Pain was their body’s way of telling them that they’d pushed themselves to their limits—which was exactly where they were supposed to be. —Richard Marcinko, Rogue Warrior
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have lost their earthly lives due to their faith. This gruesome suffering leaves us questioning God: How could You allow such a thing to happen to Your kids?
Believers around the world live in fear. In Central Africa, our faith sisters are raped and abducted. In China, the authorities will dismantle a church during the service, often arresting the pastor as well. Global acts of violence against Christians number over a thousand per month.
Why not eliminate suffering once and for all? This would make evangelism much easier. Come to Jesus and never suffer again! No more pain!
It sounds great, but it’s untrue. God never promised safety. Indeed, as we read books like Acts and Hebrews, it’s obvious that faith in Christ is often bundled with oppression, persecution, and even discipline. Who can bear it? And so the author of Hebrews wants to make sure we’re looking up:
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you …? (Hebrews 12:5)
The next verse, Hebrews 12:6, references a proverb, but not exactly. The differences are subtle and have rich translation history. But for today, we need only to read Proverbs 3:11-12 to discover the exhortation:
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. (emphasis mine)
We now know that discipline builds strength, and we also know that a good parent allows the presence of a little bit of pain in their child’s life. So the question is still why? What purpose does it serve?
God allows pain to enter our lives. God allows hardships and sufferings. But… as we endure hardship as discipline (Hebrews 12:7), our suffering doesn’t destroy our spirit but strengthens feeble arms and weak knees (Hebrews 12:12).
Said differently: Pain trains.
Jesus, if I once saw hardships as an absence of Your love, let me now see them as opportunities to train alongside You… Amen.