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Where Is God When I'm in Pain?

As a leader, sometimes I’m called upon to inflict pain. I have to make decisions that hurt people in order to achieve some larger purpose.

The danger in doing so is that I can keep that pain at arm’s length. It’s hard to embrace pain, even when that may be what God is calling you to do.

I have to continually press into pain in life if I’m to lead well.

If you have proven yourself trustworthy to God, watch out! He may trust you with one of his most precious and misinterpreted of gifts: the gift of pain.

The prosperity gospel people have it wrong. God is probably more interested in our response to testing than he is in showering us with material blessings.

How will you do in tough times? This is the age-old bet that Satan makes with God, the best example of which we see in the book of Job. It goes like this: “I’ll bet your servant is just in it for the good times, let’s see how he does with a little pain in his life.”

You may say to me, “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, you’ve never gone through what’s happened to me … you don’t understand my pain.” And my answer is, you’re right. I can’t understand your pain. But while our family is exceedingly blessed, we have also known pain of our own.  

Our personal pain.

In particular, my youngest daughter has experienced more pain than anyone should ever have to go through. When she was young, she had a chronic infection in her ears that was extremely painful, making it hard for her to hear. In addition to her physical pain, she struggled just to understand what people were saying. Then, when she was a little older, we discovered that her palate wasn’t fully formed. Issues of memory and learning became more apparent.

Despite numerous surgeries, she has not been able to articulate words as most people do. When she was a teenager, she began having seizures. She has been labeled by professionals and isolated from her peers. She has struggled with what it means to be different. Loneliness is her frequent companion. Every week, Karen used to take her an hour away to see specialists.

And we as parents have carried the burdens of crushed hopes while trying to meet all the special needs.

I don’t have any answers for her when I see her heart broken because other people have friends and she doesn’t. When she looks at me with eyes that say, “Daddy, it’s not fair,” I don’t have answers for her.

It’s not fair! Why is it that some people never seem to catch a break? All I know is that the pain they experience can send them to Jesus’ feet faster than other people. That’s why he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The broken-hearted need Jesus more than the rest of us.

We have a choice.

Because it’s not fair that my daughter—or anyone else—should be saddled with so much pain, we have a choice. We can either shake our fists at an all-powerful God who seemingly put us in this mess, or we can choose to trust and worship him, knowing that somehow he will redeem it.

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sethbarnes@churchleaders.com'
I'm a work in process. I've found that the main thing one needs in a relationship with God is hunger to know Him and be in His presence. As for the rest of my life, Karen and I are going through a transition as three of our five children are leaving the nest, leaving us with our two youngest, two dogs & a cat. One of our great consolations is the wonderful group of friends at AIM. They are truly the body of Christ to us. Life here is always an adventure and I wouldn't have it any other way!