In this life, pain is natural. It’s to be expected, especially by Christians. Jesus even told us that we would suffer much tribulation and pain for his sake. But how do we as Christians deal with that? A Little Book on the Christian Life, by John Calvin, answers that question very well.
Pain is expected in this world. We live on a battleground between Satan and God, between righteousness and sin. Because we are of God and the world is of Satan and sin, it is obvious Christians would have more pain and suffering then other people. And because this world is consumed with sin, it is obvious that we would feel the effects of that sin through pain. But why does God let us feel this pain? He could just take it all away.
When asked that question, most people will quote Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”. Or maybe Piper’s preferred verse, Romans 8:32, “He who would did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” These are great verses, and great answers, but they don’t really deal with the issue. They don’t really explain the crushing pain or depression that one might suffer from the death of a loved one, or the loss of everything one owns. And it doesn’t explain why we need to feel pain. It tells us that the pain is for our good, but it doesn’t tell us why.
John Calvin has a good answer to this that connects with Romans 8:28/32. John Calvin says that our pain brings us closer to God. When we feel pain in this life, it reminds us that this is not our home. God puts pain on us to discipline us, as any loving father will do to his children. But he also does it to remind us where our home is. This world preaches to us constantly it’s pleasures, and our sinful hearts find it impossible not to give in. One reason God gives us pain is to break that illusion and show us all this life really is, while pointing to the true pleasures of the next one.
This ties in with Romans 8:18; “ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” God has stored up so much for us to enjoy in the next eternity that comparing the cost of being a disciple to the glory that is stored up for is impossible. It is the second best deal we will ever get, the first being salvation for free. The cost of eternal pleasure and glory is 80 years of suffering. No matter what kind of suffering we go through, it’s infinitely worth the cost.
But the best reason Calvin gives for why we feel pain is because of this quote, “For the saint’s endurance regarding the cross wouldn’t be called endurance if they weren’t torment with sorrow and choked with grief. If there were no difficulty in poverty, no suffering in illness, no sting in disgrace, no horror in death, then we would face these things indifferently- and what courage or perseverance could then be credited to us? Each of these things, by virtue of their own inherent bitterness, might naturally and entirely consume our souls, but in the midst of them, the courage of the believer makes itself known.” If Christ took away our suffering and grief and pain and replaced them with apathy or indifference, we would lose the glory God stores up for us in heaven! In fact, it would be an inservice by God to take away the pain, because it’s worth it! It’s worth in in the things God stores up for us because of it! Of course it hurts! If it was easy, the reward wouldn’t be there!
God gives us pain for our own good. It’s worth it. The point of pain is for it to cost something, so that God can store up more reward for us in heaven.