Summary: Is there purpose in my pain? Does God care when I hurt? By examining the life of the Apostle Paul, we can gain an eternal perspective of why God allows us to be broken by the trials of this life.

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So, to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” [2 CORINTHIANS 12:2-10]. [1]

The story is told of a child who brought a cocoon into her bedroom. She had been told that in time a butterfly would emerge from the cocoon; so, in her eagerness to free the butterfly, she carefully snipped the silken threads so the butterfly could emerge without a struggle. The child didn’t understand that the struggle to emerge was necessary if the butterfly was ever to fulfil the destiny for which it had been created. Without the struggle to free itself from the cocoon, the butterfly would never be able to fly as it was created to do. By “helping” the poor creature, she doomed it to a brief life of walking, rather than a full life of flying, even migrating great distances. The tiring struggle to free itself from the cocoon was necessary for the butterfly to be transformed into the beautiful creature God created it to be.

Just as this child thoughtlessly neglected the truth that the butterfly needed to struggle if it would fulfil the destiny for which it was created, we are prone to forget that it is precisely the struggle that confronts us day-by-day, the wind in our faces, the seemingly constant opposition, that makes us strong. If you will ever be the beautiful example of the believer God intends you to be, you will need to inure yourself to hardship. The trials you are facing today are designed to transform you into the gracious example of a redeemed individual that glorifies the Saviour.

I’m speaking to people who know something of disappointment, of heartache, of sorrow. If you are a follower of the Master, you rightfully anticipate that He will be gracious to His child. And, yet, at times you have been buffeted, beaten and bruised. You know what it is to be betrayed by people you thought were your friends. You have tasted bitter tears at unexpected partings—some through death and some through misunderstandings that were not resolved. You have at one time or another heard the frightening words that informed you of a dreadful medical condition. Or you know all too well what it is to be strapped, to be broke and unable to meet the obligations you contracted. You are well acquainted with the sorrow imposed by a child who has turned away from the Lord, disappointing you and dashing your expectations. In short, you have sat at the table of brokenness. You may be seated at this table even at this moment.

At any given moment in the service of worship are people who are sitting at, or who have been seated at, the table of brokenness. Represented among us are people who have experienced marital breakup or family stress so severe that it has strained relationships that should be inviolate. Broken, these dear souls lift their hearts to Heaven and cry out, “Why, Lord?”

Others among us have sat in the office of their physician and heard words that terrified their soul. Perhaps they have committed to the tomb a loved one. They had planned a life of growing old together, but somehow, death has intervened and now that dear soul is left alone to somehow find a way through the dark world without support and without a soulmate. Crushed by what obviously lies ahead, these dear souls gasp out a cry to the God of Heaven, seeking some sort of stable ground on which they can stand.

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