Pain always hurts and never gets easier. Pain is painful. So, we want to avoid pain at all cost and surround ourselves with only happiness. However, life does not always give what we want. Both happiness and pain are with us in our lives. At the end of the pain and sorrow, there comes joy and at the end of pleasure and joy comes pain and sorrow. The same God who created the light also created darkness. Light is brightness. All beauty is revealed through light. On the contrast, darkness makes everything dark. The darkness hides things. When darkness comes, the things visible during the day disappear. The darkness is a time of pause. We stop what we do when it gets dark in the evening. Then we begin to rest. God not only gave light but darkness as well, as a gift. The dark night is an invitation to rest. Therefore, we must be grateful for darkness.
Pain is a blessing in disguise. So, suffering is a mystery. Whenever I write about suffering or pain, I quietly reflect at the grace of God disguised in the form of affliction. When it is most unexpected, suffering knocks on our door as an unwelcomed guest. We fear when suffering knocks on our door. We do not wish to open the door. However, little do we know that suffering, our guest, brings an unexpected gift covered with a dark cloth that will bless us in the end. So, when we take very good care of our guest, suffering, it will leave a valuable gift when it leaves after a short while. Thus, suffering is often called “a gift in black cloth.”
Suffering produces change (transformation). Benjamin Franklin once said, “Pain gives us a lesson.” Pain produces transformation through understanding. No one likes pain but pain is a tool of grace that creates transformation in our lives. Long time ago, a shop selling marijuana moved right next to our church office. When evening came, many people gathered around the shop and smoked marijuana. The marijuana shop did not get along very well with our church office. It was also very uncomfortable. However, few days ago, an armed robber broke into the marijuana shop and took all the cash. The owner of the shop was shocked. The very next day, he closed the business and left. Pain has created change.
I witnessed a sudden change in my wife’s diet as she experienced pain in her life. She started to eat brown rice that she did not enjoy eating before. She could not gain strength if she didn’t eat meat at least twice a week but changed her diet to eating only brown rice and vegetables. We are people living in irony where we desire change but do not like change. However, when pain comes, we have no option but to change.
Pain makes us dream a new dream. When we are sick, we dream of restoring our health. When you suffer from a conflict in your relationship, you dream of your relationship being restored peacefully and beautifully. When we experience the pain of failure, we dream of success. When you experience poverty at its deepest level, you dream of life of abundance. If you experience hardships through a dishonest life, you dream of living a life of honesty. Those who have tasted the deep pain from unfair practices of law, will dream of entering the legal and political world in order to create a society where justice exists and prevails. Those who were hurt by the wrong structure and practices of church will dream of building healthy churches. Every step of change in the history of mankind began within the time of infliction and chaos.
Pain helps you realize what is most precious to you. When extreme pain comes, we are reminded that there is nothing of much importance to us after all. We realize that there aren’t much things needed to be obsessed over with. What I realized through suffering is that nothing is more valuable than life itself. There is nothing more valuable than family. There is no one, nothing more precious than God. In our mind, we know what our priorities are, but in reality, we do not live according to our priorities. However, when pain comes we are reminded of our priorities and live according to our priorities.
Pain helps us to listen closely to what God has to say. C. S. Lewis reminds us “Pain is the megaphone of God.” Pain helps us to awaken all of our senses. Pain especially helps us to draw our attention much more closely to God by stimulating our spiritual senses. Pain helps us to hear the unclear voices of God we weren’t able to hear and distinguish before in a much clearer way. Pain also helps to gaze upon God in silence and solitude (Ps 62:1). It helps us to keep our hope in God alone (Ps 42:11). And once again we are reminded that pain is a tool of grace that changes and transforms us. However, do not pray for pain in your life but when it comes do not let pain go away as pain; pursue change through your time of pain. By rightfully handling pain, go deeper into the grace of God. Dream more beautiful dreams through pain. I desire and pray that our God will comfort those who are going through hardships and pain. I want to thank all the encouragements and prayers for my family. Blessings.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.