Pain is real but so is hope.
CS Lewis astutely observed, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We can’t ignore it. It tortures us and crushes us. In its greatest trials it blinds us to everything else. Physical pain. Emotional pain. The pain of feeling lost and alone and without purpose. To deny it and paste on a silly grin is a foolish facade that accomplishes nothing.
Pain is real.
But so is hope.
Hope clings to the reality that what we see is not what God sees. We think there is only pain, uselessness, a wasted life of no value to anyone. We sit beneath the magnificent quilt spread across the loom and all we see are the tattered edges and loose threads. Nothing makes sense. But He sees the picture from above, the one that is completed by our faithfulness. Speaking of the great men and women of faith who suffered greatly, the author of the book of Hebrews wrote: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40) He continues,”Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
That’s the masterpiece that our pain can’t perceive. Only faith, your great hope, can catch a glimpse of the beauty that is yet to be revealed.
Your faithfulness is accomplishing far more than what you and I can imagine. It’s quite possible we won’t know until we get to heaven how God uses your faithfulness to work good in all situations for all who are called according to his purpose. I know it doesn’t seem like enough. I write this as my own pain screams at me. Hope doesn’t seem like enough. But it is enough. Jesus has his loving eyes on you and your pain right now. You are not forgotten, not alone.
All that counts and all that remains in the end, is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6) And faith keeps reaching out. When there is no strength or when your invitations to help and encourage others are ignored, faith prays. And persevering prayer accomplishes as much as any deeds we do. Marcia and I were recently talking about her parents’ lives, how their last years seemed so empty and wasted. Without our family there would have been just a few to remember them. But is the goal to be remembered? Perhaps the real point of life ultimately to bear witness to the transformational power of God’s love in a way that it impacts the life of at least one other person, who in turn bears testimony that impacts another? In that sense, your faith – expressing itself in love – continues to live on, long after your name is forgotten.
Whatever level of pain you endure right now, I pray that you will see the goodness of the Lord here in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). But even if that vision is clouded, there comes a time for all real believers when ALL his goodness will unfold in great abundance. We won’t be able to contain it.
That is our hope and it is as real as any pain that assaults us.