The Gain in Pain

“What is the benefit of my having this cancer?” My mother voices the question we have both been struggling with over the past few days together. I look over at her weak, post-operative body and wonder why she has to go through this. What is being accomplished through her pain? Where is the value in her suffering, or for that matter, in the suffering of the abused, the poor, the sick, or the relationally miserable?

Suffering deepens our bonds with God and with each other.

When I consider the suffering of the young concubine who was tossed out the door by her cowardly husband, gang-raped to death by a violent mob, and then carved up and distributed to the twelve tribes of Israel, I want to shake my head in disgust over such horrific, unnecessary suffering. What was the point of her going through all that? And yet God’s response to her suffering compels me to take a second look at its significance.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 22:7, 15-16

Jesus entered into her experience. Hundreds of years later He completed her story, walking through the same experiences of rejection, betrayal, physical and sexual abuse, and brutal, unjust death. But the night before He was slaughtered as the Passover Lamb, He explained the significance of His own death with a ritual that re-enacted hers.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” …
“You are those who have stood by me in my trials.”
Luke 22:19-20, 28

Body broken into pieces and distributed to the twelve. Blood poured out in the place of others’. A solemn charge to remember His sufferings. A sacred call to walk with Him through them.

Jesus communed with that unloved woman by sharing in her suffering. In turn, He invites us to commune with Him by sharing in His sufferings.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…
Philippians 3:10

Each time we eat the bread and drink the cup, we relive His experience, and in so doing we enter into deeper relationship with Him. Each time we ourselves suffer, we are afforded the opportunity to walk a mile in His shoes, to be further bonded to Him through shared experience.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:5, 7

Temptation. Exhaustion. Loneliness. Rejection. Physical pain. Emotional distress. Each time we experience these, another layer is pulled back in our understanding of Jesus, in our ability to truly know Him. And as His sufferings overflow into our lives, so does the comfort of increasing intimacy with Him. We share in His sufferings and He communes with us in ours. But the cycle of fellowship doesn’t stop there.

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
Colossians 1:24

Our suffering becomes a bridge that spans time and space, connecting Jesus’ past ordeals with others’ current misery. As we live out His experiences, we incarnate Him before the people around us. Through us they witness His sufferings on their behalf, and through us they receive His comforting love. And in the process we bond with each other in a deep, meaningful relationship, one that we will share with Him and each other for eternity.

So as I watch my mother hunched in pain, as I witness the scars on her body, I see a bitter-sweet story playing out in front of me. Pain leading to comfort. Agony leading to glory. Her suffering is connecting her to Christ. His suffering is being completed through her. This doesn’t downplay her struggle or alleviate her pain, but it does infuse it with a profound significance. Her suffering is allowing her to participate in the divine, to be brought into perfect unity with God. Sacred suffering. Holy communion.

13 thoughts on “The Gain in Pain”

  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts today, I will be praying today with you for your mother as she suffers, that she will have peace, comfort, and yes, joy!

  2. You are able to enter into your mother’s suffering because you have suffered. What a great comfort that will be to her! As I grapple with the reason for my own suffering with a chronic pain condition, your posts have been a comfort to me. Thank you for reminding all of us that it is a privilege to participate in the sufferings of Christ. Praying for your family.

    1. May our Lord strengthen and heal you, Sheila, and may He use your suffering (physical and emotional) to overflow His comforting grace into the lives of others. You are a blessing.

  3. Dear Tiffany,

    With your sweet words today, you shifted the perspective of a memory.
    In 2007, I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer; in 2008, I began a 3-month course of the strongest combination of chemotherapy available. The diagnosis came was six months after I gave my life to Jesus. During the chemo there were two nights I experienced excruciating muscle pain – full body cramping that would not subside.

    God walked me through the treatment and the cancer – I am free of it today because of His grace.

    While I have read these verses before, they took on new meaning for me today. Because of your words and your mom, I experienced God in a new way today; His Word came alive for me today. That memory has brought me closer to Jesus today. I will never remember it the same way again.

    Thank you.

    1. What a joy, Susan, to read your testimony and to be able to witness God at work. You have shared an agonizing memory (one which, I’m sure, was even more painful then than it is now.) I’m so thankful that God has given you a new perspective that allows it to now “heal.” Even with a long gap in between your experience and your ability to interpret it, God has been faithful to finally speak the truth to you about how He values the horrific pain that you endured. Clearly you are precious in His eyes.

  4. Saints closest to God endured terrible agonies…….all for a purpose. Without pain, would we ever feel the need to find God? Tiffany, God Bless your mother and keep on.x

    1. Thank you, Collette. We don’t usually sign up for the pain that we experience, but when God chooses it for us, we do then have the opportunity to embrace it for what it is: the opportunity to draw closer to Him. I suppose that is the difference that being one of His Saints makes. He gives us the ability to see the bigger picture and to rise above our natural instinct to avoid pain at all costs. May He continue to change us into the image of His Son, who endured the cross for the joy set before Him.

    1. May our Lord hold on to you when you are too weak to keep holding on to Him. He is faithful, and He will finish what He has started in you. Much love to you, Bonnie.

  5. Thank you Tiffany, I will add your Mother to my prayers my friend! Sometimes pain overcomes our ability to consider anything else. It is then that the prayers of others help the most. Not that He doesn’t hear and answer anyway, but that the more glory to Him the better.

    1. Wisely spoken, Patricia. In the moment, it is sometimes impossible to keep caring about the eternal value of our pain. Instead we are just trying to survive! You obviously speak from experience, recognizing the value of others’ “holding the ropes” for us in prayer when we are too weak to keep doing it ourselves.

  6. Tiffany, God has given you such a gift for writing! We hate to see those we love suffer, but I like your thoughts as to the benefits of suffering. Most of us would not choose the assignment, but pain and grief do make us turn to the One who suffered most of all for our benefit. Please tell your Mom the Robsons are praying for her healing, her communion with Jesus during this difficult time, her victory against Cancer, and the healthy continuation of her life!

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