Monday, August 23, 2010

School of Pain

Well, the kids are officially back in school and the painful looks on their faces reminded me of that anxious and fearfully dreaded first day after Summer vacation. After explaining to them both that school is just part of life and that all good things must come to an end, I realized that this is just part of the natural pattern of life. We all experience times if great joy, "life vacations", and we all experience pain, "back to school". It's just an element of how God created us. Yeah, I know! Try explaining that to a teenager, right?

It's ironic,isn't it? We live in a culture, where we are constantly taught to avoid pain and suffering at ALL cost. Pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional, are meant to be avoided. Go to the doctor for this. Take a pill for that. So, how in the world are we supposed to teach our children that pain and suffering is just part of a Christian's journey, and should not only be expected, but even welcomed? In his book “On the Anvil”, Max Lucado takes a look at human suffering and compares the suffering of a Christian to that of being on a blacksmith’s anvil. As the blacksmith hammers the hot steel, it’s not exactly a pretty sight. It’s chaotic. It’s ugly. It takes much work. It’s hot and uncomfortable. But after the blacksmith has completed his job, what he is left with is a beautiful piece of metal; perhaps a sword or a valuable tool. The point that Lucado makes is that through our suffering, we become refined. We become better. As God allows us to go through the fire of pain, what comes out on the other side is beautiful. Yes, it’s painful, chaotic and ugly. But when the work has come to fruition, what remains is a tool that God can then use, on his terms. Beautiful. Useful. Refined!

In the book of Job, we see the quintessential example of human suffering intertwined with the nature and the sovereignty of God. We see life being played out in a great epic drama. On the big stage we see Satan suggesting that Job is only faithful because of God’s blessings in his life. Take away the blessings, and Job would surely reject and curse God. God begs to differ, knowing full well that Job’s heart was in the right place. “Prove it!”, Satan challenges. God sees redemptive history in front of Him. The big picture. He knows the pain that Job will go through, but in the end it will bring Him glory. And that’s what lies at the heart of this story. God’s glory.

So, God allows the heat to be turned up on Job’s life, and he makes it through the fire. Job became the steel. He was sent into the fire. Thrown upon the anvil. Beaten with the hammer. Tested and refined for God’s will. What remained? A tool to be used for God over the next several thousand years and for all eternity! Pretty awesome, huh? Do you think Job had any idea how his personal suffering would be used for the glory of God? Probably not. In fact, there is no evidence that Job had any idea what was going on between Satan and God. And he probably had never realized what God’s will was throughout his tragedy. All that mattered was God’s glory and Job's faithfulness. The point was made clear.

We all go through tragedy. We all experience pain. You may be going through some painful circumstances as you read this. Most of us do not go through suffering to the magnitude that Job did, but that's not the point, nor does it matter. The point is that suffering is suffering. Pain is pain. But as we feel the heat being turned up, and the hammer coming down upon us, do we ask God to stop the pain? Or do we just ask Him what the purpose of this particular trial might be? How can it be used for His glory? How can it be used in the big picture? How can we grow from it?

See, God has a reason for every tear we shed. We may never know what those reasons are, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that God receives the glory as we prove to be faithful. And our kids need to see this lived out in our lives. They need to see that we, as parents, teachers, leaders, can confront pain and suffering because it is an element of a fallen world. And they need to see that we welcome pain and suffering because it refines and makes us better!

So when your kids come home today, complaining about the "pain" of a new school year, I encourage you to talk to them about what God might be doing in their lives. remind them what's going on is not really such a bad thing, but only part of the process of refining the tool that God will some day use in incredible ways.

And if that doesn't work, you can always take them to McDonald's tonight :-)

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Awesome entry, Jake...except for the McDonald's part. I prefer Chick-fil-A. :)

Thank you!