I have a friend whose journey over the last few months has been especially difficult. As we talk about the pain of loss and disappointment I’ve been reminded that our pain in this life is not void of purpose. Now that fact is about as helpful as a band-aide for a broken bone in the moment of our pain. However it is essential that we understand the journey of pain in our lives.

There seems to be a process to our pain: Pain – Sadness – Comfort – Redemption. Each of these have their unique season where they are at the wheel driving us around.

Knowing this process of pain does not make suffering any easier. It simply gives vision for what is to come. Growing up I had my share of pain…those moments when my emotional/mental/spiritual car was high jacked as pain took the wheel. I’ll share some of my pain; perhaps you will take a moment to consider some of your own…

  • When I was young my dad suffered from MS, so while many friends had active and physically capable fathers; I did not. My mom suffered through cancer in my grade school years. We survived on the good will and help of others. There was a pain to navigate in all of that.
  • There was a season when all I wanted to do was work full time in my calling, but in order to make a living I found myself cleaning carpets. Instead of pastoring people I was cleaning carpets. There was a private pain to that season.
  • Nearly 9 years ago I had to figure out helping my mom transition into long term stays at Emory University Hospital for a bone-marrow transplant while at the same time moving my dad into a nursing facility to provide round the clock care. Pain is the most clean cut word I could use to describe that season.
  • Just about 7 months after Cami and I were married my dad passed away in the middle of the night. He would never be able to meet his grandchild, and our daughter only gets to hear stories about him. Pain.

While riding along with pain at the wheel eventually the car pulls over and lets a new driver in – Sadness.

Alone in the car with your Pain and Sadness it becomes natural to cry out to God, yell at God, curse at God. Under great pressure and pain you react, wanting some level of logic to explain your experience. This is why we ask things like, “why do bad things happen to good people?” or “what did I do to deserve this?” I am not saying this is mature or the right thing to do, but it is what we naturally do as we seek to understand our situation.

While it might seem like Sadness will never let go of the wheel she eventually yields control over to a new driver – Comfort.

With Comfort at the helm we begin to experience the peace which is described in the Bible as being able to “transcend all understanding.” In other words there is no logical reason for us to begin feeling better…but somehow comfort becomes as tangible as our sadness.

It is only when the final driver takes the wheel that we begin to have a sense of purpose in our pain. You see the final driver of our journey is Redemption. The Redemption of our pain is where we begin to find answers. It is when the words of Scripture become as tangible as can be when we read, “My (God’s) power is made perfect in weakness.”

We can never comprehend in our moment of pain that it will eventually be a key that unlocks doors for the sake of others. (Click to tweet) Our pain has great purpose. It helps us relate to a broken and hurting world. It breaks through the dividing lines of race, politics, socio-economic standing and anything else that would divide, because in our pain the walls and barriers come down.

I had no idea how the pain of my early years would be a tool for God’s future work through me. When it comes to your pain – I cannot begin to guess the way God will use your pain to shape your future journey. What I do know is this – we have a loving Father in Heaven who does not allow anything to happen to His children without first passing through His filter of love. (Click to tweet) So, whatever pain you are experiencing or have experienced it has been allowed for a reason. Over time allow God to use your pain as a tool of redemption and restoration for others.