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One of the problems we all have to deal with is that of pain. Some even find that the existence of pain, to the degree that we see it in this world, causes them to doubt their faith in God. They say, “If God is both all-powerful and loving, how can he allow so much pain and suffering?”
Some conclude either that God is not all powerful (which means that he is not God), or that he is not loving (which is a denial of Scripture). Implicit in this kind of question is the assumption: “God, if I were in charge, I would not do it your way.” This is an assumption that we are not entitled to make.
Most people can handle a good deal of pain if they can see a reason for it. Athletes, mountain climbers and others who place great demands on their physical bodies willingly subject themselves to a great deal of pain. Soldiers accept suffering, hardship and death in the service of their country. Most women are able to accept the pain of childbirth because they love their baby. Many people will work very hard if they see their work as bringing a reward. But when suffering seems meaningless, it is hard to accept.
Scripture gives us some clear guidelines for dealing with pain, suffering, and hardship. These Biblical principles have practical applications for our daily lives.
In considering pain, it helps to remember that God is faithful and he loves us. No matter what happens to us, He is willing and able to make it work out for our good.
God Strengthens and Empowers Us
Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have the eyes of their heart enlightened so that they might know God’s “…incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19 NIV). (Also see Ephesians 3:20.) God’s incomparably great power is at work within us. We may not feel it, but Scripture says that it is there.
God wants us to live every aspect of our life in his strength and his mighty power.
We should do everything in his great power. Apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). In all things we can draw on the mighty power of the God who lives in us and in whom we have our being. Paul wrote,
Paul prayed that the Colossians would be “strengthened with all might according to [God’s] glorious power” (Colossians 1:11). When David was greatly distressed, he “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). (Also see 2 Samuel 22:33; Psalms 28:7, 46:1, 119:28.)
While on earth, Jesus Christ ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14). He told his disciples, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
This includes the power to love people who seem unlovable, to forgive those who have wronged us deeply, and to get rid of all bitterness. God can make us willing and able to cast off everything that hinders (Hebrews 12:1) and to persevere in the face of great obstacles. He can enable us to live by the Spirit, to show the fruit of the Spirit, to minister in love to others, and much more. It is God’s power to become what we could never become on our own.
Grace came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), and part of the definition of grace is God’s influence working in us. It is only by God’s power working in us that we can possibly hope to develop godly character qualities.
I find all this astonishing. Of ourselves we are weak and fallible. Of ourselves we can do nothing. But the Almighty God, who created and sustains the universe, has enabled us to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
By the mighty power of God working in us, we can overcome the world’s temptations and pressures, and we can surmount every difficulty and problem we may face. Whatever our problems or difficulties may be, the one who lives in us is greater. We need to learn to believe this, to feel it, and to act on it.
We Have Hope
With God there is always hope. He is “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). (Also see 1 Timothy 1:1, 4:10.) “Happy is he… whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:5). (Also see Psalms 33:20, 37:9, 39:7, 62:5, 130:7, 147:11; Jeremiah 14:22.) Those who believe in God will always have hope (Psalm 71:14). Part of standing firm in the faith is to “…hold unswervingly to the hope we profess…” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV). We need to “…continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Colossians 1:23 NIV).
God “…has given us new birth into a living hope…” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV). Peter is there talking about the hope of eternal life, but with God there is hope in this world also.
Abraham in hope believed God’s promise that he and Sarah could have a son, and their hope was realized (Romans 4:18-22). The Psalmist wrote, “I hope in Your word” (Psalm 119:81). (Also see verse 147.) He wrote, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him” (Psalm 42:5). (Also see Psalms 42:11, 43:5.) Whenever we find ourselves getting discouraged, the answer is to put our hope in God.
Those who are without God are without hope (Ephesians 2:12). “Brothers, we do not want you to… grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NIV). (Also see Hebrews 2:15; Job 27:8; Proverbs 24:20.)
Christian hope is not wishful thinking. It is confident expectation. As Christians we can be “…sure of what we hope for…” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). “…those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23 NIV). “Hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5). Our confidence is based on who God is. We know, without any doubt, that God is far greater than any problem or concern we may have, that he is a good and loving God, and that he is faithful to keep his promises. We know that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
One of the remarkable things about our position in Christ is that so often we find ourselves in a win-win situation. However it comes out, we will be winners. Paul gives us one example. He wrote that God’s power is made perfect in weakness, and therefore Paul delighted in his weaknesses, because when he is weak (in himself) then he is strong (in God’s power) (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). So whether Paul feels strong or weak, it all works out for good.
I can give an example in my own life. I am fighting advanced cancer. If I should die soon, then I will go to be with the Lord. That is a very good place to be! And if I go, I am sure that God will continue to take care of my family. On the other hand, if, as I hope and desire, God heals me of this cancer, then I will have more time to serve him here on earth. So I cannot lose. Whatever happens, God works it out for good.
Because of our position in Christ, we can know that, no matter how difficult the outward circumstances may seem, we can, in God’s strength, be overcomers. And so we can be “rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:12).
We Can Overcome Any Adversity
God enables his people to overcome evil.
Therefore, we can overcome trials and tribulations, and we can conquer the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. Jesus said,
But then Scripture says that we can overcome the world.
When Scripture says that we can overcome the world, I believe this means that no matter what our problem or difficulty, the power of God is greater.
Paul was an overcomer. He had “…learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Philippians 4:12 NIV). (See verses 11-13.) He was no longer at the mercy of his circumstances.
We are more than conquerors because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39). We can see this with Stephen. An angry mob stoned him to death, but Stephen saw the glory of God and he died praying for his enemies. They conquered him physically, but Stephen was more than a conqueror. The mob couldn’t destroy his relationship with Jesus Christ or his godly character. (See Acts 7:54-60.)
We have “…authority… to overcome all the power of the enemy…” (Luke 10:19 NIV). We can overcome every evil influence because,