Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Do Christians Experience So Much Pain?

Why do Christians experience so much pain? Isn't being a believer in God supposed to afford you some sort of protection from all the bad experiences of life? God loves us, right? So shouldn't that mean we experience more of His blessings than His trials and tribulations?

Many Christians puzzle over why they experience so much pain in their lives. I know when I was a 'baby' Christian, I thought being saved meant an end to pain and misery and a life of understanding, transcendent joy, wisdom and knowledge. Boy, was I wrong! It's probably true to say I went through more pain in adjusting to the Christian life and learning some hard-won lessons than when I had been 'out in the world' and supposedly enjoying myself.

So why do Christians experience so much pain? Well, we know the conventional wisdom that our trials come to make us stronger. And this is true. We are promised in 1 Peter 5:10 that after we have suffered a little while, God would strengthen, establish and settle us. We can also learn from the way God treated the Israelites. In Isaiah 48:10, God talks about how He refined the Israelites like silver, using affliction as His 'furnace'. And why did He feel the need to refine the Israelites with affliction? Because they had constantly disobeyed Him and tried to refute His laws and live the way they chose to instead. They were headstrong and stubborn. Disobedient and arrogant.

Much like we are. We come to God fully expecting to receive His love - which He freely gives us - but never expecting to have to give up our arrogance, stubbornness, disobedience and sin. We have been taught so often that God is love, we forget that He is also a God of accountability, sanctification and responsibility. Truly, we expect a free pass on everything, knowing that if we turn to God, He will forgive us everything.

But we must be 'afflicted' with trials and tribulations in order to learn some very important lessons with God. We have to learn to be 'refined' until our pride and sin are burned away. Until there is less and less of 'us' and much, much more of God.

It is a very hard lesson to learn.

And why do our trials seem to last for so long? Because some lessons you don't learn in the first hour, the first day or the first year of your tribulation. Some lessons you only learn when you've gone beyond your ability to bear your burdens and you finally - finally! - turn to God and give Him complete control of your life. Sometimes you don't get to a place of complete submission and yielding until you've done absolutely all you can and finally - finally! - realize that your efforts are futile and that, without God, you are nothing. And that's when the trial is over.

And then you can begin to fully experience His peace, His Love and His open-handed, free giving of Himself and His Blessings to you.

(I am in no way suggesting that every time you go through a trial, it is because you have a lesson to learn, but many times when you go through, it is for that very reason.)

And here is the biggest insight to the scripture from Isaiah 48:10. God tells the Israelites that He used affliction as His furnace so as to separate the bad from the good in their spiritual lives (much as the dross (or impurities) are separated when silver is refined). BUT - Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible gives us even greater insight. This commentary tells us that:

It was to refine them, but not as silver, or with silver, not so thoroughly as men refine their silver, which they continue in the furnace till all the dross is separated from it; if God should take that course with them, they would be always in the furnace, for they are all dross, and, as such, might justly be put away (Psa_119:119) as reprobate silver, Jer_6:30. He therefore takes them as they are, refined in part only, and not thoroughly. “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction, that is, I have made thee a choice one by the good which the affliction has done thee, and then designed thee for great things.”

In other words, if God allowed us to go through the amount of affliction necessary to TRULY refine us, we'd never be free from our trials and tribulations! In His great mercy, He CHOOSES to accept us as we are - only partially refined - and continues to love and work with us ANYWAY.

So the next time you are feeling morally superior, remember - though you've been through a lot and feel like you have accomplished a lot spiritually - you are still only partially refined in God's eyes. It is out of His great love that He blesses us at all, so be more grateful for what you have rather than focusing on the very necessary trials and tribulations that we all have to face as Christians.

So why do Christians experience so much pain? Because it is both necessary and essential to becoming the type of Christians we need to be. Because, really, isn't the purpose to serve Him? And, instead of feeling bad about the length and number of trials that we experience, we should instead choose to feel gratitude that God accepts us as we are - partially refined, but wholly His. Which means unending Love, prosperity, blessings and all the good stuff. But know and accept that you WILL go through trials and tribulations. Your job now is simply to have the best attitude about them of which you are capable.

Be Blessed :)