The Character of Pain

There is this insightful little bit in Job that says, “man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).

This may come as a shock to you, but this statement was true of the first man, Adam. Think about it. Paradise was not perfect as we assume. Rather, Paradise was a testing ground for an immature believer, Adam was a big baby after all. The Garden was the place where Adam was supposed to grow up, and to help him in this, God gave him a Dragon to fight. “Here is your home,” God says, “here is your bride,” God says, “now here is your enemy.” Adam was born to trouble as sparks fly upward. He, of course, dropped the ball as we well know. This means that there was not a time in created human history that man was not set against something. God gave Adam the choice. He could either set himself against the Devil or against God.

With this understanding, we should not be surprised when pain and trouble show up in our lives post Fall, when sin has broken the world and corrupted our hearts. However, the principle behind the trouble remains the same. God wanted Adam to grow up, to mature, to gain wisdom to have dominion. This is true for you and for me.

Why do we see pain and trouble as problems? Why is it that when things hurt and are uncomfortable we think that these things must be wrong? Refer back to the Garden in Eden when everything was just right, and there lurking in the shadows of that perfect garden was the nemesis, the one who wants to steal the bride and eat her children. If only we could get back to the Garden, all our problems would be gone….or something like that. Adam wasn’t created to be a lazy bag of mush that didn’t do anything all day because life was so wonderful and peachy that there were no sparks.

No, no, no.

The point of trouble and pain and problems is this: storytelling. God is the author of human history and He is telling a story and you fit in His story at this moment and at this time for a reason: because that is where God placed you. Just as He placed Adam and Eve in the story at that particular time and place with the Dragon in Paradise. God has placed you in the story with that particular health concern, those unfavorable living arrangements, that unexpected emergency, those broken relationships, that heartache, sparks, sparks, sparks. He wants to know what kind of character you are. Are you like the first man, Adam? Or are you like the second man, Jesus?

No, Adam. This is how you do it.

Remember when Jesus was confronted with the Dragon? Jesus won. Remember when Jesus was confronted with pain and problems? He used those sparks to learn obedience, to mature, to grow. Adam was promised the grave, Jesus was promised life after the grave.

The problem with pain is not that pain is the problem. The problem with pain is that we don’t know what pain is for. To put it another way, pain is useful and it depends on what you use it for. If all you do is gripe, complain, moan, and bewail your predicament then you don’t know what pain is for, and your story is that of a bad character. However, if you look at pain and say “ouch,” then get up a better person (more like Christ) because of it (and are grateful for it) then you are on the right track and you understand the plot. You understand who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and what distinguishes them. You understand grace, and maturation, and sanctification. As Christians we can’t have dominion without a struggle.

It’s going to hurt to be faithful, so grow up.

Side note: I wanted to write about pain and such since my family and I moved across the country. Now that I have written about pain I have noticed that this is a common topic currently and there are those who are saying the same thing differently (and much better, I might add). For a perspective on pain from a beautiful feminine heart, go here. For a perspective of pain and conflict on a greater scale, go here. I would recommend that you read them both.

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