Pain of every kind hurts: physical, emotional, spiritual . Your response to pain can spiral from discouragement to depression. Or, you can let pain teach to persevere and become more like Christ.
Hurrying to answer her phone for a Skype appointment, Cheri accidentally slammed her toe into a Little People garage toy and lost her balance as she reached for the phone, then — wham! — she fell flat on her back. Literally.
I was the caller. . .
. . .and thought it odd that my friend didn’t say “Hello.”
“Cheri, are you there?”
Still no sound.
My friend caught her breath. The fall had knocked the wind out of her.
What would have been our usual give-and-take on God’s answers to her problem of life-long anxiety turned into my helping her figure out the extent of her back injury and get first aid.
God brings people across your paths every day, people in pain with any number of needs: encouragement, loving correction, prayer, hands-on help, and hope. Who has He brought into your life lately who needs your help? How have you ministered to their soul? In what ways has their pain drawn them closer to Jesus? How has God used their pain to deepen your faith?
This article looks at the role of biblical counselors — and all believers in Christ — in following the pattern of Jesus of caring for people and ministering to their souls, and it affirms that God providentially uses pain to deepen our faith in Him.
My first concern for Cheri was evaluating her injury as best I could 500 miles away. She assured me she hadn’t hit her head and only needed an ice pack for her back.
“What if” worry thoughts began intruding her mind. She feared she wouldn’t be able to get her daughter after school. She feared her husband would be angry with her and call her “stupid.” She feared her back wouldn’t get better. She feared she didn’t have enough money for a doctor’s visit.
As I had on many occasions, I reminded her that God cares for her and is with her, that He sees her pain (Gen. 21:17, Matt. 1:23) I encouraged her to phone her husband at work and ask her next-store neighbor to come over. I asked her to text me later that day.
Little did I know that morning God had a plan for me to be like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). When has God unexpectedly called on you to help someone in pain? How did you respond? Were you able to make the time in your busyness? What does caring cost you?
Who Is My Neighbor?
An expert of the law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The expert answered correctly: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart. . .and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Jesus added, “Do this and you will live.”
The expert sounded like he wants to take three big steps backward.
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?'”
The Good Samaritan not only noticed the seriously injured man left on the side of road he also took pity on him. He bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn, took care of him, and paid the innkeeper to watch over him. In other words, he did a lot for someone left for dead, someone he didn’t know.
Galatians 6:2 and 6:5 gives God’s call to us:
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
for each one should carry his own load.
At first glance, these biblical instructions seem to contradict. Paul uses two different words to help us sort out the confusion. “Burdens” are an overwhelming weight too much for any one person to carry. A “load” is a manageable cargo. God expects us to responsibly handle those things we can handle and to compassionately help those being crushed by life’s troubles. Isn’t it easy for many people to mix up burdens and loads?
God Allows Pain
As God providentially orchestrates every person’s life, he wants their attention. He knows that when believers encounter the problem of pain, they’ll grow into spiritual maturity. James 1:2-4 describes this process:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trial of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
This joy is true happiness that comes from knowing God is in control of everything. He counts the stars in the sky (Psalm 147:4) and the grains of sand on the shore (Psalm 139:18). He numbers your days (Psalm 39:4).
God has used supernatural events to get attention. (Think: burning bush.) More often God uses ordinary things get someone’s attention. Ordinary things like life’s ordinary problems: a troubled marriage, rebellious children, addictions, sexual sin, and so on.
When facing a problem, may I encourage you to ask five questions that help people see what God wants them to see? Paul Tripp provides these questions in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. They point you toward resolving problems biblically.
- What was going on? This focuses on the circumstance.
- What were you thinking and feeling as it was going on? This gets people to examine their hearts.
- What did you do in response? This connects peoples behavior to their heart’s response to a circumstance.
- Why did you do it? What were you hoping to accomplish? This uncovers the motive, or idols, of the heart.
- What was the result? The question uncovers the consequences that result from the thoughts and motives of the heart.
What problem is God using to get your attention or the attention of someone you’re counseling? How do these questions help turn a pain into an opportunity for spiritual growth?