Why We Might Not Want to Live Without Suffering

The other day, I learned the physiological mechanics of a mosquito bite.

Yee-haw.

Some of you might have seen the same animated video that I did as it makes the rounds on Facebook. I learned that it’s really all about the mosquito’s saliva (ick) – it acts as both an anesthetic and anticoagulant, allowing the female to get the blood she needs (what a wonderful provider God is!….I think…).

Then the video concluded with an interesting point: the actual swelling and itching of a mosquito bite isn’t directly caused by the saliva. It’s caused by the body’s immune  response to the bite. The saliva is an allergen, which triggers antibodies to attack the foreign intrusion, and that causes the swelling and itching we’re all familiar with as we writhe around upon the grassy ground, scratching like gangbusters.

I was reminded of other bodily responses. A lot of symptoms we experience to various problems aren’t actually caused by the problem: they’re the result of our body fighting the virus or the infection or whatever.

We would not want to live without physical pain.

Like most of you, I learned early in my education that pain, though unpleasant, is a lifesaver. A person unable to feel pain would leave his elbow in contact with a hot stovetop until flesh and bone crisped through, instead of jerking it away upon feeling the heat. He might keep pushing a compromised knee as he climbed a mountain until a ligament gave. Or he might simply go about a normal and unremarkable life and never feel the pangs of the tumor growing deep in his abdomen until it was too late.

Sometimes I wonder: is pain of the heart any different?

Pain of the heart makes itself felt when we experience loss, or injustice, or cruelty, or other forms of disappointment. The body is fine, but the mind and heart are sorely pressed. And the world demands its riddance. Our upward mobility as a species is largely bent towards eliminating pain, and much of this is good.

But then the world turns around and claims that the only evidence they will accept for God’s existence is the removal of all pain. Any other is insufficient.

Pain is hard. But pain is also a bite on our faith, a burn on our conscience, a cancer in our sense of our own need for God. It’s trying to draw our attention to something that is amiss.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
(Proverbs 3:11-12)

Aside from having our status as delighted children proven every time we suffer (no small deal), we can always ask ourselves this question: what could this pain reveal about my need for God?

We will spend the rest of our lives building and rebuilding our sense of reliance on God and our love for him. It’s an unending project. We’re born without it, we’re given a foundation for it when we’re saved, but we have much to build.

And every once in a while, sometimes comes along and stings, wounds, or bludgeons us into remembering that our final, ultimate goal is to become hooked into God, and not this world or its offerings, for our joy.

God is not happy about or detached from our suffering. He might, indeed, be outraged. He might intervene to bring us relief and justice.

But I have come to believe he is also using pain to build our intimacy with him, our delight in him, and our trust in him. Our trust in his ability to make everything right within our hearts again. To restore our awareness of his love. To make us untouchable by despair.

Talk about an immune reaction.

Is it really something we’d want to live without?

 

If you know someone who might be blessed by this post, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

28 thoughts on “Why We Might Not Want to Live Without Suffering

  1. Always good stuff here Brandon. This is off the subject kind of, but a pastor friend shared a joke with me. Since you’re single it’s a good thing to know: “The Three Rings of Marriage” The engagement ring; the wedding ring, the suffer-ring. Just for fun!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amen, Brandon. Awesome post. I’ve looked after people who have no pain response. It’s not a good thing at all. Our suffering serves a vital purpose in the world,one we can’t always see and understand, but it’s there for a reason.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. In the Celebrate Recovery ministry we see a lot of folks coming to our meetings wanting to rid themselves only of their symptoms. Sadly, only a few are willing to dig deep enough to discover the real virus – sin.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This is so good! I deal with a lot of physical pain and for many years I tried to mask the pain, just trying to make it go away instead of dealing with it. But now, when I’m in pain, I go through my list of “what’s wrong?” and “how can I fix the problem?”. My physical journey has mirrored my spiritual journey: instead of avoiding pain and running away, I’m learning to sit and examine the sources of emotional, mental, spiritual pain. Only then can I find relief and healing. And, like you said, my pain always reminds me of my need for God. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post. Author Philip Yancey is excellent on the issue of pain. One book is Where is God When it Hurts, or the books he co-authored with Dr. Paul Brand who worked with leprosy patients.

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  6. Yes God does discipline us Brandon, we do indeed reap the evil we sow, Sin separates us from Him as it did with the Prodigal Son’s Father and so we suffer but when we come to our senses Wow what a Welcome Home.

    We also now live in a fallen World that Satan controls, God told us everything He made was very good, now Death happens, Sickness, Accidents, all types of evil even Chance but God tells us His plans for us are good not evil and that He does not willingly afflict us as we see confirmed in the Scriptures below but if we do Sin as Christians He will chastise us through The Body of Christ, His Church as well as through the Holy Spirit if our consciousness are not too hardened .

    Jeremiah 29 :11-12 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of Peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. KJV

    Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the Children of Men.KJV

    You can be sure Branden that He does not cause the insects to bite us believing we are their lunch or for flies to eat our lunch, or for cockroaches to not wipe their feet before they invade our Pantry.

    Seriously, God does not plan for bad things to happen to us but they will happen in this life, yes He has placed precautions so we can recognize danger as you shared and what is wonderful Branden is we never walk alone through our Life when we are Christians, He is always with us giving us His Strength to endure or even Miraculously Intervening, we never need to fear.

    Isaiah 43:1-3….. Fear not for I have Redeemed thee I have called thee by thy Name thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee, when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour….. (KJV)

    Christian Love and Blessings – Anne.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a big can of theological worms that this brings up. My belief, generated by my best limited understanding of the data available in Scripture, is that both God and Satan are engaged in afflicting us for their own reasons and that it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish their work. Prayer and closeness with God are the primary way to do that. I do not claim to know everything, though.

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      • The Scriptures I shared Brandon on my Comment above, makes it very clear that God does not willingly afflict us or plan evil for us, so who are you believing God or Mankind.

        To know God’s Truth we need His Wisdom and empowering which none of us were Born with (see link below) even the Pharisees diligently studied the Scriptures but they didn’t understand them and (1Corinthians2:9-16 KJV) explains why.

        Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the Principal thing therefore get Wisdom and with all thy getting get Understanding.

        Wisdom- http://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/the-gaining-of-wisdom/

        Blessings – Anne.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Willingly”, no, but he does see the value in discipline through affliction. He must have seen a net gain for his own glory and mankind in allowing the conquest of Canaan, the destruction of Korah, etc.

        I’m just trying to avoid a narrative where God is never the cause of our affliction. I think the Bible insists that we must see him as a direct cause at times, and an indirect cause at other times (i.e. allowing it) – even though he is not enthusiastic about it and his heart is always for us.

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      • Brandon you need to ask for God’s Wisdom and Empowering and than you will know the real reason for the conquest of Canaan, the destruction of Korah and also for the World Wide Flood, to say that God willingly afflicts us, His Redeemed Children is contradicting Scripture.

        Blessings – Anne.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is saying the same thing Brandon as shown in the Hebrew’s Definition, to be willing, consent. (Qal). to be willing to consent, yield to, accept; to desire.

        Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict Willingly nor grieve the Children of Men.KJV

        God does not deliberately hurt us Brandon or plan evil to happen to us, we hurt ourselves when we Sin and we block Him, it’s like time out and it’s not pleasant as the Prodigal Son found out and Samson and Peter and of course Judas, they like many others reaped what they sowed and so do we if we disobey God.

        Ask for God’s Wisdom and Empowering – Blessings – Anne.

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  7. Great short post that deals with such a troubling topic!! It’s hard to process pain when we’re in the midst of it, so it such a critical strategy to think about now, before we walk through the valley of the shadow. (I love how King David put it: When–not if–!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! Suffering does keep us dependent on the Lord and our eyes fixed on eternity. I also believe it allows for others watching us wrestle with suffering to see a noticeable difference in us as we depend on God to carry us through, hopefully resulting in drawing others to Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

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