On the surface there doesn’t seem to be…but we don’t live on the surface do we? And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God

Each morning between 7:30 and 9:00 I host the Personal Growth Program on CornerstoneChristianRadio.com  

Most of the time I try to keep the message upbeat, we play positive teaching from powerful teachers who generally talk into the areas of life where people need to grow. They don’t talk about pain too much though. It’s something I have avoided. 

However I am discovering that pain is not only something we all feel from time to time, it is also essential for our ultimate well being. 

That’s right, as much as I don’t enjoy the feeling; I am learning that pain is essential to both my physical and my spiritual life. I would like to share with you what pain has taught me over the last few weeks.  And how I believe it will ultimately help me to be better as a person and as a Christian pastor.

Most of us would like to live a pain free life and if I am honest I have for the most part.  I experienced some deep emotional pain when my younger brother died about 15 years ago. I had to stay strong at the time to  help other people through their pain and so I never really allowed myself to grieve. Other people didn’t seem to know what to say to me, even in church so they pretty much said nothing.

It was a couple of years later when Les, a wiser older man who had experienced similar heartbreak when he lost his wife asked my the question. Did anyone pray with you about it? Did anyone even talk to you? The answer was no and he knew it would be…People just don’t know how to handle it so they will cross the road rather that meet you face to face, he said. I am not sure that happened to me but I certainly knew where he was coming from. 

But apart from that, until a few weeks ago I had not really known much in the way of pain. Certainly I was not too familiar with physical pain. 

All that changed just before Christmas. Now I am going to tell you some of the bad things that have happened to me for a purpose. I am not looking for sympathy, nor am I looking for your help, although I would never turn a willing helper away.

I made a career decision a few months ago and it was not a good one. My income virtually disappeared overnight but my expenses did not change, actually they increased quite a bit. I have always done well in business and so bravado, macho, call it what you like, said come on, you will keep going and you will come through this like you always have. 

Well the situation was not getting better and I was not facing up to it until one day I sat in a prayer meeting and I noticed one half of my scalp and face were burning from the inside.  I didn’t pay too much attention, I asked the guys who were there at church to pray for me and went about my business for the next few days verbally rebuking the pain. Only it wasn’t going anywhere. In fact there were occasions during the day when it felt like a knitting needle was stabbing me in the eye. When I touched my eyebrow a hot searing pain shot up my forehead. The next day, four or five days too late I visited the doctor. A rash had appeared by now on my forehead and he immediately diagnosed Shingles. I had heard of it but I had no idea anything could hurt so much. All through Christmas the pain got no better. The antibiotics made no positive difference but they attacked my immune system so I got a cold and a cough to add to the issues. 

And at the root of it all was the stress caused by the bad business decision I had made a few months earlier  I thought it was good decision because it meant I could work just 12 days a month and that would free up the rest of the time to work in the church and on the radio program. It may even turn out to be a good decision but the time allowed to adapt was not enough.

Anyway lets get to the point…what can the pain teach me and what can you learn from it so you don’t make any similar hasty decisions. 

There are good reasons why we feel pain. Actually it is the one thing that has ensured our survival as a species. Pain is actually essential to life.

Without  the pain we might miss the fact that there’s something wrong in our body or in our mind. The pain is an early warning mechanism to prevent us doing ourselves further harm. We don’t like pain so it moves us to quickly find its cause and deal with it…or if a wild beast is about to arrive on the scene and we know those claws and teeth will mean great pain we somehow find the ability to run faster or think quicker. 

Finding the Purpose in Your Pain

Now I did not like it and it still hurts as I write but I am beginning to recognise that it will be a blessing rather than the curse it currently feels like.  Whilst it would have been better avoided and in fact I could have avoided it I must now take corrective action to avoid more pain and suffering. 

I have always said we must have the wisdom to make the right decisions in life to ensure that we have an abundant and comfortable life. But let’s face it, we all make mistakes.  Mistakes are a normal part of life, pain is a normal part of life too, and there must be no distinction made, certainly no stigma attached to emotional pain as opposed to physical pain. 

No matter how much we would prefer to avoid pain, it will happen from time to time.  As long as we live in this body pain will be there to remind us that we are mere mortals.

As Christians we like to think we are immune to pain and suffering and that Jesus will answer our prayers and heal our pain every time. Now don’t misunderstand me, I have certainly seen many miraculous healings and I believe God always answers our prayers but not always in the way we would like.

If pain is part of the Creators plan to keep us safe and whole why would he take it away if we are doing something that will be to our own hurt later on?

If you recognise this and realise your pain and suffering have a purpose. You are not suffering in vain anymore. 

Whilst some people allow their pain to make them miserable, depressed, and sad because they have failed to accept it is a normal part of life I made a decision to be happy over the Christmas period. I was so blessed by the visits of my grown up children and their partners who we were able to spend so much time with. The physical pain didn’t diminish but the joy increased more. 

James wrote in his letter to the twelve tribes of Israel 

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Now I did pray for healing, and I did ask God to take the pain away and those things have still not happened. Does that mean I will not pray in the future, or that I will to pray for anyone else in case they are disappointed? 

Absolutely not! God has not yet taken away the pain or the virus that is causing it but I am not yet dead either. He has given my victory in the pain, over the pain, through the pain. 

The natural response to trials like this is to self-pity, to be downcast, and some may even curse God.

But we count it all joy when trials afflict us because, as James said, it tests our faith and when we pass this test, it produces patience and patience will have its perfect work and make us complete.

Have I even felt the degree of pain that some people have?  

Have you seen the movie ‘Unbroken’? It’s about a survivor of the Japanese POW camps, in fact he survived a shipwreck and then many weeks lost at sea in a dingy with no food and only the occasional drink of rainwater before thinking he had been rescued at last. The greatest elation turned into the most horrendous disappointment when he was sent to the work camps and then singled out for years of special personal treatment from one particular camp commander.

It’s even painful to watch this true story but I do recommend it to you. Louis Zamperini is one of the finest examples I have ever seen that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

Mohammed Ali used to say of himself ‘I am the Greatest’. I am not sure about that but he certainly was one of the best boxers in history at the time. However great a man may be his glory is very temporary but there is still a lot for us to learn from people who have been to the very top of their profession. When he was asked how he trained, he said, “I don’t count all my sit-ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that matter.”

So What is Next For Me…and Maybe For You Too.

First we must decide NEVER to use pain and suffering as an excuse to quit on our goals or to compromise our beliefs and principles. 

As long as we live, there will be pain in our lives. You cant expect a perfect and painless life. But my response, your response to that pain will make all the difference if we are to attain to our ultimate goal. To fulfil our life’s purpose.

OK the path we chose might have been the wrong one but the decision to go in the first place was not wrong, the ultimate goal has not changed. Let’s retrace our steps to where we left the right path and we will catch up to where we should have been pretty soon, stronger and wiser for the diversion.

Suffering will not destroy us, but instead make us stronger and develop a godly character within us. 

Always remember to say, “This too shall pass”

Thats what I am saying right now as I write these final words. If you live near Wigan visit us any Sunday Morning at 10:00 at Cornerstone Family Church, The Bethel, Atherton Road, Hindley Green or if its nearer for you Cornerstone Family Church, Cooke Street, Bryn. If I am not there introduce yourself to someone and say Pastor Rob sent you and they will be sure to look after you.

If you live anywhere else in the world you can tune in to my program on CornerstoneChristianRadio.com between 7:30 and 9:00 GMT Monday to Friday mornings. We currently have over 4 million listeners in 58 countries.