Finding Purpose in Pain
August 11, 2015
Laura and Ken DiFatta with Jake, Trent and Ethan
Beach Chic Photography
By Laura DiFatta
Yesterday, Trent got scrape wounds on his legs that look and feel much like burns. It hurts my heart to see his pain. Even as I examined him and he screamed, I knew that more pain was coming because his wounds would have to be cleaned with soapy water. He had been in lake water all day, so there was absolutely no question that we had to wash his wounds before applying the medication that would help protect his body from infection and aid his healing.
My husband and I drove home quietly discussing a plan for the best-case scenario of cleaning and medicating his wounds. We knew what was coming would be hard for him…and for us. We were right. He had calmed during the car ride home, but as soon as we went inside and began the process of gently washing his scrapes with soap and water, it all broke loose. He was in pain. The scene was ugly. But we were resolute. We knew that we had to do the hard thing–even though it hurt him, even though he was fighting us and begging us to stop, even though he did not understand–because it was for his good. And so, with my husband holding him, with our focus set, with our reassurances flowing, and my hands moving all the while, we were able do what we needed to do. We couldn’t have done it if we had not known it was for his best.
Parenthood has been the crucible through which I have best understood the heart of God. Particularly in the area of doing the hard thing concerning our boys–whether the hard thing is having to say the unpopular word “no”, setting boundaries that are tough for them to understand, having to clean wounds that are painful and on and on— my motivation and my husbnad’s is pursuing what is best for them. There have been moments and scenarios that my boys didn’t agree with me or my husband, much less want our input or help or guidance, but my husband and I have had to intervene because, whether they understood or not, they needed us to help them. There are even times that we have information that we are basing a decision on that directly affects them, information that they cannot handle.
In those times, they simply have to trust us.
There are times that we have a discussion with one or the other of our boys and we simply cannot make them understand our reasoning. Again, they have to make the decision of whether they trust us or not.
The love that motivates our decision and our actions feels like hard and exhausting work sometimes.
In Genesis, we have the account of the first humans God created, walking and talking with Him in perfect union. He loved them perfectly, cared for them perfectly and gave them freedom and only one rule. There was no fear, only trust and free-flowing love between man and woman and their God. Can you imagine being in a parent child relationship in which there was absolutely no discord? No rebellion or animosity? A relationship In which the child simply trusted in the love of the parents and enjoyed being with them? If you don’t have a child, think back to your adolescence for the “that’s an incredible and far-fetched thought” thing to sink in.
But then… our ancestors–the first humans–were tempted (the temptation wasn’t their downfall) and made the choice to act on unbelief. This choice that led to action is called sin. They sought self-actualization apart from God and the perfect union between human beings and their God was broken. The soul-deadly disease of sin entered and corrupted the DNA of human-kind. Their pursuit of their “best self” by an illegitimate means–through sin–forfeited their peace with God and began their downward spiral toward death. And just as they did, we each have to face and deal with the consequences of choosing “our way”/sin instead of God’s best for us. “For the wages, (earnings, payment, consequences) of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) However, that was not the end of the story was it?
One of my favorite sayings is: “God writes the script.”
Instead of that being the end of the story of man; instead of our lives merely being a living and dying saga, God chose to intervene. “Because of God’s great love, we are not consumed”…He loved, therefore He acted on behalf of His beloved. That includes you and me. Even back then, before recorded time, He had already begun the hard work of our healing.
God knew before time began that pain would be a part of our cleansing and our healing from the eternally deadly disease of sin. He knew that His own heart would be required to give it’s best and most and to break because… His perfect Son would pay our price. God’s beautiful, kind, flawless, loving Son would have to be our Rescuer and our Healer. And He willingly was. And so in Scripture, we are able to read prophecy about and then eye-witness accounts of His perfect life and the culmination of His Rescue Plan lived out resolutely through pain that looked like the humans he loved mocking, spitting, pulling His beard out, flogging, bleeding, punching, nailing, suffocating, merciless taunting of Him during His agony, betrayal and desertion by his friends, the depth of the weight of human depravity laid upon Him and worst of all–spiritual separation from His Father for the first time in literally forever–so that the full condemnation of the judgment that was rightly ours was paid for by Him. And so He won and proclaimed a victory He won for us, because on that day, Love Truly Won.
“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood…to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5
Our Savior Jesus understands pain. He lived and died through pain because it was necessary for our healing. The Bible says He actually scorned the shame and the pain of a criminal’s execution because of the glory that was coming. He had His eyes so steadfastly fixed on our salvation and on His rightful glory that he was able to endure horrors in order to achieve that great goal!
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:2
In addition, pain is sometimes a useful agent in God’s bringing about our best. There are times in my life that I know I would not have turned to God if He had not allowed me to experience pain. If someone or something hadn’t failed me and hurt me, I may not have ever turned to my Rescuer and the Lover of my soul. One of the most painful, despairing times in my life, drove me to cry out to God for rescue! And that is what He did! I praise Him!! He set me free!! I long–literally long–for others to know the freedom found through Christ alone. Oh what a useful tool that pain was as He fought for my heart! He pursues us and He uses the tools in our lives–relationships, pain, circumstances, beauty, nature and on and on–much like a surgeon, expertly knowing what will bring about our healing and our best. There are still painful circumstances in life that I do not understand. But I choose to trust that–even though I don’t understand–My Father God does. And He is personal and working and loving and strong and for us… Just as Ken and I ask our boys to trust us even when they don’t understand, we in turn choose to put our confidence and our trust in God. Our faith grows in those times too, as our hearts are seeking Him, perhaps even more than when things are calm and we feel especially settled and “blessed.”
That pain you’re feeling… have to talked with God about it? Have you poured out your heart to Him? Are you seeking Him or only what He can do for you? He has your best in mind and He can be trusted. Perhaps trusting Him is a frontier place for you. That’s ok. He loves you where you are. You can take baby steps. He’s pleased with those too! Run to Him, not from Him! Remember, His Son died for you way before you even had the first inkling of turning to Him, so of course you can be assured of His love now no matter what! He fights for you and He will accomplish your best. He alone can do and is committed to this promise for His children, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Do you believe that? It’s a big, only-God-sized promise! And He is able!! He can even make your pain, useful for your good!!
This past week, Ethan and I went with our church’s 6th graders and many adult chaperones to love on children who are living in painful circumstances. Worse than their poverty, many have parents who are literally gone and they are passed around from relative to relative, vulnerable and hurting. Many Christ-followers are committed to showing them God’s love as we should. And I was honored to be a part of something bigger–that flowed from the very heart of God–that they are not forgotten. Instead, they are loved. He has a plan for each of their lives, too. And He alone can use their pain in holy ways. Pain that sin brought, but pain that God alone can redeem.
I am about to go and clean Trent’s legs again. It will not be pretty. It will be hard. But I know, I know what is best for him. And so, I will do the hard thing, because I love him more than He can understand.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18