Purpose in Pain

“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:1-3

I like trying to state truth in beautiful, memorable ways. With the right words in the right order, a point can stick in the mind and heart of the reader, so I try to discover those particular phrasings. But there are many times that I simply can’t improve on the way things are written. I think this passage in Hosea 6 is one such instance. I love this picture, and I want to write about it, but I can’t improve on its imagery. I simply lift up the text and point to its truth.

C. S. Lewis’ words have a similar effect on me. Lewis wrote on this interesting paradox, that pain and suffering are tools used by God for our good and for his glory, in his book The Problem of Pain. There, he describes pain as God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (C. S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics (HarperOne, page 604). He writes,

No doubt Pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.
C. S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain, page 605.

He writes on, and points out that God’s use of pain shatters the illusion that our joy and peace and satisfaction can lie anywhere else apart from God (606). The beauty of Lewis’ point is that it shows God’s complete sovereignty over pain and suffering. The hurts, the disappointments, and the tragedies of this life all reveal the inability of creation to fulfill us, to satisfy our souls. Though there is much good in creation, creation itself was never intended to be the end, but only the arrow pointing to the Maker, who alone can make us whole.

I love Hosea 6 because it points to this great truth, and I love C. S. Lewis’ words because they echo Scripture’s chorus. Pain, as life-altering as it can be, is not beyond the bounds of God’s power and love. And God can use any pain, small or large.

For instance, I was in a bit of a car accident this morning. As I was coming around a turn on the interstate, there was what looked like a metal ladder lying across my lane. I didn’t have time to avoid it, and it demolished the left rear wheel on the car. Thankfully, there doesn’t appear to be any more damage than that, so everything should be good to go later this week after a replacement rim and tire arrive. Though startling, this situation is really more of a frustration than a tragedy; the pain is easy to classify as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17). But I know another guy whose car completely broke down last week, adding considerable trouble to his life. His pain is a bit harder to grapple with. Then there are those who are facing financial difficulties, or those recently diagnosed with serious illness, or those struggling to find the help they so desperately need, or those with crushed dreams or unfulfilled expectations, or those who can’t see a way out of the darkness, or those pushed and pulled around by life’s circumstances, or those just fighting to survive – each and every one faces different degrees of pain and suffering, different forms of the effects of sin in the world. And yet, God is still on the throne (Psalm 11:4). And yet, God hears the cries of his people (Psalm 10:17-18). And yet, nothing can separate us, those redeemed by the blood of Jesus, from his perfect love (Romans 8:31-39). And yet, God causes all things to work for good (Romans 8:28). And yet…

As Hosea noted, pain does not mean God has abandoned us; pain is an invitation to know the Lord better. Pain, for all its attempts at destruction, is ultimately only a blessing to the sons and daughters of God, for God is strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God is good. God is good. Trust him.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

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