Monday, September 1, 2008

Pleasure in the Pain - Really?

Just like a rose has beauty, that can only be obtained by risking the thorns, so life has a beauty and joy to be attained only through enduring pain. Back in early July I blogged about some Scattered Thoughts, among which was the phrase Pleasure in the Pain. Here were some of the thoughts about this phrase from that post - "I have to admit - this one irks me. This one is not engraved in my heart just yet. I believe it. But, I struggle tremendously with it. I don't have wisdom to offer in this one. It is a new concept to me. I will share from my journal here as well. "I asked God about this yesterday as I swept, as I admitted I was NOT feeling pleasure in the pain. "Where is the pleasure, Lord? I'm not feeling this." So far what I have is this - "For the Joy set before" me - its the pleasure of knowing, of being "fully persuaded" that God is sovereign and at work in the midst of the pain, in order to bring glory to His Name, to make His Word true - What Words do I believe Him for? "

This phrase and this concept have continued to wander through my mind and to blossom into something a bit more fruitful. I am going to take a leap of faith and try to lay out my discoveries about a painful topic to discuss. Because pain, for all of us, is real, and personal, and we don't generally want to air out or discuss or "touch" our boo-boos.
Here's h
oping that putting these thoughts out here will be a worthwhile endeavor, that something in here will bring hope and comfort to us!


In late July, through several circumstances, it became clear that I was to study the Sermon on the Mount. The way it all came to a head was one of those wonderful pile-up of occurrences where you know The Holy Spirit is practically flashing a neon arrow - saying "Here-Here! I have some good stuff for you to know! You need this!". It was a wonderful time of study, and it was all good (of course), but, in particular there were 3 treasures I came away with. This was without a doubt, my most prized. Matthew 5:4 "Blessed and enviably happy (with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace) are those who mourn, for they SHALL be comforted". I have to say, on the surface, this still is not exciting to me when I read it. Sorry, call me shallow, but, I can't get excited in my own messy, human self, to consider the prospect of mourning. And I don't really think we are meant to. Rather, I think we are to have an expectant, confidence that God in His utter goodness, doesn't allow our grief, our pain to be wasted.

Here is how my Strong's Concordance helped me to discover the truth in God's Word on this subject, as I wrote in my journal about my discoveries:

"To mourn as it is used here means just what it says, i.e. mourn or grieve. But, the real treasure is comforted. Which means to call near, i.e. invite, invoke, (by imploration, consolation) beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire. 3844 – near, from beside, at the vicinity of, proximity to. 2564 – to call. What do all these definitions combine to tell us? This - our grief is our invitation to draw near to Our Maker, Our Abba Father, Our Comforter. Our grief calls us near to Him, like nothing else (unfortunately) does. This speaks to me of a recurring theme lately. It seems The Holy Spirit is encouraging me to believe and seek to know the pleasure in the pain. To me this is a biblical promise of it. If I combine the invitation to come near to God during my grief, with the specific “blessing” mentioned in this scripture, then I see that there is an opportunity to know God in way that allows us to experience His favor, and having a very personal revelation of His matchless grace". So went my notes....

In the middle of July, Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, left this world for one far, far better, as we all hope to do one day, due to complications from cancer. As I watched person after person share their testimonies that weekend, about how he lived his life, and how that living had enriched their lives, I had many thoughts. One, again being the idea that you can't run from the pain and have optimal life. Many forms of Eastern religion strive for "nothingness", "detachment" and variations of that philosophy. However, only Judaism and Christianity embrace the pain and look to the overcoming strength we have through our confidence, our hope in The One who not only created us, but Who we abide in, Who lives in us, and Who is working a far greater treasure in and through us than we can imagine. My Mama and I were speaking on the phone about Tony Snow's life and death and this principle, and she shared with me about an anecdote she found at One Cosmos, (an intellectual sort of blog a bit over my head - but worthy). In the story, Tony was being interviewed about 1 year ago, and all that he had to live for was the topic, i.e. all the reasons NOT to want to leave this earth just yet. You know, the part that makes going to our REAL home heartwrenching, mostly for those left behind. And Tony Snow turned to the man who was interviewing him and said words to the effect "Isn't it great to love this much?", with tears in his eyes.

To me this is a poignant illustration of the fact that when we run from the pain, when we choose denial, and cover-ups through activities to hide and anesthetize ourselves from the pain, we rob ourselves of the richness that could be ours. The richness of acknowledgingthe pain, running to the Father and sobbing, "This hurts, it hurts so bad! I don't know what to do or where to go, PLEASE help me, Father! Make this count for something, turn this to something that will strengthen me, make me more like your Son, BE GLORIFIED in my life, in the lives of our family. Be glorified!" The grooves yielded pain makes in our heart etch out more room for Him to live inside of us. I believe that when we hide from, fight or otherwise try to mask the pain, we run the risk of destroying ourselves, of turning bitter, or becoming brittle. Right now, I can't point to any good reason, its just an instinctual belief. And I can look at my life and see that no painful experience I or people I know and love have gone through, has ever failed to bring an etched beauty to our lives. Like those candles that were the rage years ago. They were very beautiful when lit. They were etched out on the inside so that when lit, the cut pattern showed. Our pain cuts a beautiful pattern on the inside of us, hollows us out, carves off some of that sin nature, so His light can then shine through, yet again, Christ in us, the hope of glory!

CLOSING: As I prepared to put this together this morning, I sought further examples in scripture. Here are an Old Testament and New Testament examples that I believe illustrate the promise and invitation to KNOW GOD more completely, the invitation to draw near to Him in a brand new way, found in Matthew 5:4. "I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You. Therefore I loathe [my words] and abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." These are Job's words to God at the end of his fiery trial, just prior to the Lord turning his circumstances to showers of blessing. Job 42:5-6 This feeling and knowledge always follows knowing God at a deeper level. It is good for us. And now, "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." Acts 7:55-56, a passage from Stephen's martyrdom. Note - he SAW The Glory of God, Jesus, and an opened up Heaven!

His pain was NOT in VAIN!

Neither is your pain or my pain. It's not in vain. It's not for our destruction. Whether the pain is from our own personal failures, or the blindsiding, t-bone that life can hit us with, no pain that we will run to the throne with will be in vain. We can claim that for ourselves, and for our loved ones.

Don't let pain have the last word, let God!

"28 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose...31What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?] 32 He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect [when it is] God Who justifies [that is, Who puts us in right relation to Himself? Who shall come forward and accuse or impeach those whom God has chosen? Will God, Who acquits us?] 34 Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us? 35 Who shall ever separate us from Christ's love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?...38 For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, 39 Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8.

What Does it Mean Anyway? "Free to Fly"...

Well, it's like this: Here are some of the Webster's Dictionary definitions of Free: a : having the legal and political rights of a citizen b : enjoying civil and political liberty c : enjoying political independence or freedom from outside domination d : enjoying personal freedom : not subject to the control or domination of another2 a : not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being : choosing or capable of choosing for itself...having a scope not restricted by qualification 7 a : not obstructed, restricted, or impeded ...Now, here are some of the Webster's Dictionary definitions of Fly:1 a : to move in or pass through the air with wings b : to move through the air or before the wind or through outer space c : to float, wave, or soar in the air ... a : to take flight ...6 : to work successfully ...Examples which apply from Websters: fly high : to be elated - fly in the face of or fly in the teeth of : to stand or act forthrightly or brazenly in defiance or contradiction of

What does this mean in my life? This means that in life we are meant to be free. While historically mankind has not always enjoyed the opportunity to fully appreciate what that means, we are so indescribably fortunate as to live in a time of the greatest spiritual, physical, financial and political freedom ever known. Freedom doesn't come cheap, nor does it come easy. But the best things in life don't come that way do they? As I write this I am struck by how this sounds like a political statement, and for me this is much more of a spiritual thing, but, same goes for that (political that is). Freedom doesn't come easy. And it's worth whatever fight you have to make to overcome in your life in order to live a life that succeeds. Now the questions is - what is success for you? What is your standard? In my mind what is needed is a definite target - because you can't hit and maintain a moving target. A stable, rock-solid, anchor with no variable, yet multi-faceted. Something pure, just and worthy. If you look at any web page of news you can see that our society is certainly lacking in this area. What a great time to live as a rebel! Nowadays to be a rebel, all you have to do is be willing to engage in the battle of life, while anchored to Christ!