Pain is a strange thing.  When a physical body experiences pain, the effect can transcend the initial instinctual response and impact the psyche or soul.  The mind, will and emotions can become so affected by pain that a personality can seem to become different.  The mental faculties can be slower and more labored and the desire or will to accomplish things may be diminished.  An emotional roller coaster of despair, hope, frustration and irritability  may be experienced over and over in different sequences.  In pain-filled situations, there appears to be no real rhyme or reason for the way a person reacts.  Some get quiet and reserved as they try to deal inwardly with the pain, while others become loud and vigorous – fighting outwardly with their speech and actions.

Physical pain has been part of my life experience for almost 10 of the last 15 years.  I have always dreamed of the painless days.  Medical procedures, scheduling inconsistencies, exhaustion, hospital bills and the heightened concern of those around me are all effects of pain.  Even those who remain drugged in order to escape the full impact of pain are still clutched in it’s tight grip and are forced to cope with the effects of the treatment.

Having been raised with the promise of a life that was filled with the blessings of God for those who are Christians, I had come to expect that certain of life’s potential struggles were never meant to be experienced – at least not perpetually – by the believer.  Many of our prayer meetings and times of intercession were concentrated on the request for removal of trials and hardships from the lives of those who were following God.  Our approach to God was one of expectation that His ultimate purpose was our comfort.  We never said those words out-loud, but it came through in everything that was spoken and done.  It was always Satan who was causing the challenges to the life of blessing that God intended.

Christianity has become filled with doctrines that elevate the human element far above the true state of man’s existence.  Although humanity has and always will have an opposing mindset to the things of God, we continue to describe the Christian life in terms of our own ideas and plans instead of recognizing the Divine work that will be done.  How often do we speak of the victories in Jesus by relating to the rescue from a “less than desirable” situation.  The work of the Divine God is seen as the work that meets with our approval, instead of the recognition that His work will actually never make sense to our finite mind.

Some of the most vehement responses I have received have been when I have broached the idea that God could actually operate in and through those things that are unpleasant in our lives – sickness, pain, disaster, fear, unhappiness, trial, etc.  The truth is that we have claimed the promises of God in a very selfish and egotistical manner.  We only accept what He does when it appears to be beneficial to our view of what life is supposed to be about.  Our desire remains inward when we cannot see the blessings of God because it doesn’t feel or look good.

What is your favorite promise from God?  Can you reach beyond the promise and find your human definition of what that will look like?  We set ourselves up to walk in discouragement because we have equated God’s work with our description of what is good.  We are looking for His work through the eyes of our own ideals of good and evil – the very fruit of the tree that made Adam and Eve stumble.  When we say that God will supply all our needs, we have determined already what we need and what will constitute supply for that need.   When we say that God will always love us, we have a preset idea of what such love will look like when applied in our lives.

The greatest promise we have is the promise that God is God.  To reduce Him to that which we can grasp with our human intellect or reflect within our limited creativity, is to rob ourselves of the only promise that makes a difference.  If God and His work is limited to us and our viewpoint, He becomes small and insignificant in our eyes.  Soon we have no need for His direction, might and power for we have determined what life should be and are caught up in the attempt to bring such a life to past.

Let’s go back to the pain.  I have disappointed more than one person who wanted me to agree with them, placing all my faith and trust in the idea that God doesn’t want me to suffer pain.  In order to do that, I would have to deny the reality that I don’t know what God wants for my life.  When I realize that this life was intended to be lived for an eternal purpose, a purpose that God alone is orchestrating, I am foolish to try to dictate to Him how to carry that out.  Every promise that we have from God is a Divine promise.  This means that it is wrapped up in His divine character – a character that cannot be understood by that which is not Divine (that would be us).

Because pain and many other traumas of life have such an acute and often far-reaching effect on the one experiencing the pain and those interacting with them, it is easy to decide that God would be adversely inclined toward such a scenario.  After all, isn’t the pain controlling and affecting us beyond what God can use and work through?  Wouldn’t a loving Father want His children to be free from pain?  These are all questions I have asked and been asked more than times than I can count.  My response comes in question form as well. Can we change the character of God by pointing to our own experiences?  Are His ways and thoughts actually higher and greater than ours?

Total surrender to the Almighty God is only possible when we are willing to relinquish our own understanding to Him and submit to His eternal purpose.  The good news that is to be shared with the world will never carry any hope if it is tied to the selfish promises of “what you want when you want it”.  Those promises leave us trapped in a false understanding of Christianity.

When we place our faith in selfish promises, we are discouraged.  We find ourselves riffling through the reasons why things are happening and what we have done to circumvent the plan of God.  We become judges of God’s sovereignty and promoters of our own brand of Divinity.  If our faith is based in outcomes and effects, we have attempted to place God in our own “super-size” container for the purpose of parceling out His favor as we see fit.  I believe this is why many have turned aside from gathering with other believers.  They didn’t get from God what they believed He had promised.  He disappointed them just as one human disappoints another.  But when the revelation of God as divine, unchanging, eternally true and always loving becomes the message that we give, there is great freedom to let Him work in His way and His timing since He alone is Righteous, Holy and Just.

Selfish promises are always based on self and they perpetuate a lifestyle of self awareness instead of an existence filled with the wonder of God.  There are limits to the joy that can be derived from things that originate in us, but there are no restrictions on the impact God’s purposes can have in our temporal and eternal living.

So what is God’s promise to us?  What can we stand on without fear of falling into discouragement and despair?  This great quote from Major Ian Thomas says it all:   God will never be anything less than Divine and mankind will anything more than human.  The most amazing and eternally life altering promise is that we are humans who are by nature enemies of God and yet, God, who is divine, has chosen to dwell by His Spirit within us and to manifest His Divine life in and through that which can never attain deity.

 

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