Summary: This series aims to narrow the gap between scriptural instruction and our day-to-day challenges.
The Purpose of Your Pain
Tuff Stuff Series – #8
Gages Lake Bible Church
Sunday PM, October 18th, 2009
Pastor Daniel Darling
There is no tougher dilemma in the Christian life than the problem of pain. It could be the pain of broken relationship, the pain of rejection, or the pain of insults.
Or it could just be plain old physical pain. Nothing tests the faith like pain.
It was physical pain that became a life’s work for a man named Dr. Paul Brand. Perhaps nobody studied pain like Dr. Brand.
I became acquainted with his work through the writing of one of my favorite authors, Phil Yancey. He and Dr. Brand wrote several books together including, In His Image, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and The Gift of Pain.
Dr. Brand died in 2003 at the age of 89. I want to read a little bit from an article in Christianity Today about him:
“Born to missionary parents in the mountains of southwestern India in 1914, Brand attended London University, where he met his wife, Margaret Berry. The two surgeons returned to Vellore, India, to teach at the Christian Medical College and Hospital.
While working as the school's first Professor of orthopaedics and hand research, Brand pioneered surgical work with those suffering from Hansen's disease, a bacterial infection more commonly known as leprosy. He was the first surgeon to use reconstructive surgery to correct deformities caused by the disease in the hands and feet, and developed many other forms of prevention and healing from the disease.
Before Brand, it was widely believed that those suffering from Hansen's disease lost their fingers and feet because of rotting flesh. Instead, Brand discovered, such deformities were due to the loss of ability to feel pain. With treatment and care, he showed, victims of the disease could go indefinitely without such deformities.
It was on this issue that Brand's work with Hansen's disease met with his theological reflections on what he viewed as "the most problematic aspect of creation: the existence of pain." Pain, Brand believed, was not antithetical to life, but a requisite for it. "God designed the human body so that it is able to survive because of pain," he later wrote.”
Dr. Brand’s research helped him form a theology of pain. He compared the body’s need for pain, to alert it to danger, to the soul and the spirit’s need for pain to alert it to danger and help it to survive.
You see, as Christians, we believe, that our trials, our pain, our deepest hurts, have a purpose beyond our comprehension. This dovetails nicely with what we find in the opening pages of the book of James.
A Letter to a Troubled People
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the first part of the book of James and study along with me.
What makes James unique among the books of the Bible is that it is the only book written by a pastor. We can’t be 100% dogmatic, but most believe this book was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus.
What is interesting is the transformation that took place in James life. If you remember, James was not a believer during Jesus’ earthly ministry. In fact, he often discouraged Jesus and scoffed at His claims. But then suddenly, in the Upper Room we see him praying with the disciples in the book of Acts.
The change that took place in James life was quick. He went from doubter to church leader in a short time. And being the first pastor of the first church in history was no easy job.
Remember, Christianity was a new movement. Jewish believers who stepped out on faith were often persecuted. They likely lost jobs and prominent places in society.
And many were still living with fear. They’d grown up under the law and so there was the religious baggage that came with their newfound faith. Plus, you add the continuing controversy between the legalists, who insisted that Gentiles had to first become Jewish by being circumcised and Paul and the rest of the Apostles who preached “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
So you see that James had a lot on his plate. More than most pastors I would say. And yet as a pastor, James had a unique vantage point on the subject of pain and trials. Nobody sees up-close the trials and travails of people quite like a pastor.
Evangelists evangelize and go from town to town. They preach and leave.
College presidents help run institutions that train the next generation of Christian leaders.
Worship leaders are immersed in the creative arts.
But pastors see, day in and day out, the real life struggles of people desperately trying to live out their faith among trials. And so that’s why James’ book has a unique vantage point.