We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope; And hope does not disappoint us…Rom 5:3-5
Last night I woke up with a throbbing toothache that would not quit. It had happened once before and resolved with penicillin. This time it would not quit. All through my workday seeing patients, my mind was dulled by this constant, throbbing pain. And then I sat in the dentist chair: the numbing shot, the painless drill to open the abscess and life was good again.
I have always hated pain when it was my own. I can be very noble and philosophic about another person’s pain, but my own distorts my nobility and makes all the color drain from life around me. Pain hurts.
As Christian doctors we have been blessed with the privilege of spending our lives relieving the physical and emotional pains of our patients. What a gift.
But then there is our own pain. I’ve come to expect it in life. My turn in being human is only fair. But when my personal pain comes, it still saps my spirit and dulls my intellectual capacity and makes the whole world gray until the pain is relieved. For some of us, the suffering lasts much longer than my toothache. Emotionally or physically, it just seems that it may never end.
So what’s the good of it?
The chief good of pain is that pain points us toward healing and away from harm.
As C S Lewis says, “Pain is God’s megaphone.” This is true physically, emotionally and spiritually. But pain does even more than this. Pain changes character. If we suffer alone, such change may be toward bitterness, but if we suffer with the Christ who suffered for us, that change moves us toward perseverance and hope. When we are in pain, often without our own knowledge and effort, God works in us to make us dependent on Him with a hope that “does not disappoint us.” We learn to lean not on physical well-being or on relationships with other broken humans, but on the God of Creation who will one day make it all okay. We cannot learn this lesson outside of pain. We cannot grow such trust when we are not whole. We cannot be God’s partners in redemption without suffering.
So, I still hate pain and love my dentist; but when the pain comes again, however severe, I will bow and thank my God, not for the suffering, but for all He is accomplishing through it, though I often see it not.
Let it be to me as you require, to bring glory to Your name.