This week a friend of mine and his wife, Cody and Sarah, suffered a heart breaking tragedy in their family. They lost their baby boy, only seven weeks away from his due date. I cannot fathom for one second the pain they are going through. I won’t try to explain away this happening with trite phrases about God’s will. While it is true the each of our appointed dates with death are by his sovereign design, understanding this fact does nothing, absolutely nothing to assuage the pain we endure in the moment. Pain is a necessary burden in a fallen world. If it were not for pain and suffering, many of us might have never met Jesus. With that thought in mind, I want to make a meager attempt to offer some simple words about what we can do with our pain.
The first thing I would say is don’t ignore it. The temptation to bear a stiff upper lip in the face of pain and tragedy isn’t brave, it’s foolhardy and will ultimately cause you to have contempt for people who allow their emotions to surface. Your emotions are God-given, and when you experience them you are reacting the way God designed you to react. As God’s image-bearer, you have been endowed with all the same emotions which he possesses. He intends for you to experience them. At the death of his close friend, Lazarus, Jesus, the creator of the universe, the creator of Lazarus, the man who was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, wept. And it wasn’t one or two tears, he was deeply moved and wept very openly in front of everyone (John 11:35). Many people want to spend time debating about why Jesus cried. I say that’s not the point. The point is that He is our creator, He is our model for living, and if He wept deeply, we can feel free to weep deeply as well.
Pain is to be shared. It is right and good that when we are suffering we allow others to share the suffering with us. I’ve seen people clam up and push others away when they are hurting. This isn’t best and it’s contrary to how believers are to mourn. The apostle Paul encourages his Roman readers to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” Romans 12:15. If you are hurting, you bet there are people who love you who want to share in that suffering with you and walk through it with you. Let them in. You will be blessed, and you will bless them by allowing them to suffer along with you.
Finally, pain is a compass. Pain helps us find true north. Rather than burying pain, allow it to run its course. Pain leads to the foot of the cross of Christ. When all is lost, the only person who can offer comfort and purpose for continuing to move forward is Jesus. The power of the cross has purchased for us a redeemed purpose that rises above the circumstances of life. When you’ve dealt with your pain and allowed Jesus to redeem your pain, your pain will become your servant. When Paul speaks to the Romans of being more than conquerers (Romans 8:37) this is what he means. Not only do you overcome, but you come about and use the thing which once caused so much suffering, to bring glory to God by helping others endure their times of trial. I didn’t coin this phrase, but I’ll use it anyways: your pain is your ministry to others. Don’t bury it, but endure it, overcome it, and make it your strength for helping others in their times of need.
My love and condolences to Cody and Sarah, and anyone else who reads this who has suffered such great loss.