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God never wastes our pain

Pain is hard enough, but pain that feels wasted can be devastating.   Karen was visiting our children’s doctor seven years ago and Dr. Roseberry said something that has never left her. She entered his office wondering, “Will my daughter’s pain ever mean anything?” Years of swabbing her inf…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Pain is hard enough, but pain that feels wasted can be devastating.
Karen was visiting our children’s doctor seven years ago and Dr. Roseberry said something that has never left her. She entered his office wondering, “Will my daughter’s pain ever mean anything?” Years of swabbing her infected ears, years of therapy, years of doctor visits all take their toll.
She had no words for her feelings. So when Dr. Roseberry said, “God never wastes our pain,” Karen felt like God himself was speaking. We still struggle and ask questions, but on most days we believe “all things work together for good.”
Actually, I don’t even feel able to give you much more than that. Some days my theology just barely works. I cling to it even as the pain continues. I wonder who these people are who have so confidently discerned the mind of God. Have they not had to struggle through a season of seemingly senseless pain?
Maybe you’ve got a better handle on it than I do. I think a lot more of us are hanging from a cliff’s edge by our finger nails than people realize. We need fresh evidence of a God who wipes away our tears.

Comments (19)

  • My mom has said just that, God does not waste pain more times then i can tell you just this year. I believe it…and what comfort I find in it.

  • St. mark of the Cross

    I thank God for my tribulation, pain, rejection, wounds, hurt, fear, losses, trials… I know not how to say it but in this dark hour of heart brokenness, I want to praise God that he is here and Jesus is real. How could we go through this pain without hope in him? I want to as Paul glory in tribulation & pain…because I have hope. Jesus is able to minister to me, I am not alone. The world in lonely exile waits… I am not waiting in lonely exile..Christ is born in me…I may be hanging by my fingernails, what is left on the same cliff.. and remember once it was told me. A man had fallen off a mountain and was hanging by a tree limb getting read to break any moment. He cried out “Lord, help me!” And the Lord said “let go.” I am letting go, but believing for all of us…I love you brother & I stand weeping with you…from heart. Maybe he is trying to get all of us to be real…in doing so, we really know him.

  • Theological neat answers don’t work in real life generally. In reality, there are too many unanswered questions. So God uses pain? Yes, I know He does. But the volume of pain often seems unnecessary from where I am standing. The only thing I have is to still keep clinging on by those fingernails to the truth that God IS good, He DOES love me and He DOES have a plan for my life no matter how it looks and feels from here. It doesn’t always come naturally. One reading of the book of Job tells you that pain and suffering can be way over the top at times and seemingly out of proportion to any lessons we may learn from it all.

    But somewhere in there is Him. And underneath all my questions, I know that He’s worth anything.

  • Yes Seth,

    He does use our pain to help us grow closer to Him and to teach others how to do the same! Carol is so true in her post. He gathers our tears and keeps them close to His heart as a testimony of our gift to utilize our compassion for others. It gives us the chance to reach out to those who are as broken as we are and offer His hope here on Earth!

    Instead of holding on by fingertips, embrace the roller coaster ride that is life. Trust in His plan for us without question. Celebrate each and every miracle/gift that He puts in our path. Draw closer to those around us in community without any masks and be real and radical in spreading His word and love to all that we meet.

    Blessings to all this wonderful day!

  • Pain is the universal teacher. It forces us to come to a conclusion that either God is good or He has forsaken us.

    We can extend our faith and allow pain to shape us into empathetic loving people, or we allow it to make us angry shut down individuals.

    The problem with that is that angry people end up perpetuating pain on others.

    My hope is that I can allow pain and my belief in God’s goodness to aid me in loving well or else I can become a vehicle for pain and grief in this world.

    You and Karen are amazingly empathetic & caring individuals that have been shaped by the unwelcome visitor of pain and have given it a significant purpose as you create ministries for countless others around the world.

    Thank you friend.


  • I just wept when I read this, Seth. I just finished some quiet time with the Lord about Exodus 13. I am in pain about our adoption….His idea in the first place!

    God spoke through Exodus 13 just now. God is not leading us into a shorter route. We are not to change our minds but to press on. God has told us He is leading us into desert time! (yikes, not a spa experience!) Deutonomy 8 tells us the 4 purposes of this desert path ahead of us are: to humble us, test us, see what’s in our hearts, and see if we will obey. While there will be no physical war, there will be spiritual battles. We are to be armed and ready (Ephesians 6). Yet He promises to feed us with manna (Deut 8:3) to teach us that we do not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

    This Advent takes on a new pallette of waiting…. and the words of Dickens’ ghost of Christmas present ring in my head….”Come and know me better!”

    I have a blog for invited readers. I would welcome prayer warriors to cover us, encourage us, please leave comments, and connect with us through this journey. I can’t open it to be searchable online. If you would be willing to pray us through this, please email me and I will invite you.

    So I wait for the Lord with eager expectation. He is calling me and you in our pain. “Come and know Me better!”

  • My Campus Pastor in College drilled this into our heads. “God doesn’t waste pain.” As a matter of fact it just came up last week as I talked to a friend from college. Apparently it has stuck… probably because it’s truth.

    I think this is a lesson we learn more about as we grow older and have more experiences. I seem to know more about the relevance of this truth now than I did in college, and yet it’s just becoming more obvious that it means even more than I currently understand.

    It takes such faith to hold tight to this one. Believing that in the midst of all the yuckiness, the things that suck, the things you can’t explain, the things you never asked for, that He isn’t wasting that… that’s some real faith.

    Carol said that theologically neat answers just don’t cut it when reality hits… so true. Maybe that’s why I like this one truth. It’s not neat. You’re still left with the question, “But how…” It gives hope and demands faith at the same time. This one truth brings hope to those of us who not only know the theologically neat answers, but dish them out to others on a regular basis… and still find our own stuff difficult to deal with.

    God doesn’t waste pain.

    I pray for all of those who are seeing just how deep their faith is right now as they wade through the pain.

  • I had some ministry into my adoption about 16 years ago now. As people prayed for me it felt like God unlocked a treasure chest in my spirit but all that was inside was the most intense pain I had ever felt.

    In more recent years my adoptive family have rejected me and through the work I do and the words the Lord gave me I came to a startling realising that I have lived my life with this family as a victim of child abuse at the hands of my adoptive mother. Its strange what you try to acceptwhen you already have a wound of rejection and you just want to be accepted.

    I asked the Lord one day ” one on earth did you place me with this family? Out of all the families you could have picked you chose this one?”

    He replied “it was your training ground”

    The Lord started to show me how as proverbs says, The Fear of man will make you stumble. I now have no fear of man, I do not fear rejection…..no wound could even come close to whats already deep in my spirit! I have the freedom to be myself, to speak truth without any concern of how man will react (some tell me that this is not always a good thing?”

    My God tells me that TRUTH will set people free, that you should love truth with all your heart.

    Physical pain can also make us stronger. I nearly died having my 1st child, the pain I was in was traumatic and I was offered councelling afterwards. When I got pregnant with my second child I fell to pieces in my Consultants office and cried all afternoon saying there was no way I could go through that gain.

    After much prayer, at the end of my labour which is the most painful, the Lord protected my spirit from what was happening to my body. I found myself in no pain, having a lovely chat with the Lord. At some point I could hear someone screaming then realised it was actually me!My spirit suffered no more trauma at this birth.

    Now I can encourage those who suffer and those who nurse those that are suffering. It wasnt long after this that a friend of mine joined me for a drink. She had not long seen her Mum suffer and die of cancer. She was so upset as she described her mums sreams at the end because she was in so much pain. When I explained that as her mum knew the Lord, they was a very good chance that is was just the body suffering but her mum was fine.

    All pain and suffering can be used for the glory of God. It can produce patience and a much deeper trust in who God is and just how awesome He is. It can set us free from some of the earthly bonds we have in our minds and it can lead us into a seriously radical life and a radical faith.

    Jesus suffered the cross because of the “joy set before him”….he was looking beyond the cross, He was seeing the amazing future of lives being set free and thats what made Him suffer.

    Its a bit like the old saying “Mind over matter” but its more like Spirit above flesh.

  • Seth and Karen,
    As a pastor I have been asked about this topic more than any other. I use to give nice answers like the ones found in sanitized little devotionals. The truth is I really don’t know. I gave up my answers and started to comfort others with the comfort I’ve received.

    Comfort often looks like a smile, some tears, prayers, hearty laughs, friendship, or even a nice stout drink together.

    Here’s what I’ve concluded – I want to live with the faith of the three Hebrew boys in Daniel:
    “we believe God is able”
    “we believe God is willing”
    “but even if God doesn’t…”

  • My oldest, who struggles with multiple unseen disabilities, was asking me about this very thing yesterday and then God gave us a beautiful concrete example that showed us way more than any platitude. I wrote about it yesterday on my extra think things through site so I wouldn’t forget and though it is more of a diary sort of entry I think it may be a comfort: http://www.elasah.com/dragons/2009/12/god-encounters/

    What we came down to, Rachel and I together, is that our ministry is to use our own experiences with whatever pain and hardship God gives us to comfort others and without our own suffering we could not know the best way to lift up another who is going through that very thing. It doesn’t help at the moment but later, when we see what God did we can look back and say, “Oh. So God could use that.”

  • I will never forget the Christmas Eve many years ago when I learned that Jesus loves our tears.

    That day, I was embarrassed by the tears rolling down my cheeks — evidence of the pain I felt as a reporter standing helplessly by while rescue workers pulled a dead toddler from the Flint River.

    As I tried to wipe them away so the police officers and onlookers wouldn’t see me crying, I heard that “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit.

    “Maggie, don’t be embarrassed by your tears. You have asked me, the Master Potter, to mold you to be more like me. That is what I am doing. The tears are what keep the clay soft and pliable.”

  • It’s nice to hear honesty like that. It makes me remember that I am not alone in my struggles of faith. Sometimes the reality of God seems to do little to soothe our circumstances in the moment. But there is always hope beyond all hope, and that is what we cling to.

  • I too, appreciated your remarks. It’s difficult at times to hand my pain to God, I always want to take it back.

  • Thank you for those honest comments… it reminded me of times when I was more gracious about PAIN and more trusting in what Our Lord would use it to purpose; thank you for humbling me.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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