The Purpose of Pain!


August 2004,

Dear Ministry Partner,

Pain is common, from a simple sunburn to continual pain from a debilitating disease. Then there is emotional pain, which is not only as real as physical pain but is more prone to cause people to alter their lives to avoid it. What is the purpose of pain in all its different forms? Why does God allow it? Everyone wants to avoid pain, so what should we do about it?

God created everything. This includes the ability to feel and experience pain or hurt. When He was finished with creation, "God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good." (Gen. 1:31). The ability to feel or sense pain is actually a very beneficial thing. There is a direct parallel with the gauges or warning lights that are built into the dashboard of a typical car. If you ever had a car engine overheat from a loss of coolant, the temperature gauge or warning light was designed to save your engine from destruction. Or if you had an alternator or generator belt break off the pulleys, the electrical charging gauge or warning light was designed to let you know the car would only go a short distance further before the battery would be dead and the car would stop running. We would feel cheated and angry if the manufacturer had not built these warning mechanisms into our vehicles.

In my teenage years, I worked at an auto parts store and I personally knew people who disregarded the gauges or warning lights on their cars. Major expenses were sometimes incurred, and certainly a significant amount of time and effort were required to repair the damage. In my own life, I have had times when a warning was displayed on my car's dashboard, and I quickly pulled over and shut off the engine. Sometimes I had to walk a short distance for water to add to the radiator so I could drive back home, but I have been spared a number of times from a financial disaster by heeding the warning light.

In our physical bodies, God has designed pain to reveal to us something we are doing wrong. There is "quick pain" — the kind you feel if you are cutting yourself or getting burned. This is designed to be a sharp pain to stop us immediately. God even designed a scarring process for our skin to remind us of our mistake so we would not repeat it. It is interesting that God has designed our skin so that most scars fade with the passage of years, hopefully because we have learned our lesson and don't need the visible reminder.

Then there is "gradual pain" that is not as sharp, such as the kind you feel from cold in the winter. This kind of pain is designed to warn you that you can continue a short time in this condition, but it is not good for you and could lead to harm or death. Children often complain about having to put on a coat or hat in the winter because they don't grasp the "warning" from the feel of cold, but the more knowing parent should do what is best for the child's health.

Last, there is a "dull pain" that is a more subtle indication of a long-term problem or neglect that is getting worse. Often, this is from many years of poor nutrition or lack of exercise, or sometimes from a serious medical or dental condition or an injury that is getting worse — requiring attention and medical intervention. God has no problem with us taking our body to a good "mechanic" — a knowledgeable and honest medical expert who may be able to help.

Since we live in a fallen world, the perfect environment of paradise is lost, and most things do not function anywhere near the perfection which God originally designed. This is not God's fault, but rather man's fault! The fact that we experience more "pain" than Adam and Eve is not a reason to blame God, yet most of unsaved mankind does. It is a major reason that many people do not go to church in America, or even believe in God. They say, "How can there be a God if there is so much pain and suffering on the earth?" Of course, that question ignores the existence of Satan, plus the consequences of mankind's ongoing sins and fallen free will.

If God knew that pain would increase after Adam and Eve fell, what is the purpose of so much pain? Outside of the logical "self-preservation" purpose of pain already discussed above, God allows pain to exist for the purpose of driving people to God for salvation. If people could live any old way they wanted and experience no pain, God would be effectively "encouraging sin". If there was no pain from sinful or disobedient choices, the quantity of sin committed by mankind would rocket off the charts! Pain in its many forms inhibits sin in mankind.

One kind of pain unbelievers feel is "spiritual pain". This is the most subtle but continual pain that mankind feels. This is a dull, continual pain that unsaved people feel on the inside. It is similar to the "pain" you and I felt when we were small children and found ourselves "lost" from our parents. There was a realization that we were lost and on our own, and we knew it was not supposed to be that way. Some people call this feeling an emptiness or vacuum on the inside. All unsaved people have this pain programmed into their spirit to try to encourage them to "find their Father" and His salvation. This again is a merciful thing created by God for the eternal good of all human beings. Also, we believers can feel pain in our spirits concerning things that grieve God — things that would break His heart. This is called "identification with God" and is actually sensing what the Holy Spirit is feeling within our spirit.

Perhaps the most common pain in America is "emotional" pain. This can be from financial problems, relationship problems, etc., and the pain is actually a symptom of deeper problems in our lives. Half of all married Americans have experienced pain from a divorce (rejection), and we should learn from the experience. It is not God's fault. First of all, many totally innocent people have been hurt by the free will of their spouse. Sometimes there was a faulty process for selecting a mate, or perhaps behavior problems may have contributed to the divorce which can be changed the next time. Often there was a lack of Godly spiritual activities which opened the door for the devil to steal, kill, and destroy (Eph. 4:27, John 10:10). There is no condemnation for those in Christ (Rom. 8:1), because we have all sinned and we have all not totally followed God's "instructions" for a successful life (Rom. 3:23). But if we have contributed to the cause of our pain, repentance is often needed to stop the pain we feel. On the other hand, if we are innocent of wrong doing, then we often need to forgive the guilty party. This can often free us from various forms of pain and suffering (Matt. 18:34-35).

There are significant problems when people do not deal with physical, emotional, or spiritual pain in correct ways. Many people try to numb or bury the feeling of pain through alcohol or drugs. This doesn't solve anything and just creates more pain from the negative consequences. Some people use work, busy-ness, or pre-occupation with hobbies to cover up or distract them from pain. We are supposed to be more thoughtful than that.

The correct response to pain is to first "go to the Heavenly Doctor" — God. Our Heavenly Father is a healer, psychologist, counselor, repair technician, banker, lawyer, and minister all rolled into one Person. He will always have a plan, a process, a strategy — a way to deal correctly with whatever issue that we find causing pain in life. But will He find the faith in us to work the plan? Sometimes we experience an "instant healing" from the source of pain, but more often God has a plan or process to walk us out of pain that often requires faith. We have usually created a pain in our lives over a substantial length of time, but we all prefer instant remedies! It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God (Heb. 6:12). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). And if all of God's solutions were instant, it would again encourage people to sin — because all we would have to do is "say the magic words" each time sin's consequences occurred — and 'poof' they would be gone!

The answer to every problem in life is to go to God — for His ways, His Word, His presence, His comfort, His guidance, His salvation. In our instant 'microwave' society, many people feel that God doesn't work fast enough. "But wait on the LORD, and He shall save thee." (Prov. 20:22). "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Matt. 7:7). Freedom from pain is frequently possible in this life, and it awaits every believer for eternity. "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain..." (Rev. 21:4).

Helping deliver people from pain,

Dale & Judi Leander


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