The wave of deep, dull, aching pain began to crescendo again in my left side, radiating across my middle to my back. It had been about fifteen minutes since the last crash of the wave, so I knew the inevitable was upon me.
My only momentary relief from the pain was vomiting my guts into the trash can. So, I reluctantly grabbed the plastic container again, and hugging it, waited for the compulsion to hurl to commence. The pain reached the point of no return, causing my stomach to convulse.
At this very moment, I felt my heavenly Father’s embrace, as peace enveloped me.
“Pain can’t hurt you, little one,” I heard whispered in my ear.
“What? Surely, I’m not hearing this right,” I thought as I gagged.
I heard it again, and again, as the words tumbled over and over through my mind. “Pain can’t hurt you.”
“But Papa, this hurts, it hurts so badly,” I countered.
“Yes, my love. It does hurt, but it can’t hurt you,” He continued.
I struggled to understand what He meant. Here I am, a trauma survivor, awaiting surgery the following day for a kidney stone that I wasn’t passing, afraid the pain would be too much for me, and yet the God of the Universe, who could just heal me by the way, is giving me an object lesson on pain.
I can hear some of your thoughts of “God wouldn’t do that.”
I’m not in any way saying God caused the kidney stone to teach me a lesson on pain, but I find, in most cases in my life, He won’t waste a bit of life’s experiences, whether positive or negative, to teach me something or to bring some inherent good out of it.
“He works ALL things together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purposes,” Rom. 8:28. He also said, “In this world, we will have trouble, but I’ve overcome the world,” John 16:33.
Well, my lesson was not over yet. That evening, I was dreading a night of pain, more vomiting, and sleeplessness. I honestly was beginning to wonder if I’d make it to the surgery the next morning. As I got ready for bed, I again heard the Father’s prompting.
“Stop fighting the pain. Rest in it.”
Again, in shock, I countered, “How can you even say that? How in the world am I supposed to rest in this pain?” But, He wouldn’t change His mind, nor relent in what He was saying.
Finally, out of desperation, I looked to heaven and said, “Fine. I’ll lean back and rest in this pain.” As soon as I did, I again heard Him say, “I’ll take care of this.” Within minutes, I fell fast asleep.
Sometime later, I awoke. I had slept several hours straight. I lay in the bed, waiting for the pain to hit. It never did. At some point in the middle of the night, God pulverized that stone. An ultrasound the next day confirmed the stone was gone.
After the fact, I asked the Holy Spirit for some explanation. What I came to understand was that, yes, pain hurts in the sense of the natural. We feel pain, whether mental, physical, or spiritual. It wasn’t that God was devaluing that. He bore our pains and carried our sorrows. HE understands pain. But what He was trying to get across to me is that when He is right there in the middle of it with me, it can’t truly hurt me, not the real me that He’s created me to be. Nothing is greater than Him in me. Not even pain is greater than Him. Pain doesn’t have the power to overwhelm me and make me lose anything, because in Jesus I am held safe and sound. I can rest back into suffering or pain, knowing that God is far greater than anything I’ll face, and He will turn it around for my good.
There have many times since then that the Holy Spirit has reminded me of those words spoken to me. “Pain can’t hurt you.” “Stop fighting the pain. Lean back and rest in it.”
You see, especially as an abuse survivor, I’ve been afraid of pain, afraid it could push me over some invisible cliff that would cause me to lose it. I’ve been afraid of suffering.
If you just live for ten minutes on this great, green earth, you will see suffering all around you. In American culture, we do all we can to avoid it, being driven by comfort and convenience. Yet, it is still there.
And lately, suffering just seems to increase. From coronavirus filling the news, to a friend thrown in jail for running with her kids in an effort to protect them from evil, to another mom fighting for her teenage daughter’s safety, to a loved one fighting Parkinson’s, etc., etc., sometimes it feels overwhelming with so much evil seemingly prevailing in this world.
I don’t normally watch the President’s State of the Union address; however, this last time, I did. The story that caught my attention the most was about the young lady who believed God was a God in the middle of suffering, so she went to a Taliban ruled country to live with the suffering women and children to find that God. Subsequently, she was captured by the lead Taliban terrorist and made his slave, was tortured and mutilated until she was finally murdered. It made me want to vomit. I kept thinking, “Jesus, why? Why such a tragedy?”
As I asked Jesus that question, He just gently answered, “She found me. She found me in the suffering. I was there. I never left her. I encompassed her like a shield, and though her body was tortured, her soul and spirit were surrounded by Me.”
Did Jesus want that to happen? Of course not! Does He see and care about every single person who is suffering? Yes. HE is close to the brokenhearted. HE sees a single bird when it falls to the ground, and HE cares about it. What breaks our hearts, breaks His heart. He also sees a much larger, grander picture than we do though, and in that we can rest in Him.
Honestly, it still makes me sick to my stomach to hear those stories, because I hate that evil. We think it’s limited to overseas, but it’s not. It’s all around us in different forms. Sex trafficking for one—women and children being abused, men as well in some cases—children abducted, murders, etc..
Yet, in every situation, in all the things, I see Jesus entering into that suffering, and being so present, just like He was with me hugging that trash can. He doesn’t stand aloof correcting us for not having enough “faith.” He jumps right into the darkest place we find ourselves in, and He is actively at work turning it out for good for us.
Evil people may choose to continue in their evil practices. He won’t violate free will, but He does promise, one day, it will catch up to them and they will be held accountable. We can rest in the justice of God.
Even in the most painful of situations, He asks us to trust Him. Sometimes, He doesn’t rescue out of the pain because He is working something good for us in it. Sometimes, He is healing something deeper in us, maybe that we can’t even see, or doing something behind the scenes that we can’t understand in the moment.
Yet, He is always good and is working all things together for our good.
Even as I write this, my daughter is watching a story about George Muller, a man who chose to completely run his ministry trusting God to supply all the needs of the orphanages he ran, never asking anyone for anything.
The story goes that one day there was no food for breakfast for the children, so he instructed them to pray. As they did, a milk truck broke down in front of the orphanage. The milkman brought in jugs of milk for the children, so that it wouldn’t spoil. Shortly after, a baker knocked on the door with baskets of bread, because the Lord had prompted him to bake it for the children that morning.
God sees everything, knows our every thought and need, and He loves us. He’s really BIG, far bigger than our enemies. Even when all we can see is disappointment and pain, He is just waiting for us to trust Him, knowing somehow He will turn it for our good.
To me, the more amazing miracle is that He weaves it all into a beautiful masterpiece, even with all the things that looked completely dark or impossible. Every strand becomes part of this gorgeous tapestry of our lives that He one day will present to us, and show us how He turned it all into beauty. Every ash. Every fear. Every tear.
He asks us, He asks me, to trust Him, to trust that He is really good. Somehow, in some way, as I lean back into His embrace resting in His love for me, He will turn it all around for my good, because after all, pain can’t really hurt me, not the real me, when He is in it with me.
Featured Image by Kalegin Michail