I don’t know about you, but I am ready for warmer weather. Why, you might ask? Indulge me while I provide a few details before I get to the point.
In January, I went to Paraguay with a retired missionary. The trip was fantastic and the weather warm. The day we flew home, we landed in Grand Island, but the night before, Mother Nature had delivered a wintry mix. The missionary’s wife picked us up at the airport, but she fell on the ice prior to getting us. She fractured one of her vertebra and needed surgery.
As they drove home from the hospital, they planned to stop by the church to see me, but when they arrived, I was not at the church because I was home moaning in pain. I too had fallen on the ice. I was taken to the hospital by the amazing Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Department. I found out I had five broken ribs. I then spent four days in the hospital.
I confess that the conversations with God in the hospital were not all positive ones. Why would God allow two people connected with such a positive missions trip to experience so much pain? These out-of-control negative thoughts are what I call “stinking thinking.” Maybe you can relate. Maybe even your diagnosis or the pain is much worse than five broken ribs. Maybe it’s emotional pain, or relational pain and not physical pain.
I was extremely confident of two things before these two accidents happened. God is good. God is Sovereign. Now I had to reconcile these two biblical truths in my own mind.
I do not know the answer fully, of course, and God is not obligated to give me an answer, but often He graciously does. In my case, I did receive a partial response from the Lord a couple weeks into my healing. I can’t go into all the details, but God used my pain to bring about healing in the lives of others in a way that would not have been accomplished without my going through pain.
Here is the point: Pain is never wasted for those who are faithful to God. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (ESV).
Let me share one more reminder about our present suffering from the Apostle Paul. We need reminders that this life is not all there is. This life is temporary, as Paul said in Romans 8:18-25. That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.
But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. (Peterson, The Message). It’s not here yet, but springtime is coming. For those who have trusted Christ, a glorious springtime awaits.
The Rev. Chris Boucher is pastor of Pleasanton Evangelical Free Church.