Gilland: Grappling with pain and suffering

Let’s face it: No one likes suffering and pain. But there is not a one of us that could ever be free from it. At least, not completely.

The main reason for that? God, in His infinite wisdom, has made it to be that some of our most important life lessons are going to be learned during a time of suffering, pain, or even during a season of the death of a family member or loved one.

There are groups of teachers in some churches who espouse a belief that if one is in the middle of God’s will and serving Him and His purpose, we can be free from pain and trials, of poverty or suffering. I am sure that they mean well, but Scripture does not support their view (see John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12 and 1 Peter 4:12).

Jesus, the begotten son of God, himself tasted the greatest suffering known to man as he was hung on a cross. History and theologians alike all agree that the Romans devised the most painful and torturous death imaginable in their penchant for crucifixions. This same Jesus let his disciples know that they too would suffer for his name. Some actually died in crucifixions, others were persecuted harshly. But all of us, even today, will learn that some of the steps laid out before us in our lives will be difficult.

When I was a young pastor, my wife and I walked through a trial that I had prayed would never happen in our lifetime. We lost a child. Those days were filled with heartache, disappointment and pain. But they were also filled with growth. They forced us to put our faith in action, and taught us that, like Peter when he stepped off the boat to walk on water to the Lord, we can endure even that level of heartbreak if we keep our eyes on the Lord and not on the waves rising around us (see John 14:22-33).

Not long after burying our son, I read a book that made an indelible imprint in my heart. It talked about the silver smith and the refiner’s fire. It described with great detail the process of refining silver.

That silver is put into the fire, and literally melted. As it melts, imperfections called dross will “bubble up” to the top. Carefully, and skillfully, the silver smith will rake away the dross, leaving pure silver behind, still under the fire.

The author closed the story by sharing how the silversmith knew that his job was done, when all the dross was removed. You see, he would look down upon the surface of that molten treasure, and if he could see his own reflection, the heat had served its purpose. The silver was refined.

So it is with us. There are some things in our lives that need to “bubble out,” and the only way that will happen is for the fire of life to burn them out of our hearts. And, how amazing it is that, when it is over, others can look at our faces and see a greater reflection of Jesus.

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