We are not strangers to pain. All of us know some kind of pain – losing an opportunity or a loved one, being mistreated and misunderstood, illness and injury…
But we never get used to it. And we should not. Pain is of course the sign of being in this world – tangled in its sinful structures and our sinful ways.
But there is a pain specific to those who serve God full-time that is like an inside story. It often comes and blindsides us: criticism, opposition, betrayal, lack.
From ourtight persecution to ministry messes, this pain strikes at the core of who we are: servants of God. It strikes hard because it hurts at the deepest possible level. The shock, agony and injury goes deep. We may be led to question if it’s all worth it. Some turn tails and run. Others mop and wallow…and end up with very distorted visions of self and of life.
We become suddenly sensitized to all kinds of pain: injustice, wickedness, malice…. and they hurt us afresh. We feel unsafe, even hunted – by questions, doubts, shadows, self-recrimination, anger, blame… and the familiar enemy comes close with his suggestions and accusations in blue-ray effect.
O God! where are you?
The Psalmist has cried this.
And if we care to imagine, our famous Bible people from Abraham to Paul must have uttered this at same time.
We learn afresh God’s ways and God’s Word. That his ways are higher become a fresh revelation.
We recognise afresh our pride, sinfulness, and hardness of heart. Our lack of faith, hope and love – the trio of endurance.
What do to but to cry out to God until all tears are spent. Until the LORD says, ‘get up’, as He did to David or Joshua or Moses. There is a time to cry, rant and suffer frustration. In the long dark days, God carries us through this valley of the shadow of death (death of a dream, vision, hope, team)..and brings us out to the other side.
But we must walk this valley road with Him or we may meander off to false oases and lose our destiny and experience of GOD Himself.
I do not fear reversals and reprisals as much these days. The few valleys I have had to go through shows me that God is great and good. After all, we are not good to the core. After all, my best intentions are always tainted. So God has every right to put me through a flood and a fire. For He is after the man more than the mission. He is after my heart more than my hands. He is after me. And i am humbled that God himself would pursue me so. And He does it with incredible patience. As i roil about in my pain; I am aware Abba is in the wings, watching and waiting…
In my hopelessness and helplessness, loss and pain, God can become more.
In fact I suspect that as the Bride is being readied, we can expect more. Our brethren being persecuted to point of death go through a different fire from us. But it’s still the same fire of the same consuming God.
We still don’t welcome pain. We must do everything to check our hearts and live in purity and serve with humility. But we will never as God’s servants – His choice instruments – be spared this specific pain of ministry. It is called the pain of following the Eternal, Transcendent God.