Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

One area where our theology could use improvement is understanding what the Bible teaches about suffering and pain.

Can pain be good? I believe the answer is no. Pain is always pain. Does pain always bring gain? Some people do get better through pain, but some get bitter through pain, so it is not the pain alone that brings good things. Some of the pains in life are devastating to people and they do not recover from the emotional trauma for many years, if ever. For example, sexual molestation leaves devastating and lingering effects that even years afterwards still thwart emotional development. Sexual molestation is the evil “gift” that “keeps on giving” evil throughout one’s life. The words of hope that Christ spoke here, and other encouragements we receive in scripture, such as Romans 8:28-29 and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, do not mean to teach us that pain is or should be considered pleasurable.

But, we can grow through our pain, if we allow God to use it, and we may even rejoice through our pain. There are two reasons this is so.

First, we may rejoice when pain comes to us due to our Christian witness, that we have joined the ranks of the faithful witnesses of Christ through the ages. This world that crucified Christ will also put to death His followers – a slave is not above his master (John 15:20), and followers of Christ should expect some rejection. If we have sought to follow Christ and have never faced rejection, we would then have to admit that we certainly did not aggravate the world to any significant degree. And frankly, holy people should be a bit irritating to others in an unholy world – not because we are rude, judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous or mean spirited, but because we are God’s holy people.

It is one thing to look for a fight, and the scripture says that the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but should be kind to everyone (2 Tim 2:24), but it is another thing to never have rubbed the world wrong, or irritated it by our goodness. So when the world reacts negatively to us, and we have done nothing wrong to provoke its anger other than teach and practice the truth of God, realize that this simply means that we have joined the good company of the faithful witnesses through the ages. Rejoice as the early church did that God has counted you worthy to suffer for the sake of the name of Christ (Acts 5:41).

Second, in all suffering we find the motivation to search for a deeper experience of God’s grace. Paul wrote, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). The recognition of our need is the precursor to searching for and receiving a greater and more profound experience of God’s grace.

In heaven it will be different, that there we will see clearly and plainly the truth of God and all pain shall be removed. But here on this earth we are all slow to learn spiritual lessons. I have found that my heart is so quickly drawn to pride and so easily drawn away from God, that the Lord has had to often keep me before Him on the basis of my personal needs. (I will keep to myself the nature of these needs.) But if I never felt weak and inadequate I would be so easily tempted to pride and to neglect the Lord. I have found Him and a greater and more profound spiritual experience through my needs and pains.

So if you are misunderstood, rejected, or judged because you have graciously sought to be God’s light in the darkness around you, or if you are struggling with painful personal matters or inner challenges, do not be discouraged. Rather rejoice and be glad for the Lord shall show Himself to you as your Deliverer and Redeemer. Our needs draw us to Him and He is up to the task to give us consolation and joy in the midst of difficulty.

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