One of the treasures of the dark, cool woods springs up each year on our four-acre property in the form of a variety of ferns. We did not plant them; God had placed them here for us to enjoy. And they remind me of Isaiah 45:3, which says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Often in the midst of suffering, we listen better for the voice of God. In his book, The Problem of Pain, C. S.. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Yet I find Lewis’ series of verbs, whispers, speaks, shouts, somewhat incomplete when accessing pain. For in those times of darkness, God rewards us with true riches, not fool’s gold, but valuable ore only panned in trials and suffering. Physical pain brings a kind of darkness, from the fogged vision accompanying a severe headache to the incessant screeching of nerve endings that refuse to quiet down. Emotional pain provides a torment that seeks to drive us to the deeper blackness of depression. We have choices in pain similar to those Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross proposed over four decades ago about grief : anger, resentment, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’d have to exclude Kubler-Ross’ stage of denial. If you have known true pain, denial is not a viable option!
To those who have a personal faith in Christ, however, pain drives us to the Savior. Sometimes not as quickly as we’d hope, but we know His track record.; He’s a repeat champion of those who hurt. He shows us more of who He is when we endure trials and pain. So rather than plod through the five steps of grief, we turn to the Bible and read about Job or Paul. We realize that if Paul could say the “slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” then he had mined spiritual treasure from his suffering.
Additionally, the writer of James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”(James 1:2-4 NIV) Note that no one is called to yell, “Hallelujah, my pain is beyond all the medications I have in my medicine closet!” We rejoice in what the trial accomplishes in our character, the deepening of our trust in Christ.
How can we make an accepting (acceptable) response instead of a knee jerk reaction? Mind you, I don’t always do this, but it is my goal. We look back to Isaiah 45 and see how intimately God involves Himself in the lives of His children. He summons each of us by name. Isn’t it amazing that the one who calls us by name also has engraved our name on His palms? (Isaiah 49:16 NIV) We come out of each trial having a clearer vision of the Savior; little by little He continues to conform us to the image of His Son.