Sunday, December 8, 2019

no pain, no gain

Simone Weil once said: “There are two things that pierce the human heart.  One is beauty.  The other is affliction.”  If you are like me, you are ready, willing, and able to sign up for the beauty part right here and right now, but not so sure you are up for the affliction part.  I mean, what kind of person would wish, or welcome, pain upon themselves, right?

Somehow we need to get over the notion that pain is some kind of cosmic accident that is always bad and should be avoided at all costs.  This way of thinking hinders our growth and maturity in significant ways, because pain always has intent.  God subjected us to this kind of a life in order that we might be liberated from bondage to decay and be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)  Pain has purpose.  Somehow it is through affliction that we come to know real love, and it is through bondage that we come to know true freedom.  God uses our pain and sadness to deepen and widen us, so that we might be able to receive even more of him.  Thus, avoiding pain is avoiding God, and embracing pain is embracing what God is trying to do in and then through us.

The crazy thing is that God actually uses our pain and our unmet longing to arouse and expand us within.  Just listen to the words of Eugene Peterson: “All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it is not only around us; it is 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 it diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” (Romans 8:22-25, The Message

So help us, O God, to stop running.  Give us the grace and the courage to stop trying to avoid and escape pain and suffering and brokenness at every opportunity.  Help us to actually embrace it, so that we will receive the gifts that it has to offer—becoming more like you in the process.

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