No one likes to go through pain, but Scripture tells us we can find peace–even exhorts us to find it. Therefore, peace in the pain is possible. We often hear that repetition in the Scripture is the Holy Spirit adding emphasis and importance. Well, sometimes I think the reason is much simpler: we don’t learn the lesson only once. And I believe that is especially true in the areas in our lives where we need the most work and the areas where we need the most encouragement.
Take, for example, the number of times Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer at the hands of the Jews in consort with the Romans. They would hate, abuse, and crucify him, but on the third day, he would rise from the grave. The reaction of the disciples ran the full gamut of possibilities, from total confusion to outright rejection of the thought. Jesus even told them they would first be scattered, but not to lose hope. He didn’t want them taken by surprise by the events about to take place.
In like manner, Scripture tells us many times our transformation into the likeness of Jesus may or will take us through difficult times. Many verses instruct or remind us to press into becoming more like Jesus—through the things we suffer, endure, and triumph over. With them we find precious promises and peace.
Encouragement and Promises
Consider some all-time favorites, such as “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV). The verses before it talk of great distress among nations, such that even the young, virile men fall and faint. They then add “but those who wait on the Lord .…” Through the shortages, the political upheavals, the droughts. Jesus will renew the strength of those who trust and wait for him to arise in the midst of it all.
The writer of the book of Hebrews explains the process. In that chapter, he draws upon Jesus’ experiences, as well as God’s faithfulness to Israel in the Old Testament, as examples for us. He highlighted Jesus endured the cross because of the joy he knew he would have on the other side—the joy of seeing multitudes with him for eternity instead of separated and outcast for eternity.
He also reminds us of how God disciplined Israel and does the same for us. In case we try to sidestep what he was saying and what our response should be in it, the writer pointedly said God disciplines those he loves as a father would his sons. If such discipline is lacking, then we are not sons. He admitted that no correction is pleasant at the moment, “but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (See Hebrews 12:3-11)
Oh, how I hate exercising. I want the body it produces but without the pain, the boredom, the endless repetition. If I had my way about it, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 would simply be “Bodily exercise profits little.” However, Paul was pulling in a comparison with exercising godliness. Exercising godliness is work, hard work, and with it comes the reproach of those who despise God. But in the end, we get the spiritual body we want.
What does that spiritual exercise look like? Many verses come to mind, but here are a few:
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” (Psalm 30:5b, NKJV).
Our circumstances are not permanent. Some may last several days or even into years, but God is faithful. We can find peace and joy in him that our natural minds can’t understand. In that place in him, we remember that he did not call us to a lifestyle we’ve designed or hoped for. He called us to experience being one with him who created all things and loves us.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” (Psalm 23:5a, NKJV).
Can you imagine what that banqueting table looks like? Consider its size, the variety of foods, the richness of flavors, the endless supplies—and all without caloric worries! It all sounds too wonderful until you realize he set it, not in a private dining hall, but in your enemies’ camp. Can you hear them snarl, grit their teeth, snapping at you anytime you stumble near them? Do you feel their hot breath of lies and threats? Do you sense the Lord’s shield of protection around you so the most fearsome threats are empty? Remember Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.” In him we are untouchable (even if martyred).
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you,” (John 15:18, NKJV).
I recently heard a pastor make a breath-taking statement. After much discussion of who Jesus is—his Lordship, authority, Immanuel—he said Jesus was also 100 percent human. The big clincher: if he wasn’t, then he couldn’t be our example. We can follow him only because he was a man who showed us how we can walk in obedience to the Father. So, through the mocking, through the hatred, through the scourging, and through the pain of it all; Jesus did it as a man feeling every bit of it, despising it, but enduring it for the joy set before him. Can we endure, as Paul called them, our light afflictions? If we are in him, Jesus said we can expect the opportunities to try.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:22-23, NKJV).
If you haven’t captured the promises for us in the earlier listed verses, find solace (comfort, peace, rest) in these two verses. Know in your heart God is faithful. He has you in the palm of his hand and no one can remove you from his special place in his heart. Remember, the warnings and exhortations are not meant to scare us. They are meant to help us press in and through, inward and upward.