I stood in line at the checkout at a drug store in Centreville, having made a quick run to pick up coffee filters. On my way out the door, I ran into a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in some time. “Pastor’s step-dad passed away this week,” he told me. My heart sank to hear this, since we knew the pastor and we cared about his family.
This was the second time this week someone close to my local community has passed away. On Monday, Jennifer Crowson—the sister of Jeremy Crowson (one of the writers for The Bibb Voice)—passed away from liver failure.
Pain in our little community seems non-stop sometimes, doesn’t it?
Death is not natural, friends. Death came into the world because of sin. Did you know this means that death was never part of the plan? It is alright for us to hurt because of death and pain. Even Jesus’ heart hurt over the death of His dear friend Lazarus (John 11:33, 38).
Why do painful things happen? Life sure gives us hard questions sometimes.
Isn’t it comforting to know that God isn’t angry at us for having questions?
Isn’t it comforting to know that God is in control, even when things hurt?
Isn’t it comforting to know that we don’t have to understand everything?
But, isn’t it also comforting to know that God doesn’t leave us in the dark? In the Bible, our Lord gives us some answers on why we have pain. Here are two or three.
First, our Lord brings pain and trials into our lives to purify and strengthen us. Often, when folks think of “purity” they think of something as spotless, perfect, or virgin. But that’s not the real meaning of “pure.” When metal is “purified,” that means someone puts great stress or heat on it to burn off the impurities. This is what “refining” gold or silver is, and this is what God often does to us. He sends us very strong trials to give us the chance to purify our character.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, [lacking] nothing” (James 1:2-4).
James says that when we go into difficult trials, we should rejoice! This doesn’t mean we should be flippant, but rather rejoice that God cares about us enough to send refining fire into our lives! He gives us a chance to practice and strengthen our muscles in our walk with the Lord and our walk with those around us. This makes us more like Jesus.
Second, Jesus brings suffering into our lives to give us a way we can glorify God in the sight of others. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Jesus says in Matthew 5:16.
When others see us respond to pain in our lives with thankfulness to God for His guidance, patience with His timing, and eagerness to learn what He may be teaching us, this example encourages others around us. They see our response and give praise to the Lord.
There’s a third great reason Jesus brings pain into our lives. Once we learn how to grow stronger because of the pain, we can teach others who are going through the same trials how to grow stronger, too! Isn’t it a good feeling to be able to help someone with something? Pain is one of God’s ways of teaching us how to help others.
St. Paul wrote, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Have you ever made bread by hand? We take the ingredients from the pantry, mix them together, let the bread rise, and bake it in an oven. Then, when it’s fresh and hot, we break the bread and feed our hungry families. When we go through pain, suffering, heartache, and trials, the Lord is handing us ingredients from which we can make bread to feed others. Then we are able “to comfort them which are in any trouble,” because we God has comforted us.
I have a dear friend who is going through a hard time right now. I remind her that one reason God brought this trial into her life is because there are other people dealing with the same pain. It’s part of God’s plan for her to bring care and healing to those people, as she herself has found healing. How can she help, unless she first knows what helped her? The Lord gave her a beautiful box of lessons, tools, and instructions—in the form of pain and comfort—to use in helping others.
What does this mean for us, as we go through painful things?
We take deep breaths.
We sit in silence.
We mourn with Jeremy and his family, and the pastor and his family, and we mourn for our own losses.
We trust Jesus and obey Him and His Word, letting Him guide our life.
We pray that Jesus will give us the grace to do the next right thing. We give thanks that Jesus is destroying death, and we trust Him with the things we don’t understand.
Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension is stamping out death forever. Death is an enemy to destroy, according to 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
Death is not invincible, but the Gospel is. The Gospel gives us power to view death as exactly what it is: a broken part of life. The Gospel helps us to view all life through the glasses of God’s care for us, being purified through trials, giving glory to God, and helping others.
May our Lord give us grace to be His hands and feet in Bibb County.