Dear Fellow Young Minister,
Remember when you were in your earlier teens and you suddenly started getting this super weird sensation in your lower back? Maybe your hamstrings, too? It’s not a Charlie Horse; we’re not dealing with devils today. But, not everyone gets it at the exact same time during their adolescence. Some, in fact, barely get it at all.
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about growth spurts. You got yours sooner than I got mine. But why are they so uncomfortable? I believe it boils down to the pain that is associated with growth. You’re wiggling in your seat almost all day long trying to get the pain to become comfortable and massage your back and legs when you get a chance, but it just won’t go away. It almost seems as if the thought of, “Woah. I’m actually growing”, is NOWHERE to be found. And why the BACK AND LEGS? The largest muscle groups on the whole body! Couldn’t it have been a little more subtle?
Fortunately, the growth DOES happen in our largest muscle groups aside from others. If it doesn’t, we would look very unusual and maybe like an inverted T-Rex. I would aspire to have ears to hear this sort of illustration in a spiritual context when I think about growth, in the present and future. I’m writing to you today concerning the best friend and worst enemy of growth.
I want to challenge you to think of most, if not all, the situations that challenged your faith, patience, expectation, attitude, consistency, and passion. I believe you could identify pain as one of the biggest opposing forces in that process. Whether it was pain on your reputation, pain in your character, pain in your emotions, pain from rejection, physical pain, pain in your ego, pain in your family, or pain in your relationships. Pain.
When I reflect on the times that produced the most illumination from God’s Spirit, it was when the times were darkest. The principle is very simple. Although, I have sadly observed in others’ lives, as well as my own, that the strongest temptations to become stagnant or give up were also in times of much pain. Pain is such a paradoxical force. If it is in the hands of God, it produces a peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). But if it is in the hands of the adversary, and EVEN OUR OWN, it produces more pain. Be mindful. I, by no means, am talking about self-inflicted pain. That is a completely other subject and important to address at another time.
The Scriptures speak of the fact that “NO chastening in the present seems to be joyous, but grievous” (Hebrews 12:11). It is also stated that Jesus “learned obedience through the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). There are a myriad of verses that speak of the blessings that come as a result of ENDURING pain. It is because pain is perhaps the greatest teacher in life, after the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, yet fortunately, the best lessons are learned through personal error that is restored. It is a mighty thing, on behalf of God, to be able to make a human being at peace with their previous mistakes, not fearful of the next one, yet instill in them a desire and determination to not do it again.
That is absolutely amazing.
Pain must always be viewed in the context of Jesus Christ. If this is not done, it very easy to feel a sense of victimization. I have fought the torrential onslaught of compromise because of heights of pain in my life. The mental temptation would show itself, “It is easier to give up! Because the PAIN will go away!” This is absolute deception, and we must not allow this thought to be labeled as our own either. On the other hand, I must admit there have been times where I, as a young minister, thought I was embracing a blessing, but it really was a package of pain. By the grace of God, I am grateful that I have fallen flat on my face, because it taught me to become dependent on the Lord again. We are children of God that are, and are becoming. We are whole in Him, and being made whole. Yet, it is crucial to be able to identify between a blessing from the Lord and a “blessing” from the adversary. The Scripture says that “the blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he adds no [pain] with it” (Proverbs 10:22, sorrow in Hebrew is pain). How does this align with the fact that God allows pain in our lives to shape and bless us? Well, I believe pain is even possible, because of the simple fact that we have humanity in our frame. The frailty of our humanity and it’s desire to preserve SELF and flesh, is why we experience it. Our flesh is not supposed to survive the trials that we go through – only the precious fruit of our faith. Consider the fact that we have been called to be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since freely we have received, therefore, we must freely give. The blessings of God come with no sorrow or pain because we are supposed to be conduits of these blessings, and not containers. Jesus was pained in His flesh, so He could be a healer of those in pain. Could we do the same?
Let us look ahead and not fear. We walk with the one who was bruised and wounded on behalf of us all. In the last days, perilous times will come, but if we submit our pain to our Lord, we will become as He is; wounded healers, made whole in Him, for a broken world.
Hebrews 5:6-10 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 As He also says in another place:
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek”;
7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”