Summary: We rejoice in our sufferings, because God uses them in our lives and has a purpose for our good and His glory

The Paradox of Pain

TCF Sermon

October 13, 2013

There is a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip that sums up what life often feels like, and I think even for us as a fellowship, it describes at least part of our experiences in the past few years.

It’s a series of panels, each depicting a scene from a single day. First, Calvin sits on a wad of bubble gum. Next, his teacher catches him glancing at his classmate’s paper. Then a bully knocks him down in the hallway. The water fountain sprays in his face. The bug he’d brought in for show-and-tell escapes. He gets picked last at recess. There’s a hair in his lunch, and when he heads to the swing set, all the seats are occupied.

Finally, he misses the bus and has to walk home in the rain. In his bedroom that evening, Calvin looks at his trusted tiger and says, “You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.”

Well, I don’t have, we don’t have, lucky rocketship underpants. But, as followers of Christ, we do have a merciful and gracious God, who loves us, and knows our weaknesses and our frailty.

Yet, we have to be honest and admit we’re in a paradoxical season in the life of this church, having the kind of season in life that Calvin had in a day, with a lot of things just not going right.

On the one hand, we’re seeing some growth, with God bringing to us wonderful new individuals and families. It’s what we’ve been praying for about three years now, and God is showing Himself faithful to respond to those prayers.

God continues to use this church to send laborers to the distant harvest fields, and God is using us to minister in many ways to our community.

Yet, we’re also in a very difficult season, with so many individuals facing illnesses, disease, or emotionally challenging personal and family issues.

I spent a few minutes this past week looking over each week’s intercessory prayer list back to the beginning of 2013. What a year we’ve had this year! Let me remind you of just a few things that showed up on the top of our prayer list that we publish each week:

Sarah Joy, ongoing neck issues, colitis

Mary Lu , recovery from paralysis

Dan , back issues in the midst of caring for Mary Lu, and then his sister died

Tom B, hospitalized

Vicki B, diagnosis of cancer, two surgeries

Spencer T, hospitalized with severe headaches and a life threatening blood vessel problem in his brain

Debbie, concussion and injuries from serious bicycle accident

Margot, broken rib in the same accident

Rebecca W, heart attack, stents

Ginger and Rebecca in a car wreck

Tom and Jody’s grandson Michael

Gordon, heart attack and stent procedures

Ben O, wife Shirley died suddenly and unexpectedly

Abby F, broke her arm

Pat G, ongoing health issues, recent hospitalization for septicemia

Daniel L, emergency appendectomy

Laura G, series of mini-strokes

Darlene G, hospitalization for seizure

Jerry D, spider bite

This is only some of what’s been at the top of our intercessory prayer list in 2013, and these include only things that required some sort of hospital visit. It doesn’t include most of the extended family issues we pray about together. It doesn’t include many of the emotionally painful things our TCF families deal with, including prodigal kids, unsaved loved ones, dysfunctional families, broken relationships. It doesn’t include everyday illnesses, many chronic illnesses, deaths in extended families, aging parents, etc. And it doesn’t extend into last year, and it doesn’t include all of the ongoing physical and emotional struggles that our brothers and sisters in Christ here face every day.

Some of them we know about and have been praying about for some time. Many of them we do not know about, or only a select few know. So, in the midst of this wonderful and encouraging season of growth and ministry, we’re also seeing this suffering and pain among the body as well.

We cry out to the Lord for healing, for relief from these problems and we see God move in response to many of these prayers, but it’s a paradox, isn’t it? Because it seems that some of these prayers go unanswered – let’s be honest with each other, and with God, and recognize the reality is that we pray for things that don’t always seem to turn out the way we want, the way we think would be good or best.

A paradox is a statement that might seem to contradict itself, but which might be true. We see a lot of paradoxes in scripture, statements which are absolutely true, but seem to be contradictory. Fully God and fully man, when speaking of Jesus. The things that are already, but not yet, with many things related to God’s Kingdom.

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