Make It Stop!
Hebrews 12:6,11 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves… For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
When I encounter pain, I pray for God to stop that pain. James, brother of Jesus, throws a wrench into my thinking, writing that I should see my pain as an opportunity for God to work in my life. He says that God uses my discomfort to shape me into that which He wants me to be (James 1).
Unfortunately, I know this to be true experientially. I have learned and grown the most during the worst times of my life. It has been in my greatest discomfort that I have been the most desperate for God. We all need God, but it seems to be a tragic reality that we only see that need through our pain. When we are fat and happy, we often do not grow and we do not seek God. It is through our pain that God gets our attention.
This of course, begs the question, Is all pain discipline? When I sow the seeds of my flesh, causing my own destruction, it is easy to see my pain as God’s hand of discipline. It is much more difficult to know how to comprehend the sufferings of life that are apparently disconnected from any bad behavior. When a child gets cancer, is God causing that cancer to teach someone a lesson?
I certainly do not have the answer to why God allows or causes every pain. In our pain, many will offer helpful ideas on why God has allowed our misery. My focus here however, is less on the why and more on what my response to pain is supposed to be.
From that perspective, I am not sure it makes any difference if my pain is connected to some obvious bad behavior or not. I do not know that it matters if I see pain as a discipline or if I just see it as an opportunity for God to work in my life. My response to pain is to be the same either way. I am to look to God and ask him what He wants to do with me. Instead of first praying for the pain to be removed, I am to pray for his will to be done in me.
This is not easy and it is not natural. It is in my nature to beg God for deliverance, to be angry with God, to run from God. Those however, are all self-centered responses. As in all else in life, it is a constant challenge to keep my eyes off of self and focused on God. In my pain, I am to look to God, asking what He would do with me and praying for his will to be done. This is a brutally difficult prayer, but it is, I think, the right one.