Pain Has a Purpose


I heard a story about Tony Dungy, the former Superbowl winning coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and his young son. Tony and his wife have a large family of both biological and adopted children. One of their young sons began to do some things that made his parents scratch their heads. He would jump from the top of the stairs and not express any pain, even though the jolt of the landing ought to have hurt. He would frequently not notice when he had cut himself or scraped a knee while playing outside. But the final straw came when Tony’s wife caught their young son taking a cookie off a baking sheet while it was still in the oven and put it directly in his mouth. Though the hot cookie scalded his mouth, he did not cry. Though his hand was red and swelling with blisters from the hot baking sheet, he did not show any signs of being in pain. At the hospital, the doctors ran test after test and concluded that the boy had a rare disease that prevented him from sensing or experiencing pain. The Dungy’s lives immediatey changed. They had to constantly check their son for injuries or else he might walk around on a broken leg for weeks and not know it. They had to develop trust that inspired obedience in him because he did not learn from experience and so had to take their word for it.

Although the reason for pain and suffering often eludes us, one thing is always true: pain gets our attention and teaches us. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This is quite possibly one of the most misunderstood verses in Scripture. Note that it does not promise that bad things won’t happen to those who love God nor does it say that God causes the bad things that do happen. The question of why bad things happen to good people is nearly as old as creation itself. If God is so great and loving, why doesn’t he protect us from hurt and pain? Questions of why are rarely eased by answers of reason and logic and theology. Which is why I’m not convinced they should be answered at all. Instead, what if the focus is on God’s character as a healer, comforter, and redeemer. You see, what Romans 8:28 DOES say is that God will use everything that happens – good or bad – for His ultimate purpose, not necessarily our purpose!

My pastor once said, “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a puzzle to be solved.” How often I try to solve the “puzzles” in my life instead of just living day by day and trying to enjoy the mystery of it all! What would life be like if I stopped questioning and began trusting in my loving heavenly Father? What would your life be like, how would it be different, if you did the same?

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