I stood in the doorway of
Mother's nursing home room and wept quietly. She
couldn't see me. She sat in the chair beside her
bed with her head on her knees, a few small pillows
wedged behind her back and a pink shawl pulled across her
frail and bony shoulders. She was moaning softly,
"Dear God, help me. Please, God, help me."
Tears ran in rivulets down my
face as I asked God again, "Why? Why is this
dear saint of God suffering so? She's 96 years old.
She's suffered with unrelenting pain all her life.
And if that wasn't enough, why did she have to break her
leg walking down the hall and lie in agony for many weeks
in a cast with the leg never properly healing?
Please help me understand the problem of pain.
One very early morning before
sunrise, God in His mercy took Mother Home to be with
Him. Her two daughters who lived near the nursing
center watched as she was placed in a body bag and
carried out. From their exhaustion in overseeing her care
for several years, they cried in their grief but thankful
that her long battle with unending pain was finally over.
That was many years ago.
I am just now beginning to understand the problem of pain
because I live with it. I wish I had understood it
while Mother was still living. I could have
empathized more and ministered to her better.
Before, I was an observer of pain. Now I am a
participant, however reluctantly.
I have watched televangelists
declare healing to precious believers who are brought en
masse to their meetings. I have seen crutches being
tossed carelessly aside, wheel chairs pushed against the
walls as invalids were encouraged to walk or run across
the platform to the applause and shouting of thousands in
the audience. I pray many were healed instantly but
what of those who were not? Did they return home in
abject, total disappointment with God, still not
understanding the reason for their pain? Did they
continue to declare healing when none was forthcoming?
Worst of all, did they begin to lose their faith in the
One who had saved them?
As evangelical Christians, we
are taught early that there is healing in the atonement.
"By his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3) And
"He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.
(Matthew 8:17) We reason, "If we can trust Christ
for our salvation, can we not also trust Him for our
healing? God never turns away one soul who
confesses his sin and asks for forgiveness through the
atoning blood of Jesus. Why does He seem to be
capricious and selective in choosing those who will be
healed from their sickness and those who will not?"
Theologians have battled this
discussion for centuries and have yet to come up with
compelling reasons for pain that fully satisfy those who
But for me, it has been reduced
to one simple explanation: healing is temporal but grace
is eternal. Given a choice, I will take grace every
time. Grace has been defined as "the free and
unmerited favor or beneficence of God" or "God's love and
favor to the undeserving"
The same God who has saved me
from my sins, who has promised me eternal life, can be
trusted to know what I need to do to be more like His
Son, Jesus. He decides how much of the boiling
cauldron I need to endure, not only for my benefit but
for those watching my life. In His divine wisdom,
He determines who is selected to share in "the fellowship
of His suffering." (Philippians 3:10)
Should we pray for a divine
touch of healing on those who suffer?
Yes. And we should pray
earnestly and without ceasing, exercising faith and
holding onto the promises of God. But never should
we pile guilt on the infirmed by declaring that their
lack of faith is the sole reason for their not being
My friend, Edith, was stricken
with polio and paralyzed from the chest down. She
was approached by a member of her church who challenged
her to get up out of her wheelchair by faith and walk.
She couldn't and he berated her. She wiped away her
tears and kept her faith and trust in the Saviour of her
soul. It wasn't in God's plan to heal her on earth
but He gave her a sterling Christian testimony that
defined her for years until God called her Home. We
are encouraged by God to pray for healing; we do
not have the freedom to insist on healing by demand..
My mother's extended family
watched her suffering all her life, but they remember
most of all her unfailing faith. Her walk with God
was not uneven; it was consistent. Her testimony
was positioned there permanently as a standard against
which the rest of us measured our lives. Her
"problem of pain" was no accident; it was not
indifference by God to her anguish and travail. God
used her pain for a reason: it was to refine her and to
give her a lasting testimony to the grace of God under
pressure, tremendous pressure. Even in her tears and
suffering, she knew she might not understand God's ways,
but she could trust His loving heart.
When I was in college, our Old
Testament professor, Rev. Harold Freligh, drew a large
circle on the blackboard. He placed a dot in the
center. Under it he wrote in large letters:
"In the center of the circle of
the will of God I stand.
There can come no second causes,
All must come through His dear hand."
Rev. Freligh did something else
that has sustained me, especially now as I deal with my
own pain. He drew a long horizontal line on the
blackboard and explained, "This represents a shelf.
On it I place all my questions for which I have no
answer. When I get to Heaven, God will patiently
explain each one to my full and complete satisfaction."
And so it is with pain. I
don't know why a dear six-year-old boy who loves Jesus is
battling leukemia in an Illinois hospital today. I
don't know why my younger Christian friend in Tennessee
spends 22 out of 24 hours of every day in bed, weakened
and ravaged by Multiple Sclerosis. I can't explain
why my lovely friend in Arizona struggles with the
insidious and devastating pain of Sarcoidosis for which
there is no adequate treatment and no medical cure.
I have placed each one of these
friends on my "shelf," confident that their pain is not
in vain, knowing that they haven't been forgotten by God
or overlooked in His scheme of things. Each one is
ministering every day of their lives to the wonderful
grace of Jesus, that eternal principle which makes their
pain meaningful and their testimonies so enduring.
Each one, I am confident, if they were able, would rise
to full stature and sing:
Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, Where shall its praise
Taking away my burden, Setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All sufficient grace for even me;
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
O magnify the precious name of Jesus,
Praise His name!