2 Corinthians 12:7-10
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It’s here in the passage that second Paul reminds us that:
- Pain has a purpose.
Now this point of theology is really tough because there is a fine line here that we need to be careful not to cross, lest we cause even more pain to someone who is suffering. We must never glibly explain someone’s pain as a work of God. Not only is it not wise to tell someone in pain that God “won’t give them more than they can bear” but it is also not biblical. Because that passage in 1 Corinthians 10:13, is clearly dealing with avoiding temptation, not overcoming pain. Instead, this idea that pain has a purpose is best used as a self-study. Instead of trying to provide purpose to everyone else’s pain we should look at this passage first for our own personal pain. It is in these seasons of suffering that we discover at least part of the purpose for our pain. Pain can provide a path to maturity found through no other process. These are lessons that can only be learned through the school of suffering, and only the student enrolled there is allowed to make the discovery. As we look at this passage Paul concluded for himself that his “thorn” was meant to keep him from becoming conceited about his miraculous life and ministry. As we look at Paul’s pain we discover some positive purposes, for instance in Philippi, Paul and Silas were beaten publicly and then put in prison. Yet instead of pouting they chose to praise and that night the jailer was saved. Out of their suffering came salvation, which begs a difficult question, am I willing to endure hardship so that others can hear the hope of the Gospel? While Paul experienced the pain of prison the jailer experienced the Prince of peace. Do I care more about a problem free life or proclaiming the giver of life? Out of their suffering a seed was planted and the story of salvation spread. But like Paul in the midst of our pain most of us struggle to see any purpose, because pain has a way of clouding the vision of pain’s purpose. In the midst of the suffering, it is extremely difficult to find the purpose of our pain, and even more challenging to celebrate that purpose. Unless, of course, faith plays a role, and we chose to look at pain though the lens of faith and not just our feelings. Pain can provide a platform for accelerated growth that nothing else can rival. Most of our growth comes in the groaning times not in the good times. The problem is that we want to grow we just don’t want the groaning. It takes a tenacious faith to pray to a God who allows the suffering and say, “God, I don’t know the purpose of this pain, but I trust the person behind the purpose.” There are no guarantees for any of us, we are not promised a pain free life or even a clear understanding of the purpose of our pain. But pain can be profitable and instead of running from God in the midst of our hurts we need to run to Him. If you are in a season of suffering and there seems to be no end in sight instead of blaming God and running from Him start believing and resting in Him. Because only God has the ability to bring power out of our pain.