PLYMOUTH, MI – Those of you who know me on a personal level are well aware of my amazing ability to frequently cause serious injuries to my body. To be honest, I am quite the klutz. No matter how careful and watchful I might be, it seems as though I have a very consistent propensity to cut, scrape, bang, and forcibly do severe damage to the temple in which I reside. Temple is an appropriate description of my body; it just has a marked resemblance to the fallen Greek temples of Rome, mere heaps of semi-recognizable rubble. Oh, how age has a way of doing that.
Over the years I have drilled holes in my legs and hands, fallen from buildings, severed fingers, and have pounded each of my digits with a hammer more times than I care to remember. I have required enough stitches, casts and bandages to supply the local hospital emergency room. Each time I bring harm to myself because of carelessness or my lack of focus or attention, I am reminded in a very acute way that there are consequences to my actions. It hurts! It hurts a lot!
Now if I had my way I would probably just do away with pain altogether, but the truth is that would be a horrible mistake. Pain has a purpose, and it is a divine purpose. Without pain in our lives, it is doubtful that the human race would even exist.
Several years ago I read a book by Dr. Phillip Yancey that gave me some wonderful insight into the human body, and its analogous relation to the church. In that book he described how he had worked with those in developing countries who had been infected with leprosy. Through his medical training and Christian compassion, he was able to help ease the suffering of thousands and bring the Light of hope to their lives.
I had always thought that leprosy was a disease that somehow “ate away” the flesh of the individual much like a cancer, but upon reading his book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, I discovered that was not true. The fact of the matter is that leprosy destroys the nerves in the appendages, and thus causes the individual to lose the ability of tactile sensation. They lose the ability to feel. They no longer have the ability to sense pain.
Some may be thinking right now, “that’s a good thing,” but it is not. The ability to sense and know pain is a wonderful gift from God. Those with leprosy don’t have their appendages eaten away, they are damaged and rubbed away because they have lost the ability to know when they hurt and the healing process is interrupted. Now there are other factors that come into play, but that is the basic reason for their loss of limbs and suffering.
Just as our bodies need pain to help us perpetuate and protect us physically, so do we need emotional, mental, and spiritual pain to help us become who God wants us to be.
I agree with Rick Warren as he shares in his book, The Purpose Driven Life about troubles and pain. “Now it doesn’t matter if things go great in your life. It doesn’t take any faith, it doesn’t take any character. So God has to bring some things along in our life to stretch us, to cause us to grow, and these are called troubles or trials. God wants to build character in you.” What he is saying is that God uses pain to make us more like Him. He uses trials and troubles to conform us to His image.
The CoronaVirus pandemic is bringing a great deal of pain into every facet of our lives. Whether or not we are infected with the virus, it will no doubt affect us all, and in doing so will cause and continue to cause great pain for a long time. There will be emotional pain, physical pain, spiritual pain, financial pain, and many other kinds of pain.
Most of us would rather have a trouble and pain free life, but without pain our lives would become unrecognizable forms, only slightly resembling the image He intends for us to be. We should thank God that He cares enough for us that He would allow us the ability to experience pain.
I still don’t like pain, but it has taught me a great deal. The emotional and spiritual pain that I have known has helped me to not only be more like Him, but has given me great insight into my true nature. I have also learned that the pointy end of a screwdriver works best in the head of a screw and not in my hand.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 5:3-4 – And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.