Partnering with People in Their Pain

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My sweet wife has struggled with chronic pain just about every day for almost three and a half years. As it became clear that this could be a long-term struggle for her, I was struggling myself with how to walk with her through it. There were lots of scary tests, new doctors, and frightening scenarios. And, of course, there was the pain! It was hard to adjust to this new normal. But God is good, and through the real pain he’s taught me a few real, glorious things about partnering with the hurting.

Good in Groaning

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope. . . For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans [8:20]22-23)

Groaning. We groan because the world is subjected to futility. Things are not as they should be. This means at least two things about our pain.

First, groaning is OK. God didn’t make this world for pain. It’s a product of the broken world we live in. God’s sovereignty in the situation does not mean we don’t admit that it’s hard or that we don’t like it. It is hard and we don’t like it! It’s part of the curse and we plead with God, “Take it away!” (2 Cor. 12:7–10).

Second, Romans 8 groaning is the groaning of childbirth. It is appropriate for a woman to groan in labor, and it is appropriate for believers to groan in suffering. Christians, more than any others, know there is something better ahead, something perfect — being forever face-to-face with Jesus, completely painless. Therefore, we groan in hope. We groan for the redemption of our bodies. When our bodies are redeemed, all sin and suffering will be put away and we will be free to worship Jesus in his pain-free presence.

Chronic pain is especially hard. It’s not how it should be, and it’s the everyday reality — often quietly — for so many around us. Long day after long day, we’re groaning in hope of the day when the pain will pass and we’ll be made new.

Dependence in Despair

It is freeing to groan in hope. But, groaning is only part of the answer in pain. God not only promises to deliver us through suffering, but with his keeping, he is working for our good inthe suffering.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. (2 Corinthians 1:8–9)

Paul is so utterly burdened that he despaired of life itself. It’s as if he had received a death sentence. People feeling deep or chronic pain will find themselves feeling this way. Paul’s interpretation of his trial is life-altering for how we view and experience suffering.

Written by Dave Zuleger
Read more at Desiring God

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