When Pain Is Front And Center

When we are suffering it’s so tempting to focus on the pain, because the pain is front and center. It’s right in front of our eyes.  Intense. Grievous. 

Pain is like a smear of black paint across a painting.  At first it’s all we see.  But if we look closely, we can begin to see little dabs of color around the edges.  Little splashes of mercy shining through the black.  And when we begin to examine the canvas diligently, we’ll find hundreds of mercies dotting the landscape of our pain.

Even in the hurricane winds of affliction, mercies cling to us. There are new mercies to see every morning if we look for them or remember them. Mercies like God working all things together for our good.  Like our Father giving us comfort and strength. Mercies like our great high priest praying for us on throne of grace.  And his prayers are louder than any hurricane winds. 

In mercy God promises to be with us in the valley of the shadow of death. In mercy he counsels us with his eye upon us. He gives us his Word and promises to infuse us with strength and hope.  Glimpses of heavenly sunshine break through the clouds that overshadow us.

There are more mercies. God provides family,  friends, and Christian brothers and sisters to pray for us and care for us.  He gives medication, doctors and nurses.  And he gives merciful relief from each day’s suffering – sleep.  Very often God still gives us distracting moments of joy and laughter. Moments when we forget about the raging storm. 

Years ago I twisted my ankle really badly and to be on crutches for two months. Now I know that this is absolutely nothing compared to what so many suffer.  But I was tempted to self-pity at times, like one morning when I had to crawl and push my coffee across the floor because I couldn’t carry it on crutches.  Thinking back I am embarrassed at how easily I slid into self-pity at such a tiny trial.

One day God reminded me of his commands to rejoice always and in everything give thanks. So I decided to try. “Lord, thank you for this sprained ankle. Thank you that I didn’t have to go to Vietnam and get my legs blown off like many guys. Thank you that I sprained only one ankle instead of both. Thank you that I have a comfortable home to be in. Thank you for the wonderful medical care we have in this nation.  Thank you for my wife and kids. Thank you that I’m healthy in every other way. Thank you that I can think read and speak and see and hear…

God showed me I had thousands of mercies to praise him for. My salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, adoption into God’s family, etc.  The more I praised him for his mercies in my peewee little trial, the more joy I began to experience.

One day it struck me that only one person received no mercy in his affliction – Jesus.

As he hung on the cross, he received only the unmitigated wrath of God.  Jesus had no comfort from or fellowship with his father.  No sense of his Father’s love. For his Father had turned away from him. Jesus experienced not one drop of relief God’s wrath, no break in his agony, no letting up of the horrific torture his soul.

And he did all that so we could experience God’s mercies new every morning.  So if you are suffering today, I don’t minimize your pain. Some of you are suffering horrific pain and sadness.  But I would encourage you, even in your pain, to look for God’s mercies in the midst of it. As much as you can focus on those little dabs of color glistening around the edges of the blackness and glowing in the background.  The more you become aware of God’s mercies and praise him for them, the more joy you will experience.

Comments

  1. Elaine says

    Isn't it amazing how quickly we can develop tunnel vision and only see our trials?

    Love the sentence: "And his prayers are louder than any hurricane winds." Amen – what a truth! The Lord has brought us through many hurricane winds and it is a great encouragement to be reminded that His prayers for us are much louder and stronger than the winds of any hurricane.

    Thanks, Mark.

  2. Judith says

    Hi Mark,
    I have a friend whose seven year old child has a grievous disease which causes her to be in debilitating pain everyday. My friend is a godly mother of several children but at times cannot bear to watch the suffering her beloved daughter experiences. This little daughter has been given much grace and knows the Lord in a way that humbles me. I would have loved to share your blog with my friend except the line to stop being a baby would not administer grace to her. I know you were sharing your personal story but I wish I could have given her encouragement from your post. Perhaps another blog entry you can think of how others might misconstrue your words when applied to themselves. Just a thought; I love reading your blog.

    • Mark Altrogge says

      Hey Judith, Thank you! I deleted that line and reworded the story. I appreciate you sharing this with me. I want to remember that there are some who are really suffering intensely when they read my post. I didn't intend to say that someone feeling sorrow for a child or even themselves was a baby – I guess I just thought that for me to feel such self-pity at such a small trial was being a baby. Any way, thank you.

  3. Mary Ann K. says

    "And his prayers are louder than any hurricane winds." Never thought of Jesus' prayers being loud, but they may be!

  4. Kate says

    I know a few families going through unfathomable trials currently. I am thankful to be able to share this with them. They have been torn between hopelessness and seeking to see God's mercies in the midst. Thank you!

  5. MargaretFortenberry says

    Thanks for the encouragement to remember to PRAISE God in the middle of our pain. An old song by the Imperials said "… and the chains that seem to bind you, drop powerless behind you whne you praise the Lord"

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