Can Pain Ever Be Good?


Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 4:12-16

While I was at the Exodus Freedom Conference last month, I attended a workshop for ministry leaders led by Jeff Buchanan. The workshop was entitled Moving Forward into a Culture of Discipleship, and Jeff’s purpose was to equip ministry leaders in the work of growing grace-saturated disciples of Christ within both our ministries and the Church at large. Part of what he taught has particularly stuck with me the last couple of weeks and I wanted to share a few points that I have been able to put into immediate practice both in ministry and in my own life.

Jeff stressed the fact that, as believers, we must learn about and embrace a theology of suffering. So many today seek a life of comfort and ease and happiness. Televangelists preach a prosperity gospel that is anything but biblical. Some teach that if we do God’s will, then God will bless us with material prosperity and physical well-being. I find that thought interesting considering that even the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. If Jesus was homeless and suffered horrendously on our behalf, the idea of comfort and ease should be foreign to his followers as well.

But what do we do with the equally true concepts that God loves us and desires what’s best for us but also allows suffering and tremendous pain in our lives? To 21st Century Americans, pain and hardship do not equal good. All pain is bad pain and personal happiness is the ultimate goal. The passage at the beginning of this post flies in the face of American entitlement and once again shows that, sometimes, pursuing the American Dream requires us to pursue the exact opposite of the Christian life.

Peter addresses two types of suffering in 1 Peter 4: suffering brought upon ourselves by our own poor decisions, and suffering on behalf of Christ and his Gospel. How do we know the difference? There can be two types of physical pain: destructive pain like the pain that is caused by illness and injury, and growth pain caused by exercise and rehabilitation. Pain caused by illness or injury can be destructive for the rest of your life if you do not also experience the temporary pain of physical rehabilitation. Growth pain usually alleviates destructive pain, at least partially if not completely.

In this workshop, Jeff included two very helpful bullet pointed lists that help us determine what pain is good, growth oriented pain, and what pain is destructive in our lives.

The Pain in your Life is Growth Pain if you are:
• Becoming more vulnerable in your relationships with God and with other people
• Humbly recognizing your own character flaws and are allowing God to correct them
• Taking relational risks; stepping out, learning to trust, revealing your true self to people
• Relearning healthy and godly relational skills and boundaries
• Dealing with the emotional wounds and trauma of your past
• Overcoming passivity and learning how to stand up for Truth and righteousness
• Overcoming destructive patterns that you have become dependent upon and are learning to depend on God
• Dealing with grief and loss in an expressive and productive way.

The Pain in Your Life is Destructive Pain if you are:
• Refusing to face character issues
• Choosing wrong relationships and unsafe people
• Repeating destructive patterns and not assuming responsibility
• Harboring unforgiveness
• Living with a false perception or romanticized ideals
• Living in a state of self-pity

So what causes pain in your life? Are you suffering because of the sinful choices of others and your suffering is beyond your control? Are you suffering because you stood up for what is right and are now experiencing persecution for it? Or are you suffering because of your own choices? There is good news for each situation!

If you are suffering due to the sins of others, God is clear in Scripture that He is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and deals justly with the sinner (Romans 12:19). If you are suffering on behalf of Christ, Scripture tells us to take joy in sharing in his suffering because we will also share in His glory! And if you are suffering because of your own foolish choices, there is repentance and forgiveness in the cross and the time spent in destructive pain can be redeemed through growth pain.

Whatever kind of suffering you may be currently experiencing, don’t waste it! Allow God to use it for your good and his glory. Cling to him. Grow in your faith. Share what you’ve learned with others. Be a testimony of his grace to a suffering world. When you suffer for the right reasons, don’t deny the pain, but make sure you acknowledge the accompanying grace and peace and joy of Christ. If you’ve lived your life in destructive pain and are now experience growth pain, don’t give up on the healing process. See the difference in the two types of pain and take comfort in the fact that this season of growth pain will prevent you from experiencing a lifetime of destructive pain. Keep your eternal perspective.

Ministry Update, Summer 2010


Hello Prayer Partners!

I hope you are all having a blessed summer and are enjoying some time with friends and family.

Here is a quick update for you so that you know how to pray for this ministry.

Tomorrow I am heading to Irvine, CA, and the 2010 Exodus Freedom Conference through Exodus International. This will be three days of much healing for hundreds of people who seek freedom from homosexuality and much equipping for friends, family and ministers who seek to walk alongside men and women in that journey. This is the 35th anniversary of the Exodus Freedom Conference, and it is returning to the site of the first conference. As you can imagine, the atmosphere in California is not particularly welcoming to a conference that is designed to help those leaving the homosexual lifestyle. Planning for protests and rallies and pro-gay gatherings has been going on almost as long as planning for the conference. Here is how you can pray over the next few days.

Safety for those traveling to the conference.
That we will have opportunities to share the Gospel with those we meet on the way.
That those who come seeking healing will find it
That worship times will be freeing, authentic and Christ-centered
That those who come to protest will have positive experiences and will see the love of Christ in conference participants
For boldness and compassion for those who are speaking and teaching
For wisdom as we counsel many hurting people
For supernatural strength and encouragement for those who are working in the Conference.

This will be a very intense but encouraging time for everyone involved. Your prayers are greatly desired and appreciated!

Back here in Chattanooga we have some good things going on as well! God is greatly blessing the group of women that began a discipleship small group together in February. They are all fighting hard to find their freedom and identity in Christ and it is a rich blessing and encouragement to watch their faith and confidence grow each week. We have expanded our group for the summer to include women who come from all walks of life. We are going through the study Believing God by Beth Moore. We began this past Saturday night and will have over 20 women participate with us! These women are single, married, divored and widowed, they are ages 16 to 67 and come from many diverse backgrounds. But they are all unified in their desire to genuinely believe God so that they are equipped to live out the faith they claim. The excitement in the room was tangible as women openly shared of their desire to move past lives of mediocrity in order to enjoy the rich blessing of abundant life in Christ! Please pray for this group over the next ten weeks. We meet on Saturday nights, 6:00-8:00, and they have all made quite a commitment to give up their summer Saturday evenings in order to have this time of discipleship and fellowship. Please pray that God will bless their faithfulness and obedience richly and that their growth will ignite the sparks of revival both in their personal lives and in their respective churches.

God is doing an amazing work in the lives of the women I get to work with each week, and it is a blessing to see that growth. As a teacher, whether in the school room or in a church or conference room, there is nothing better than watching the lights come on in the lives of your students as they have “Aha!” moments. God promises that we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our hearts (Jeremiah 29:11-13). There is an ever-increasing desire to know and to love the Savior, and transformation in the lives of women who faithfully seek after Him cannot be denied.

Thank you all for your prayer support! I will send out an update next week concerning the Exodus Freedom Conference.

Blessings,

Bekah