleasurable experiences and try with all of our might to avoid the painful experiences, we need to recognize that it is in the painful experiences that God can do some of His greatest work in each of our lives. C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures…but shouts in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I don’t know too many people who would get real excited if I were to ask this morning, “Whose up for a dose of pain this week?” Pain is just not something that we have a natural affinity for, do we?
The family of Gabby Gingras would tell you that pain is one of God’s greatest gifts. You may have never heard of Gabby. Gabby is a really smart 4th grader who lives in Big Lake, Minnesota. She goes to a regular school and makes straight “A’s.” She was also born with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis, “CIPA” for short. Gabby was born with no sensitivity to pain. I know, you are thinking, “Ahhh! What a blessing!” Gabby’s mom says, “Pain teaches. Pain protects. Pain can save you from a lot of bad things in life.” (Trish Gingras) Because Gabby was born with no ability to feel pain her life has been difficult. When she started teething as a baby she mangled her tongue, lips, and fingers so her family had to have all of her teeth pulled. By the time Gabby was two and a half years old she had been injured and hospitalized several times. She suffered a broken jaw, no one knew about it until she had to be hospitalized because of infection. By the time she was four years old she was blind in one eye because she kept sticking her fingers in her eyes. Her parents had her wear goggles so she wouldn’t lose her vision in her one good eye. Gabby was harming herself because she couldn’t feel any pain. To this day, when Gabby is injured she doesn’t know to get help because she can’t feel any pain.
Dr. Sam Elghor, Gabby’s pain management specialist in Sartell, Minnesota, said,
“People are born with the ability to feel pain. Pain is a protection mechanism. God gave us assistance so we can avoid harm. It’s definitely a good thing.”
I want to clarify something for you. Gabby was born with no ability to feel physical pain, but it’s not just physical pain that causes us such grief is it? The majority of the pain we feel comes from our emotions. We get fired from our job and wonder how we are going to pay our bills…and we hurt. We wake up one day, go to work, and come home in the evening to find out that our husband or wife has left us a note saying that they aren’t coming back…and we hurt. We get the phone call that no parent ever wants to get…our child has had an accident and she has died…and we hurt. Or, someone we love more than life finds out that there is nothing the doctors can do and it brings us to our knees…and we hurt. I could go on and on painting the pictures for you of the experiences in life that we go through that cause us intense emotional and spiritual pain. Gabby’s mom, Trish, pointed out for us the blessings of being able to feel physical pain. “Pain teaches. Pain protects. Pain can save you from a lot of bad things in life.” The benefits that come from being able to feel physical pain are equally true of being able to feel emotional and spiritual pain.
Last week we began a series of studies which will lead us to the launch of a brand new ministry at Britton Christian Church in January—Celebrate Recovery. I mentioned to you last week that Celebrate Recovery is designed to minister to those who have hurts, hang ups, and habits. That would include all of us if we were to get honest with ourselves.
Last week I shared with you the 8 Principles, or 8 Choices, that guide all of those who are involved in the ministry of Celebrate Recovery. This week I want us to focus on the 2nd Principle:
2. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.
The Scripture that lays the foundation for this second choice is Matthew 5:5 from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5 NIV) The Greek word that is translated, “meek,” is the word, “?????” (praus) and it means, “gentleness of spirit, meekness, or power under control.” Oftentimes folks equate “meekness” with “weakness,” but nothing could be further from the truth. In Numbers 12:3 we read that Moses was a “humble,” or “meek,” man. Listen to this.
3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3 NIV)
Most translations of the Bible, including the NIV which I’ve just read to you, translate the word as “humble,” but the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures uses the same word that we find in Matthew 5:5. Now, I don’t know anyone who has ever seen Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments that would describe Moses as weak!
An even more convincing argument for refusing to equate “meekness” with “weakness” would be the life of Jesus. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus used the same Greek word to describe Himself when He said,
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)
Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” The word, “gentle,” is the same Greek word that we are looking at this morning in Matthew 5:5. Jesus is “meek,” not “weak.” The word, “meek,” really is a powerful word. It was sometimes used in biblical times to describe a wild stallion that was tamed and taught to be ridden. The stallion doesn’t lose any of its power, but it’s power is under control. It is power that is harnessed. Power that is under the direction of someone else. Jesus said, over and over again, that He had come to do His Father’s will. There was never a more powerful person than Jesus, but Jesus’ power was to do His Father’s will and nothing more.
The reason I’ve taken the time to share all of this with you is because our 2nd Principle makes it clear that for us to be able to overcome our hang ups, hurts, and habits we must relinquish control of our lives and consciously commit all of our life into Jesus’ care and control. We spoke last week about our desire to be God, to be in absolute control of our life. That’s not God’s will. God’s will for each of us is that we allow Him to lead us and guide us through this life. Our will is to chart our own course, to determine our own path, to do nothing other than what we want. I believe with all of my heart that pain is one of the tools that God can use to enable us to help us recognize our need to relinquish control to the Father. Pain is an alarm to alert us to the fact that something is wrong. Ultimately what is wrong is that we are in control.
A wise man once said, “We don’t change when we see the light, but when we feel the heat.” There is no greater illustration of this truth than a child and a stove. How many of you, when you were young, were told by your mom or dad, “Don’t touch the stove. It will burn you.” Our parents drilled that truth into our heads to try and protect us, but what did we do? We touched the stove. For most of us, it only took once. One time of touching the stove was enough to convince us that our parents were right.
That childhood lesson is still applicable in adulthood. God says, “Don’t do it. It will hurt you.” In 1 Samuel 8, God told the people of Israel who were asking for a King like all of the other nations, “Don’t do it. I will be your King.” What did they do? They insisted that they wanted a man to rule over them instead of God. What happened? Exactly what God said would happen. God had told His people over and over again not to serve the gods that other people served. Yet, what did His people do? They served the gods who they thought could make them happy, make them fulfilled, bring them prosperity, and show them a good time. How did that go? Well, it didn’t go well at all. Then, in Jeremiah’s day, we read where God spoke to His people. Listen to this.
15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me. (Jeremiah 35:15 NIV)
How are we any different than those who have gone before us? We aren’t. God says, “Don’t do it. Follow Me. Listen to Me.” But, what do we do? We go ahead and do it anyway. We turn a deaf ear to what He desires to teach us. The result is that “it” hurts.
Life is full of pain. Sometimes the pain is caused because of foolish decisions we make. There are other times that we suffer because of the foolish or evil decisions that others make that bring pain into our lives. Whether the pain you are experiencing has been caused by your decisions, the decisions of others, or it has just happened—the question this morning is, “What will you do with the pain?” We can either recognize the pain and turn to God for help, strength, and ask, “What is it that You are wanting to show me?” Or, we can pretend that the pain was a stroke of bad luck, somebody else’s fault, or we can adamantly state that God had nothing to do with the pain we’re experiencing. John Baker says,
If a fire alarm went off in your house, I don’t think you’d say, ‘Oh, there goes that stupid fire alarm again? Somebody throw a rock at it and make it stop.’ Hopefully, you would do something about it. you would call the fire department and get some help. But when our ‘pain alarm’ goes off, instead of dealing with the source of the pain, we often try to cover up the sound. We try to mute the noise with people, work, food, alcohol, sex, and many, many different things. If you ignore the alarm, your house could burn down. (Baker, John. Life’s Healing Choices. pg. 40)
I want to urge you, plead with you, to turn to the Lord in your pain and surrender your will into His care and control so that your pain doesn’t lead you to ruin. There is a lot of pain experienced because of the relationships that we have in life. Death, divorce, broken trust, selfishness, tension—all of these and many more descriptions of the problems we have with relationships could be put under the heading of “Brokenness.” Brokenness in our relationships causes deep, deep sorrow and pain for you and me. I know a couple whose marriage became rocky—like all marriages become rocky from time-to-time. She was convinced it was over. He pleaded with God to save his marriage. In the end, the marriage crumbled and he is still bitter to this day. Bitter at her because she walked away. Bitter at God because, from his perspective, God didn’t answer his prayers.
Then there are those who go through the pain of divorce who sense that bitterness and pain are not God’s desire for their future and they turn to Him. I had lunch this past week with Richard Sheffield Jr. He shared his remarkable story of pain, feeling lost, and then turning to the Lord. I’ve asked Richard if he would share with all of you how God used his pain to bring about change in his life. Won’t you welcome Richard.
I had a thought this past week while I was studying for this lesson. God made you and me with an innate need for relationships. We read in Genesis 2:18, that after God created Adam, He said,
18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18 NIV)
We are made for relationships and yet, apart from God’s counsel about how we are to relate to one another in life, we just can’t make them work in the way that we want them to, in the way that, in our hearts, we know they should. God desires for us to experience abundance in our relationships. He desires for us to experience unconditional love, peace, a sense of unity, and deep trust. He desires for our relationships to bless our lives as well as the lives of those with whom we relate. We can stay in a relationship without God, but we can’t experience the purpose and meaning that God created us for apart from His counsel and presence in our relationships. Does that make any sense to you? I’m talking about every kind of relationship we have in life—parent and child, husband and wife, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. As a matter of fact, it seems to me like the more intimate our relationship, the more dysfunctional our relationships can become.
What is the answer? Find another husband or wife? Go ahead and you will more than likely find some of the same problems present in your next marriage. Disown our children when the hurt becomes too great to bear any longer? Many do, but if you do then you will never experience God’s healing, reconciling power at work. Or, cut off all ties with your parents when the chaos and drama drives you to the brink of insanity? God didn’t say, “Honor your mother and father” when they are good parents. He said, “Honor your mother and father.”
One of the attitudes that is most prevalent in people is the attitude of bitterness. We’ve been hurt, not to mention that we’ve hurt other people. When we are hurt, if we don’t take our pain to the Lord, then that hurt will turn into bitterness. Apart from God’s counsel we have no protection against the root of hurt becoming the fruit of bitterness that scars every aspect of our lives. I said, “apart from God’s counsel.” For those who are in Christ, and who will commit their lives into the care and control of Jesus, then there is help. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews tells us.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV)
Don’t miss the grace of God and allow those hurts to put their roots down into your heart and produce the poisonous fruit of bitterness. Allow the grace of God to do its work so that when you are hurt you know not to allow your hurt to turn into bitterness. If you will take your hurt to Him then His grace will do its work in your life and you will experience forgiveness and not bitterness.
Sometimes our bitterness and anger is directed at other people, but there are other times, when we are disappointed with God, and the bitterness and anger is directed at God. Many years ago I met a man who had a young son. He told me the story about why he didn’t want anything to do with God. One Christmas the man, his wife, and their little boy were at Grandma’s house. After the presents were unwrapped the little boy wanted to go outside to play. Dad zipped his coat up, opened up the door, and told him he would be out in a minute. When dad went outside to check on his son he saw that he had tried to climb over the picket fence, the hood on his jacket had caught one of the pickets, and the little boy was dead. He said, “If God will let that happen then I don’t want anything to do with Him!”
Alongside of this story, let me share with you another story. I know a couple who lost a son when he was only 3 days old. Painful doesn’t even begin to describe the emotions that bombarded their hearts and minds. They were devastated. They loved the Lord, but they were lost in knowing how to deal with such deep grief. It took time; they wrestled with God, questioned God, but never gave up on God. Eventually the Lord led them out of their despair and today they are working at trying to help others walk with the Lord through their grief. Many of you have been helped by Lisa and Mike Curtis as you’ve carried your pain into their GriefShare Class.
One of the most powerful aspects of Celebrate Recovery is “community.” Those who come to recognize their need and commit themselves into the care and control of Jesus don’t do this alone—God has provided a caring community of broken people who are willing to walk with them. This truly is the call of the Body of Christ. We are to be there for one another. We need one another when we go through the painful experiences of life. When we make horrible decisions and our life unravels…we need our brothers and sisters in Christ. When others hurt us and we are so angry that our heads are about to explode…we need our brothers and sisters to come alongside of us. When things happen that are out of our control, the tragedies of life that bend us over in sorrow and pain…we need our brothers and sisters to sit with us in our pain. This is what we need, this is what God has called us to do, but I’m saddened to say that this is not always the case.
I was reading the testimony of a woman this past week who shared her heart breaking story. Her parents were leaders in their church. She had served as a youth worker, worked in several non-profits, been to seminary, and served as a missionary. She also has a brother who is an addict. I could sense her tears as she wrote about the missed opportunity of her church family in her family’s time of need. She wrote,
I have been told his addiction is my fault, my parent’s fault, Satan’s fault. I have been told I am simply not praying hard enough or I simply do not have enough faith. I have been told my life is too stressful for someone to be in community with me. I have been accused of being a bad youth worker since I couldn’t even keep my brother out of trouble. I have been told this is God’s plan for our family and if we just keep persevering, God’s glory will be known and it will all be worth it. I have been told that my suffering at my brother’s choice is simply “my cross to bear.” None of that was helpful. None of that was loving. None of it was the correct response. The holiest thing anyone has ever told me is “I am so very sorry” and meant it…Love requires patience and often patience requires the willingness to sit in the brokenness of humanity and groan along with it. (http://rachelheldevans.com/church-stories-addition)
We are the Body of Christ, not a conglomeration of individuals who love Jesus. We have so many shared experiences in this life, but the tie that unites us in all of these experiences is not our pain, but our Savior. Jesus knows about pain, He knows about your pain and my pain, but He knows much more than the fact that we all experience pain. He knows the purposes and the plan that God has for you and me and how He intends to use our pain to draw us to Him for hope, healing, and change. God can use our pain to bring about change, but for that to happen we must turn to Him.
How about you? Are you ready to admit your need for Jesus and commit your life into His care and control? Sounds pretty scary huh? To relinquish control of your life into the hands of another that you can’t even “see.” Fear keeps many people from ever handing over the reins to Jesus, but let me ask you, “How’s it going with you in control? How are you doing in managing your pain?” Not so good huh? You’re not alone. We weren’t equipped to be in control and neither are we equipped to be able to manage our pain, but He can, and even more than that, He will if only you will invite Him in. Won’t you do that right now?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114