When God’s Love and Our Pain Collide
Posted by: Kim Stiver
Focus Verse: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
There is a visually striking ocean phenomenon called “cross sea” that happens when two widespread wave systems intersect with each other at nearly perpendicular angles. The deceptively mesmerizing, but potentially dangerous spectacle is caused by two distant and incredibly strong storm systems colliding hundreds or thousands of miles away. The swells radiating from the forces of these opposing storms eventually intersect, putting people and boats in the crosshairs. And even though you would think that such a pattern would be rare, it’s fairly common. It just seems rare because you have to be positioned high above the water’s surface on a mostly windless day to see it clearly. Being able to see God at work in the midst of suffering often feels as rare as a cross sea sighting. Yet the Bible makes it as clear as the Caribbean ocean that He not only cares about the details and struggles of our lives, He is actively involved in the minutia of our days (Matthew 10:29-31). Like an invisible pattern on a vast ocean, His hand stretches out over the span of our years from birth to death, orchestrating our steps and encouraging us to simply follow His lead and trust His oversight. The concept is simple, but the execution is hard.
The pattern of scriptures — which can only be seen through the vantage point of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment — makes it clear that God uses the events, trials, and sufferings of our lives to either adjust our direction or use our pain to administer His love to others. And the vast majority of the time, He is allowing the pain in order to accomplish both. That’s because God most often reveals and administers His love through His people. That is His pattern. And it is our assurance in times of questioning, wondering, waiting, and worrying. Though often mysterious, we can count on His ways to be consistent (James 1:17). And the only way to really see them is through the power of the Holy Spirit, which happens over time as we actively learn to trust in God’s sovereignty, spend time with Him, read and meditate on His Word, worship Him, and give thanks for all things and for all situations. (Philippians 4:6-7)
This is not what we want to hear of course. This is not the pattern we want to see. We prefer to receive guidance without the struggle. We desire the blessings without the pain. That’s the nature of being human. It is why we all revert back to our five-year-old selves and cry out, “But that’s not fair. I deserve to be happy.” But Jesus whispers back to us tenderly, “I know, my love. Believe me, I get it. Discomfort doesn’t feel good. Discipline is hard. Pain is heartbreaking. But when you learn to walk so close to Me that you can hear my thoughts and feel my ever-constant presence, everything in your life will be worthwhile. Everything will be redeemed for my glory. The nearness of Me in times of trial is sweeter, richer, and more pleasurable than even your happiest of days. When you look to Me for strength instead of yourself, you’ll find a greater peace than you’ve ever known and more joy than you thought possible as I transform your pain into an instrument for My glory.” (Isaiah 26:3, 41:10)
One of the most soul-satisfying and joyful experiences you will ever receive on earth is seeing the fruit of your pain become life-altering nourishment for someone else engulfed by the same pain that previously dominated your life. Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” When we stop fighting or denying the fact that we will encounter problems, and instead invite God to use whatever hardships we encounter for His glory, we become empowered to receive Jesus’ promise to overcome. The problems still happen. The pain still causes hurt for a season. But we handle it like heavenly champions, rather than earthly spectators. We become vessels for the love of God. The dry and parched places of pain become well-springs of living water for others to come and find hope, healing, comfort, and hear the truth for themselves. Like the cross sea pattern, God’s love gushes out from us and collides with their pain, revealing the hand of a Creator compassionate enough to walk through the suffering before us just so we can see how it’s done and marvel at what waits on the other side.
Scripture Meditations for this week:
Want to grow more? Check out the additional resources below:
- Learn how to grow, not worry, and have joy through suffering, difficulties, and trials on the Glimmers in the Fog blog/podcast — click the link for more than a dozen devotional messages on suffering-related topics. Each one includes reflection questions and scripture readings.
- Where Is God When It Hurts and Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud, both books by Philip Yancey
- Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, by Sara Frankl
- “God Brings Us Suffering for Others’ Sakes,” Desiring God blog post