Distinguished through pain, not defined by it (Part One)
“The direction we choose will determine if our lives will take on the identity of pain or become distinguished by the fruitfulness that can come through pain.”
Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain! So God granted him what he requested.” 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV
Reading through the genealogies in 1 Chronicles we find the very short story of Jabez. It’s possible that his mother experienced an extraordinarily painful birth and though we don’t know the details, it was enough to give her child a name that means “pain” or “to cause pain.” What really set’s Jabez apart is the fact that he prays, God grants him his request, and he is remembered as “more honorable than his brothers” and not as one that causes pain.
A painful life circumstance will attempt to define you and shape your legacy, but the proper response to pain will write a life story of honor.
- THE FIRST TIME PAIN COMES INTO EXISTENCE: Everything in the garden of Eden is beautiful as Adam and Eve enjoy perfect, unbroken, communion with God. They only know the “Good” and are to live for eternity in this perfect paradise. Then one day the woman eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and everything changes, sin has been admitted into the picture. From the moment that sin stepped onto the scene – eternal perfection became riddled with pain, suffering, and degeneration. Man would now produce sustenance through toil and extreme physical exertion. The woman would now produce children through sorrow and pain. From this point, all of creation is subjected to suffering, not willingly but because of sin.
- PAIN IS NOT INTENDED TO LAST FOR ETERNITY: Adam and Eve are put out of the garden and not permitted to re-enter. At first glance it seems as if God has forsaken them, however, look a little closer and notice the grace and mercy of God that is on grand display! Genesis 3:22 says, “What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” Here is my interpretation of this verse: “In all My grace and mercy the curse of sin along with the pain and suffering it brings will not last forever. I have a plan to restore mankind and make all things new once again. Therefore, I must ensure they cannot eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in suffering.” It seems that God was making a way for Adam and Eve to escape eternal suffering.
After sin, all of creation was subjected to pain but it was subjected in HOPE for the future! Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
- THERE IS NO INDICATION THAT WE CAN ESCAPE THE EFFECTS OF SIN UNTIL CHRIST RETURNS AND MAKES ALL THINGS PERFECT: In John chapter 17 Jesus prays for his disciples. He does not pray for them to escape this world but simply that they would be protected from the evil one. Scripture makes it very clear that there will be trouble and suffering in this world and our own experiences have taught us that we cannot “pain proof” our lives. However, through Christ, we have divine and supernatural help along with an eternal hope set before us. Revelation chapter 21 states that when Christ returns and all things are restored, that He will wipe away every tear, there will be no more pain, death, or mourning.
“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
- EVERYONE EXPERIENCES PAIN AND SUFFERING, YOU ARE NOT ALONE: It’s easy to begin feeling as if we are completely alone in the midst of life’s trials, we simply can’t imagine that anyone else understands the pain we are experiencing. 1 Peter chapter 5 says, “Be self-controlled, be watchful – the adversary walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: resist him and move forward in your faith knowing the same sufferings are experienced by your brothers and sisters…”
Loneliness goes beyond the sense of being alone and into the feeling that NO ONE CARES. Some scientific studies have linked loneliness to physical sickness and even death. Could this be why the verse above links these two facts? (A)while the adversary is seeking to devour (to kill, steal and destroy) (B) we must remember that WE ARE NOT ALONE in our trials! This truth must resound in our mind: God sets the lonely in families and He promises to never leave or forsake us. (Psalm 68:6, Deuteronomy 31:6)
The squeeze of pain has a way of revealing the depth of our belief system. Our thoughts and words will expose the places in our lives where faith has not yet taken root. We find ourselves standing at this juncture where pain and faith have met, suffering and hope have met, toiling and trust have met! The direction we choose will determine if our lives will take on the identity of pain or become distinguished by the fruitfulness that can come through pain.
Distinguished through pain, not defined by it (Part Two)
You’ve just crushed a workout at the gym, and the very next morning you are rewarded with achy and stiff muscles. It turns out that this pain is an indication that you have begun the process of building muscles. The same is true with our “faith muscles,” pain can often reveal where our spiritually weak places are. In this post, we are going to discuss what it looks like to allow pain and suffering to produce something good in our life.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ~ C.S. Lewis
You can probably relate to the fact that pain has a way of grabbing our attention. However, allowing the Grace of God to work in us, through our circumstance, will produce a beautiful harvest on the other end of suffering.
- “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NIV
I am going to share 3 key points, from the story of Jabez (see Part 1), that reveal great insight on how we can respond to pain and it’s endeavor to identify us.
- “BLESS ME” – IT CAN MAKE YOU BITTER OR BETTER: One of my many joys in life is taking care of my small summer garden. I often find myself pulling weeds and asking God to bless it at the same time. Imagine if instead of pulling weeds, watering the plants, and pruning where needed, I simply stood in my house asked God to bless my garden? Every day I peer through the window and find that weeds have taken over and nothing is growing.
Even after sin entered the world the ground would still produce, the difference was that Adam would now have to put a little work into pulling out what did not belong.
When Jabez said, “Oh, that you would bless me…” he was saying, don’t leave me as I am, or don’t leave me in pain and causing pain. Rest assured that God hears the heart that is crying out, and takes notice of every tear that is shed during our difficult circumstances. We must also pay close attention to what God is revealing about our faith during these times. Pain has a way of uncovering the weakest part of our belief system and this is where the work of “weed pulling” and “pruning” takes place.
Ask God to bless you and be willing to work the ground of pain until you find freedom from insecurity, fear, anxiety, offense, and wrath, which will keep you from producing the fruit of the Spirit.
ENLARGE MY TERRITORY: Not only, will I ask God to bless me in my pain, but also that this situation would position me in a place to take territory for the Kingdom of God. Queen Esther had suffered the pain of losing her family (becoming an orphan) and was then taken against her will (given to a King). However, all of these circumstances positioned her in the King’s house to take territory for her people.
Where will your circumstance take you? There is a territory waiting to experience the Goodness of God, to be blessed from the abundance of your blessings. The question is, will we allow our pain to move us forward into new territories?
KEEP ME FROM EVIL: There is a saying, “Hurting people, hurt people,” and if we are not careful we will find ourselves slipping into the trap of repaying evil for evil. In the book of Genesis Joseph had the perfect opportunity to take revenge on his brothers but instead, he says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
We may not be plotting a plan of revenge for those who have done wrong to us but we might find ourselves responding to life with defense mechanisms that are hurting those around us. These are emotional walls that we put up, intended to keep people from getting too close. Our fear is that they will inflict more pain, meanwhile the unwillingness to become vulnerable is causing pain to those we love the most.
It’s important to remember that though we experience evil, we have been given the power to overcome it. When sin knocked on the door of Cain’s heart, God simply told him to “choose good” and all would be well. 1 Corinthians chapter 10 tells us that when we are tempted by an evil that Christ made a way of escape, through Him we can “choose good” and trust that everything will work out for the good.
Work the ground of pain and suffering until it brings forth life! We are indeed subjected to the troubles of this world but never without Hope. Through prayer, we find the revelation that God can and will work all things out for Good. He is a Good God and we can (and shall) trust Him to be in control, knowing that His ways are right and everlasting. ~Nicole McLeod