The Stewardship of Pain

Nobody likes pain. I know I don't. We hate pain so much that we do whatever we can to avoid it. We have a headache, we take ibuprofen. We get a leg cramp while running (true confession!), so we stop running. We have surgery, we go under anesthesia. As a society, we have come a long way by means of pain management.

But what about the pain that runs deeper. The pain that settles itself within your very soul. How do you avoid that pain? Some turn to a variety of coping mechanisms. Some simply try to avoid it all together, as if the pain never existed. What is the Christian to do? Do we adopt the world's methods for "pain management," or is there a better, more sustaining way forward in the midst of searing pain?

Jerry Bridges has some helpful words for our pain. In God's providence, Jerry Bridges has been on my nightstand for both of my miscarriages. For the first one, it was Trusting God. This time, it was The Joy of Fearing God. Both times I have been helped tremendously by Bridges careful and God-exalting words.

We usually think of Christian stewardship in terms of money. Some churches have "stewardship campaigns" during which they seek to get their membership to pledge toward the annual church budget. Then the concept of stewardship was broadened to include our time and talents--or as one slogan puts it, "Be a good steward of your time, talents, and treasure." The idea behind these concepts is that whatever resources God has given us, He has entrusted them to us as stewards to use for His glory.
Now apply that idea to pain, either physical or emotional. If we believe God is sovereignly in control of all circumstances of our lives, then our pain is something He has given to us just as much as our time or talents or treasure. He has entrusted the pain to us to be used for His glory...
Closely akin to trusting God in our pain is trusting Him to fulfill His promises, even when we can't imagine how He can fulfill them (225-226).

That is what I want for my own life. I want to steward the pain he gives me for his glory, and ultimately for my own good. This radically changes our perspective on suffering and pain. It takes pain from being something that is against us to something that is given to us as a gift. It is always for our good, even when it feels and seems bleak.

Stewarding our pain well can only be done with the future in view. If we merely looked at the present we would grow weary rather quickly. Instead, like so many who have gone before us, we must look to the eternal home, healing, and rest that awaits us with our Lord. It is impossible to steward our pain well on our own and with tunnel vision. We need God to give us an eternal perspective and the hope that Christ will reign victorious over even the most excruciating pain we face.

Oh Lord, let it be so in my own life, even today.