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Pain

now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, -I Peter 1:6
            It becomes increasingly more obvious that people all around us are in pain.  And it is not just those outside our church family.  Many of you who are reading this newsletter are in pain.  It may not be physical pain, though there is plenty of that.  There are family struggles–husbands and wives, parents and children. There are financial struggles and job worries. There are spiritual struggles.  Indeed, every struggle has its spiritual dimension.  In some way it impacts our faith, our spirit, our relationship with God.
            The longer I live, the more I realize that the very nature of life in a world invaded by sin assures pain in all its ugly and sickening power.
            The Bible has a lot to say about pain and suffering.  From a Biblical/Christian perspective there are two dangers we face in a pain-filled world.
            First, pain is a threat to our faith.  Or perhaps, more precisely, our reaction to pain can cloud our relationship to God.  We can begin to think that God has deserted us or that he doesn’t care.  Or what is equally as devastating, we conclude He can’t do anything about it (that was the answer that a popular book promoted).  To be left to deal with it alone because God doesn’t care or can’t help is spiritual disaster.
            Second, to seek to avoid pain at any cost is the ultimate spiritual folly.  It is the course more of us are inclined to pursue.  Carried to its extreme, every thing is approached with a motivation that is totally self-centered.  How does it make me feel, give me pleasure or avoid trouble for me (or perhaps those close to me).
            The Bible acknowledges that God’s people suffer, but not without help from God.  In fact, I Peter proclaims the possibility by God’s grace of joy in the midst of pain (I Peter 1:6).  More importantly, God can and does use suffering to achieve his purposes.  But the good news is that pain/suffering is of limited duration.  It will end because God’s final plan includes a life where there is no pain, sorrow, or tears.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Rev. 21:4

            In the meantime, let us be there for one another, pray for one another, and live in joyful hope.

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