Monday, July 11, 2011

Coming to Accept

I'd like to think over the last year I have begun to accept my pain better. I don't cry every day or complain non-stop (at least I don't think I do), and most days I try to live the life I've been given as best I can.  I have a lot of limitations and I live in pain every day, but sometimes, the hardest thing I struggle with is the self-pity, discontentment, worry, and frustration.  Even if I live with chronic pain for the rest of my life, I don't believe I will ever fully accept it, without feeling self-pity or worry from time to time, and that's because I am a sinner. I fall so short of God and even though I don't like to admit it, deep down I often think I know better than God.

No amount of trying to "think on the bright side", telling myself not worry, deep relaxation, or pain medication will help me really accept my condition. But rather it is only by God's grace, knowing the One who is in control of all things, and putting my hope in Him. Some say theology (the study of God) is not important and avoid it because it can be divisive, but studying God and His sovereignty, or control, over suffering in the Bible gives me great hope and helps me come to accept (on most days) my suffering. This verse has been particularly helpful to me:

"that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things." (Isaiah 45:6-7)

Most of us think of calamity (or evil, as some translations put it) as being bad, right? Then how can a good God create something "bad" (side note: I am not talking about sin here, God did not create sin)? Let me ask you another question, "shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10)

Websters defines calamity as a state of deep distress or misery caused by a major misfortune or loss. I have often felt like my pain is a has caused me deep distress and loss. But this is looking through my human eyes. God sees the past, present, and future and how an illness, a woman's rape, the death of a child, a barren woman, or a devastating earthquake fit into His perfect plan. And while suffering can be considered a calamity to us, God sees the big picture and can call it good because it is His means to a beautiful end. God is working all things for our (those He has called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28) good and His glory.

A horrible rape may be the means God uses to bring a woman to the Lord. A couples' loss of a child may help them understand grief and suffering so they can encourage and comfort others in their distress (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). A debilitating painful disease may cause us to long for Jesus like we never would have otherwise and realize that this "tent" is not our home, 2 Corinthians 5:1-9). A woman's barrenness may cause her to find her delight in the Lord alone and not her children. A devastating earthquake might open the gospel to spread to a lost nation. It's not that bad things just happen, or that Satan is the direct cause of all bad things apart from God's hand--if that were true then Satan would be more powerful than God.  It's not that God reacts to suffering to somehow make "something beautiful" out of a messy situation. My pain is not some "fluke" (although it is a mystery to many doctors) that happened in my life apart from God's plan. He was not surprised by it, but rather this IS His good plan for my life (at least right now) and I can rest in that. 

Understanding that God's plan for my life cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2) and believing that God is orchestrating all the events of my life for His glory, as Isaish 45:6 tells us, have helped me see that my pain has a purpose. And I pray that each day I would say with the psalmist, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word. It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes." (Psalm 119:67, 71)

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