I watch a Godly woman anointed and prayed over. Her body attacking itself and causing endless pain. Forced to quit her full-time ministry job for surgeries and therapy. Where is God in her pain?
Or my dad. Almost daily migraines for decades. Stare at a computer until he physically can't sit up any more, lay down in a cold, dark closet until the pain subsides enough to earn the next pay check for his family. Where is God in my dad's pain?
Or my friend whose pastor husband unexpectedly died, leaving her a widow in her 30's with two young sons. Where is God in my friend's pain?
And please don't tell me it's sin. That we live in a broken world, and pain is part of it. If pain is brought on by sin, I feel like the child molester should have the debilitating auto immune disease, not my college pastor. Can't God alleviate that suffering for the faithful? Why are we declared righteous in Christ and still suffer? Why heal some and not all? For every blind or lame or bleeding person Jesus healed, hundreds of others must have believed that Jesus could heal and simply never ran into him. For every Godly person who lives a peaceable day in the West, there are ten who are martyred in the East. Is God's relief random chance? Does he leave some to suffer the consequences of a fallen world and deliver others?
Surely God is bigger than that.
Above all, how does suffering because of a sinful world explain Jesus? If pain is only the product of human sin, how could sinless Jesus face pain? How could sinless Jesus die?
Unless pain is bigger than we know. Unless God is bigger than we know.
I can't speak to every example, but I can speak to two:
1 My own pain - Without chronic migraines, I would remain firmly convinced of my own ability to parent my children, love my husband, serve the church, and build our home. I spend hours, sometimes consecutive days in bed, ice on my head, watching all my hard work give way to time. It only takes a couple hours for the dishes to pile up, for the girls to turn feral, and for Tim to wear down. Not because I'm so good at spinning plates. Because my work on Earth is meant to unravel, so I recognize that my toil under the sun is a breath.
God does the real work in our house. I change sheets. He changes hearts. I point out stains. He convicts of sin. I present basically clean, half-mussed children one day a week. He presents his Son with a spotless bride.
I wouldn't see this without the pain. I know I wouldn't because I didn't for years. Could not see the futility of my work for my efficiency. Years of migraines showed God's work.
And I wouldn't take pain free years in exchange for a glimpse of the glory of God.
2 Without the cross, we would remain firmly convinced of our ability to make up for our shortcomings, to earn good.
Christ's pain was the plan before God said, 'light.' Through his pain, we see God's perfect justice, no sin in his holy presence. And we see his never ending mercy, complete forgiveness, unfailing love. Who else can be both just and justifier? How else can we see his character except through our pain and his? In the ultimate miracle, sin and pain and death serve to reveal God's nature. As the girls' Bible storybook says, "everything would be better for once having been so bad."
We wouldn't see our fallenness without Christ's pain. We wouldn't see His grace without Christ's pain. I know we wouldn't because we don't. Because every other religion is based on our earning. Every other religion says that our condition is one we can atone for. Only Christ says, You didn't earn, you can't earn, I gave. He gladly shouldered the pain of the cross for God's glory that would be revealed.
God's glory gives my pain purpose. Redeems the effects of a fallen and broken world. I'm not just a victim of meaningless suffering. He doesn't withhold his power to heal and abandon me to pain. Suffering can be a looking glass into the glory of heaven. As Christ's suffering was.
And as a mother endures labor to hold her newborn, I wouldn't trade the suffering for the glory.