Philosophy of Pain

Pain is a difficult issue to consider. Nobody wants to experience it and for the most part we don’t want to think about it, either. But pain is a part of life and I suspect it is an important part of God’s good interactions with humanity. If you didn’t hear me right the first time, let me emphasize that. I suspect pain is a tool of God, with good purposes, rather than merely a byproduct of the fall.

Think for a minute about the ways that pain affects you. A minor pain will draw one’s attention to things they otherwise might not notice. A minor pain on my nose allowed me to notice and have a skin cancer removed before it became a bigger problem. An intermediate pain will prompt a change of behavior, such as the proverbial child touching the stove. A severe pain will cause one to seek immediate help. And the most severe pains will shut down all other activities while the body heals.

Likely, many of us tend to think of pain only in its negative context. I understand that since the most obvious aspect of pain is that it hurts! But, if we only think of pain as a negative, we will miss one of the ways God is leading us forward. In the process of leading us toward maturity He will need to evoke every level of response listed above during the course of our lives. This is one of the many ways that God works for good whatever the devil intends for evil.

So as you move forward look at your pain as an opportunity. It might be calling your attention to a small problem before it becomes a big problem. It might be reshaping your patterns into more Christ-like behavior. It might be signaling the need to seek help from other believers. Or it might be motivating a time of retreat where you can spend time alone with God.

So what do you think about pain?

The Unexpected Strain of Spiritual Growth

We have some strong misconceptions about what it means to grow spiritually. We expect it to be an intellectual experience, like memorizing Scripture. Or maybe we expect it be a mystical experience, like feeling God’s touch at a critical moment. We almost certainly expect it to be coupled with an emotional experience, specifically a positive emotional experience.

Unfortunately, these expectations will largely be unmet because spiritual growth is not just about what you know, or about our supernatural connection with God. Spiritual growth is mostly about character.

So what does God do to shape our character?

He puts us under pressure. He sends us into conflicts. He allows us to experience stress. He might even allow us to find some temptation.

Moving through these things will allow us to grow. Better be prepared for some pain along the way though. Sometimes it’s the kind of pain we feel when we are chastised. Other times it’s the pain of being betrayed by friends. It could also be the pain of knowing you failed someone you cared about.

I tell you all of this to give you this advice. Don’t despise the process of spiritual growth by avoiding pain. Don’t pray them away. Don’t switch to a church with less issues. Don’t write off people who challenge you. All of these things are likely to be a part of God’s plan to grow you.