Whenever we experience pain, from a minor headache to a broken rib to a life-threatening disease, our first prayer is for God to take away the pain.
I don’t think that’s right.
As I age, can I expect my life to be pain-free? If my knees hurt and my neck is stiff, isn’t that just a part of growing old in a fallen world? Why should I expect God to answer my prayer to take away “normal” pain in my life?
As C. S. Lewis famously said, “But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Recently I’ve been having indigestion/acid reflux throughout the day. When I began to pray about this, I felt that God must be using this pain to shout to me about something. He’s trying to get my attention. I asked God what it is that He wanted to tell me that I couldn’t hear otherwise.
And He did tell me. I can’t tell you how, but as a follower of Christ of 30+ years, there are times when I “know” what my Lord is telling me. I won’t go into details of what He told me. It wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me. It’s deeply personal actually. It usually is when God speaks to you in a personal way.
My lesson learned is, don’t be too quick to pray for relieve from pain. First ask God, “I know You want to tell me something that I need to know. Can you make it clear to me what it is?” If you don’t sense an answer right away, keep asking. Keep asking until all you are asking is to know God Himself.
Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying it’s wrong to pray for pain to go away. I do pray that too. But it shouldn’t be our first or most urgent prayer.
As Apostle Paul says, “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” When God answers that prayer of knowing Him, it is much deeper and more satisfying than relieve from pain.
I think of Joni Eareckson Tada, one of my inspirations. Of all the people who “deserved” to have some relieved from her suffering, Joni should have received healing from God. Yet she suffers daily chronic pain and she continues to serve her Lord. If my bit of neck pain gains me a closer walk with God, I can live with that.