Pain, Pain Go Away… Part 3

Perhaps the best way that we can gain a Biblical understanding of pain and suffering is by looking to our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is universally agreed upon that the historical Jesus suffered and died a cruel and terrible death by crucifixion, and in doing so, he is certainly able to offer us a perspective on affliction that is relevant to our human experience.

Here are several things that I think we can learn from Christ’s earthly suffering:

1. Christ suffered with humility. Although he was by very nature God, Christ knew that it was the will of God the Father that he endure suffering for the purpose of reconciling God’s chosen people to Himself. He therefore faced the cup he was given with obedience and humility, though he was innocent and had known no sin himself. Paul urges us in the book of Philippians to “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, [who] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (2:5,8).” We are asked to follow in the steps of our Savior, who left us an example of a humble, suffering servant. John Stott rightly remarks, “Perhaps nothing is more completely opposed to our natural instincts than this command not to resist, but to bear unjust suffering and overcome evil with good.” Christians are nontheless called to act in opposition to the natural human reaction to fight, run or resist against suffering, and to face it with humility.

2. Christ suffered temporal, earthly pain for the sake of eternal, heavenly joy. Paul goes on to say that following Christ’s submission to death on the cross, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (2:9).” In other words, Christ’s excruciating pain had a divine purpose: that his name would be glorified in all the earth. He has not endured the suffering to earn either the praise of pity of men. The ultimate meaning ascribed to his pain hinged on what it accomplished eternally: the display of the glory of the grace of God through his suffering and death. And furthermore, since he is aquainted with our human grief and pain so intimately, he is able to offer comfort and hope for even the bleakest human afflictions.

3. Christ’s suffering conquered sin and death. Christ’s suffering achieved for us what we could never have done on our own. Since we have all broken God’s holy law, we are all deserving of pain, sorrow, and death: we are simply under a divine curse with no way out. Yet through Christ’s death, we are freed from the curse, and offered eternal life. No other human suffering, though tragic, could accomplish this cosmic transaction; he became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God.

4. Our suffering can fulfill God’s purposes of increasing our faith and holiness. Sometimes our personal pain is God’s divine discipline, or pruning, in our lives. Over the centuries, Christians have suffered for the sake of Christ and because God’s desire is to “wean us from the world and to set our hope fully in God alone (John Piper, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God)”, He may allow significant pain in the life of a believer so that our hearts would be open to greater faith and that we would be made more and more like Christ. He wants to do this in the life of every one of His children. Is it not more likely that you will become disenchanted and unenticed by the trappings of this world when you are faced with pain, discomfort, mortality? What does God want to accomplish in your life through your struggles, pain or heartache?

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