I would like to take up this series again on comfort. We interrupted it for Easter & Mother’s Day, so it would be to our benefit for me to remind you of what we have spoken of. It is a broad subject. The Bible is full the subject, & deals with it from many vantage points.
God wills that you & I be comforted, and He intends to do the comforting Himself. We must be firmly convinced of this.
We must fight against these hindrances & flee away from ever suspecting God.
In our text of Lamentations we have the prophet in the pain of great distress. This is how the NIV puts it V.20 “See, O LORD, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed.” He calls upon God to take note of the pain he feels. The original Hebrew puts it like this – “See, O Jehovah, for distress is to me, My bowels have been troubled, Turned hath been my heart in my midst”. The Hebrew word implies he has been stabbed by a knife, and it is being turned in the wound. Pain is not a welcome guest. We would love to grow old w/o it. So how can we find comfort in Pain?
Pain is one of those things that calls for attention. It cannot be ignored. The ancient Spartans gloried in their ability to ignore pain. We sometimes refer to certain people with a Spartan attitude. I recall one fellow speaking of a terrible calamity he had, and he tried to brush it off, as if it was his duty to grin & bear it. Another fellow I knew refused to consider that pain had any purpose, or could teach him anything. The best thing you can do with pain, is just ignore it.
That type of attitude is foolish. It is false spirituality. It is actually a lie, to pretend we should be above pain & sorrow. We are only lying to ourselves, because we can never ignore pain. That is the way God made us. There was no pain before there was sin, but we were made in such a way, that the moment that sin entered this world, and into our lives, we feel pain.
Our first parents did. They felt the pain of embarrassment. There would be pain in toil & labour & child birth. The only time we will ever be w/o pain, is when God says – “No more pain – sorrow – wipes ever tear from our eyes.” Until then, pain is part of our life. We need to deal with it honestly. That is the only way for us to get comfort in a time of pain. We must not under rate it.
This is what the prophet does. He calls upon God to “See” – his pain. He makes a great deal of it. I know us men are pretty good at that. We speak of a pain “threshold”. And women, it is said, have a much higher pain threshold than men. But we must agree. Pain comes in all shapes and sizes. Pain covers a whole spectrum of our life’s experience.
It is hard to draw a gauge of pain. Sometimes doctors ask you to rate your pain between 1 & 10. That is hard. One doctor made it easy – 1 is removing a splinter – 10 is putting your hand in boiling water. The Bible actually refers to the worst pain imaginable, as the pain of child birth. I Googled this and it came up with ‘kidney stones”.
The fact is, pain is pain, and you can’t ignore it. – particularly if it is incessant and attacks your ability to sleep and rest and relax. Nagging pain can be like a worm gnawing slowly into your vitals; we cannot ignore such pain.
CS Lewis wrote a book – “The Problem of Pain.” – “We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities. … gluttons gorge themselves, and can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – The question is, are we listening to God when He shouts to us in our pain. Pain is pain, – and one person cannot say, “My pain is worse than yours.” It is relative.
Everything from the pain of loneliness, grief, offense, reproach, humiliation, & depression. This is also pain, we cannot ignore. David likens depression to ‘broken bones’. Ps 38:3 “There is no soundness in my flesh Because of Your anger, Nor any health in my bones Because of my sin.” Just as a person cannot ignore a broken leg or a broken arm, so David could not ignore the oppression he was under. In this case it was guilt. At other times it was reproach & dishonour; sometimes he called it fretting; other times he was cast down. But there was no time, when he could dismiss it, and ignore it. “My groaning is not hid from you.” Psa.38:9.
The effect of his emotional pain was to draw him to God. More than that – he cast himself upon the Lord. Pain will always make a great demand upon our faith and patience. It calls forth all our powers of body and mind.
It is an insult to any one suffering pain to treat their suffering lightly. God actually commands it of us, to imagine ourselves bearing the pain & discomforts of others, so we may the better sympathise with them. Heb.13: 3 “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Pain is an undeniable fact, and to try to do away with it is simply folly. The fact that God teaches us not to ignore pain, but to make much of it, ought to be a great comfort to us. It helps us to be real; not to feel alone; it helps us to be caring & sensitive.
In a way, we could say the prophet feels sorry for himself – he says, “See, O LORD, how distressed I am!” And you know, it is not a wrong to feel sorry for our self – providing we are honest with ourselves. I am not suggesting we become a sadsack, complainer, and every time someone asks us “How are you?” we begin with our foot and work up to our head. But we ought to feel sorry for our self in the right way, otherwise, how can we ever feel sorry for someone else. Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself”. If we have no pity for our self, how can we feel anything for our neighbour.
So I am comforted in my pain, so that when I feel sorry for myself, I know God also feels sorry for me. He takes notice of my pain. He intends me to make as much of it, as I need to. He hurts with me. The thought that God knows all about it, and feels it with me is a wonderful comfort. His Sympathy is the greatest balm for our pain, and we have the sympathy of God.
He undoubtedly could do so by just a wink of His eye; with one single word? Perhaps, you have sometimes had hard thoughts of God on that account.
Our family doctor is a good friend of ours. We bought our house from him, and he and his wife were our first visitors when we moved to Angaston. I know when I go to see him, he does more than simply check me over – as a friend he sympathizes. And if he could, he would remove the discomfort & pain, if he could.
The same is true of parents. You know what parents are like. You know the old saying – ‘this will hurt me more than it will hurt you.” That is particularly true when a child is sick or in pain. How many parents wish they could remove it, or bear the pain themselves.
So here is a dilemma. There is no Physician like our Heavenly Father; And there is no question as to whether He can or can’t remove our pain. He is Almighty – nothing is impossible to Him. If His sympathy is beyond expression, how is it, that God does not remove our pain?
The truth is, He often does. In fact, it is more often than not, that He does. He has designed our bodies with miraculous powers of self healing. God has blessed us doctors & hospitals & medicines with amazing healing properties.
This is how God cares for us. He heals us. But what of the times when we are not healed. Why do we suffer? Has it ever occurred to us, that it is all the more heart breaking for God, knowing He can remove the pain, but also knowing, in His loving purpose, there are good reasons to leave the pain where it is.
We are like children in this way. Children like their lollies right now – they don’t like to wait for them. They are not concerned about future benefit, – they want their reward now. Our Heavenly Father is all-wise. He has far-seeing wisdom; and He intends to bless us with great blessing. We only have to be willing that He should bless us in His own way. We must trust Him.
Therefore, be comforted in every pain with the thought that it has not escaped the Observation of God. Our pain has been noted by Him. He has felt our pain with us. David knew this. He said, ‘My groaning is not hid from You, O Lord.’ Think of yourself as being carried by God, when you are in pain. So that is the 1st comfort in pain. Do not undervalue it. God doesn’t.
And this ought to be a great comfort. Christ, who is God in His human nature, made of nerves & sinews and flesh and blood, just like ours, every nerve the same, every muscle the same, actually felt great pain; probably greater than any we have ever felt. A sharp pain was sharp, a dull grinding pain was dull and grinding to Him, just as such pains are with us. There is no doubt there is no pain we have felt, that He felt one like it. “He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh.” He was not like Adam – He did not stand forth as an immaculate golden boy – “there was no beauty in Him” – He was like us, but w/o sin.
Just as He felt physical pain, so He felt emotional pain. Then there was the pain of reproach. To have others accuse you – and twist your words – & exaggerate – and say slanderous things was a crushing experience. It was prophesied of Christ in Ps 69:20 “Reproach has broken my heart, And I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none.” He was depressed more than anyone had ever been. Jesus was called a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
It will help us to bear our pain, if we remember our Lord suffered all this for us. Pain & death is the punishment due to sin. We all know it is us, who deserves pain and death. But we all know who it was who suffered. We know we were not wounded for our transgressions, we were not bruised for our iniquities. But we know who was. The Lord has not dealt with us according to our iniquities.; but we know with whom He has. We know who bore our sins in His own body on the tree; One who had no sins of His own.
I think it will help us to bear the measure of pain that God lays upon us, and will comfort us if we come into fellowship with Christ in regard to it. Your nearest and dearest friends; your family, cannot enter into your pain the way your Saviour can.
That is the prospect before you. This is what our Lord held before Him. “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Every pain borne, is one pain less to bear.
And God encourages us to think of the end. He keeps teaching us of future blessing. I love that verse in Eph.2:7 – “in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
I remind you again of Revelation 21:4: ‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.’
Pain will still be pain, but this gives us courage to bear it; it inspires us with hope in it; it gives us a glimpse of the final way out of it; and, to say the least, it cheers us up.