Receive the Pain

A number of years ago, at the close of a long day, I drove up to our little neighborhood post office to get the mail. It was dark, I had a rare headache, and I was alone. After I pulled the letters from our box, I got back in the car but before driving the quarter mile to our house, I decided to go ahead and open one of the letters. The words from a missionary friend captured my heart:

"How different is God's view of pain from ours. My instinct is to avoid or grumble underneath it. His is to embrace it for what it will produce in us. When I was in the first stages of labor with my son, a woman we had briefly met through our organization came to see me in the hospital. She shared Hebrews 12:2, and said that just as Jesus endured the cross for the joy of the salvation of His people, she wanted to encourage me to receive the pain for the life that would be entering the world. I thanked her politely, but I confess, I thought she was a little presumptuous. She had never been pregnant. What did she know about having a baby?! Well, in the middle of a long labor, as I felt myself tense up with the onslaught of a contraction, the Lord used this woman's words "receive the pain" to call me to relax into the contractions rather than brace against them.

 'Receive the pain' has often been my mantra for choosing to press through life's unpredictable and painful circumstances these past fifteen years. And just as my son was the wonderful result of that brief time of pain, I am trusting that God will not allow this and future pain to be without purpose and result, as my hope grows in resting on His character and not my circumstances."

I sat in my car while unexpected tears quietly dropped from my eyes splattering on her letter. She had written James 1:2-4 from the Phillips translation in her letter:

"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, do not resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you a quality of endurance. But let that process go on and you will find that you have become men of character, full of maturity, with no weak spots."

God's word and her application of His words penetrated my heart. See, at that time in my life, I realized that I had been carrying around some pain for quite some time - praying, yes, but more than praying or trusting, I had been bracing against it.

I don't like feeling pain. But at times there have been circumstances sorrow in my life that have brought great pain, heartache, and asking God to show His face through them - stresses He brought to me and still, I struggled with it.   I struggled so many times by asking God for wisdom and grace, what to do and say, how to feel, how to guard my own heart, seeking Him about what He wanted to teach me through the trials, what not to do and say.

And just as recently, on that particular morning during my quiet time, I had asked God for some very specific words of encouragement. While waiting for His encouragement and longing for it, I still carried my burden all day. I fasted. I prayed.

Then as quietly as the evening came, God sent His message to me through a missionary friend on the other side of the world. God revealed to me in just a few seconds that I needed to receive the pain of life.  I was reminded that all of the pain of this life is temporary. And I can smile with assurance through, yes, even the greatest wailing in the deepest part of my soul, knowing God is at work.  

I learned that evening that I needed to relax in Who God is and to stop bracing against what God was doing.

Even now,  I sometimes forget that God is working in ways that I cannot see. His work, His surgery, often hurts. I sometimes forget that He cares more than I do. I sometimes forget that He wants to use my pain, not as some intruder, but as a welcomed friend who will help me grow to maturity.

It is my prayer that I will always receive the pain and allow God to accomplish what concerns me.

I don't know but when I got to my home, I felt lighter, my headache was gone, and my attention was turned away from myself to my missionary friend. I had allowed the friend of pain into my life.  So I prayed for my missionary friend and asked God to send her some very specific words of encouragement, as He had done, through her, to me.


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