Uncovering Purpose in Our Pain
Welcome to Chemo Chair Prayers. I’m your host Niki Hardy and I’ve got some breaking news today so hang in until the end when I’ll be telling you more…
But first and in a VERY related topic, today we’re talking about uncovering purpose in our pain.
Because if you’re anything like me you’ve wondered what the point of all this pain is. Surely it’s for something. I can’t all be for nothing, can it?
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV)
To be honest, I’ve always found this verse tricky. It’s a great verse to recite in hindsight or to someone else but…
when you take a long hard look in the middle of your hardest, darkest moments, not so much and not the easiest verse in the Bible to live out or make reality.
Quite honestly I’d rather find other ways to learn perseverance – maybe by persevering through 100 chocolate chip cookies or walking 100 miles in sun drenched open meadows with my two doodles. I don’t know.
Something a bit less …well you know… painful.
So what’s the deal? Is this what our pain and suffering are all about?
Before we jump in I do want to say I don’t believe God causes suffering.
I don’t think God sent you cancer as a test of your faith or so that you’d do something for Him. That’s not what this is saying and it’s definitely not who God is.
God isn’t sitting up in heaven thinking “Hmmm, I really need this Niki to learn some perseverance and grow in her faith more, and goodness knows I really need her to write a book and start a podcast for people with cancer. I know!! I’ll give her cancer!! That should do it. That will really test her faith and 10x her perseverance levels!”
Nope. That’s not how it works because it’s theological nonsense.
Suffering tests our faith in the same way a screaming toddler tests our patience.
The toddler isn’t sent to test your patience (even if it feels that way at times) but our patience is naturally stretched when a two year old lies on the floor kicking and screaming, refusing to listen, and generally having a public meltdown in the middle of the check out line.
Our faith is stretched and pulled way beyond where it’s been before when our pain is more than we’ve endured before. The testing of our faith is the consequence of our pain, not the cause.
Do you hear me? I hope so, because how we see our pain, which is so often shaped by how we see God, which in turn is shaped by our pain (you get the cycle we’re in), how we see our pain and how we see God in our pain, changes everything.
Most of all it changes how we walk in and through our pain.
If you’ve been hanging around Chemo Chair Prayers for a while or you’ve read my book, Breathe Again, you know I’ve had more than my fair share of, as James would say “trials of any kind” and if I’ve learned anything through it all it’s that James is right.
Trials and pain will build perseverance and we will mature in our faith to such a point that we lack nothing as we got though it.
But only on one condition…
We must let it.
We must lean in and let it do its work.
I love the message translation of this Scripture.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
I don’t think we should take Eugene’s paraphrase to mean we shouldn’t pray for healing or seek medical treatment.
Here he’s talking about getting out of the work God is doing in us as a result of our cancer.
Because God is always doing something.
He’s always drawing us closer to Himself.
Always showing us more of who He is and who we are in Him.
Always releasing us in our gifts and calling us onwards in Christ Jesus.
So first up, we need to not shy away from the work he’s doing in us. The work to mature us and grow us.
Maybe for you that means growing in patience with your family or coming back to God after years going it alone. Perhaps it’s asking for wisdom in your treatment and the strength to walk that out.
Studies show that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to believing in God is the whole issue of pain and suffering.
What kind of God allows suffering? How can God be good and loving and allow all this to happen?
But when you ask people when their faith has grown most they say that it’s through their suffering that their faith has grown, strengthened and deepened most of all.
So, again, we’re not talking about God sending us cancer to achieve his purpose but the purpose that has the potential to come out of our pain. These things are good, good things that so often wouldn’t be produced without the squeezing of our faith through the trials and pain.
But, how do we find them? How do we uncover these deep things, practically?
The key is always to ask yourself two questions.
Al and I have started calling these “Two Questions To Live By.” They are simply:
What is God saying?
Am I willing to do it?
Whatever decision we’re trying to make, whenever we’re in a conversation, reading the Bible, praying, these two questions will always lead us to more. More of what God has for us. These questions will always work to uncover the purposes God has for us.
So my friend, as you allow perseverance to do its work, will you listen in?
From midst of the fog of your exhaustion and overwhelm, from the darkness of your fear and worry, will you listen to what God might be saying and ask yourself whether you’re willing to do it?
When we ask ourselves these questions, when we lean into them and walk them out in the strength Jesus gave us, that’s when, I believe , we’ll be able to…
“Consider it pure joy, whenever we face trials of many kinds, because we know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and as we let perseverance finish its work we know we’ll mature and grow in completeness until we are not lacking anything.”
Before we take time to pray togetherI wanted to take a minute to catch you up on some of the plans and purposes God’s been working out in our lives that affect the podcast – the breaking news I talked about at the beginning.
We’ve always tried as best we can to live by these two simple questions … and as You probably know the answers to those questions lead us to moving here 15 yrs ago to come and plant a church.
A church that is now a thriving church here in Charlotte called CC.
Over the last year or so as we’ve continued to ask these questions in every part of our lives God has made it clear that it’s time for Al to step down as lead pastor. As I record this we’re about to have our last Sunday there and I can most definitely say that in the sadness there is purpose and excitement for what’s ahead.
The trouble is, we have no idea what that is.
All God seems to be saying is “Wait. Rest. Pray. Be still.”
So that’s the plan.
For a couple of months over the summer we’re taking a sabbatical to lean further into these two questions for ourselves to see what purpose God has for us.
Over the last 15 years there’s been wonderful highs but also deep deep lows so we’re looking to uncover the next phase of his purpose in at all as we step away. So really this episode is as much for me as it is for you
All I know is that it will be good, because His plans are always good and so much better than ours and that in one way or another they will be shaped by the trial and suffering we have been through. Because the trails have grown our faith and because we now have gifts, wisdom, insight and depth of faith we didn’t have before.
So what does that mean for CCP?
Well, it simply means I’ll be taking a bit of a break over the summer and we’ll be dropping down from a weekly episode to a fortnightly one.
We’ll alternate between interviews on Chemo Chairs Chat episodes and diving into questions I get asked over and over and I’ll remind you of snippets from our most played episodes.
So keep listening.
Keep leaning in.
And may you “Let perseverance finish its work and in doing so may you become mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Let’s take a moment to pray using our simple guided prayer format that uses the acronym TRUST.
Thanking Him for who he is and what he’s done. Resting in his love. Unburdening our hearts. Surrendering our hopes, fears and needs. Taking Him at his word.
If you haven’t already, you can download your own copy of our TRUST prayer practice on a beautiful book mark below!
Or listen on Apple Podcasts.
If you haven’t already, download your TRUST prayer book mark HERE so you can pray along with me and pray with more confidence and less doubt in the week ahead.
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