We all have a different response when we’re in pain. Some of us shrivel up and hide. Some of us strike back at the world, intending to cause the same hurt that was caused to us. And some of us simply ask why. As if in questioning the universe, it will somehow answer back.
It is interesting to note that it is never when life goes well that we ask such questions; “Why is it that I have such a good family, good job, good circle of friends…?” the list goes on and on. We ask ourselves only when we know, inherently, that something in life is not meeting the potential it should be meeting.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.”
(Psalm 34:18, NRSV)
I encountered this passage recently – thanks, ‘verse of the day’ – and immediately a question occurred to me; “Does God show favouritism? Does He show Himself to those in despair before those who might be well off?”.
A striking example
One of the most poorly done-by characters in Biblical literature is surely Job. From his perspective, Job seemingly has his whole life taken from him before his eyes. Instead of shrivelling up and hiding, or striking back at the world in anger, he says:
"Let the day perish in which I was born,
and the night that said, "A man-child is conceived.”
(Job 3:3, NRSV)
Job does not see in his pain an opportunity to make himself feel better, he expresses precisely how he feels and gets a response. After describing that he would prefer to never have been alive to not have experienced the pain he is feeling, and a lengthy dialogue with ‘friends’, God responds.
While many take God’s response to be a sort of bullying of Job – ‘be quiet Job, you don’t know what you’re talking about’ – if one understood it rather to be God’s reassurance to Job that there is an order to the universe, and that God still holds the authority on said order, one can see a satisfaction in Job in the knowledge that God is still there. And that God listens.
Come before Him humbly
The Psalmist seems to be touching on to a similar truth I am seeing in Job; it’s not that God shows Himself to those in pain and suffering, it seems more likely that when we are in pain, the first thing we do (or rather, SHOULD do) is pursue God. God seems to immutably be there. It is simply that in our pain and purpose, we seek Him more clearly. We articulate our questions better, we take more direct steps, we ASK.
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matt 7:7, NRSV). When all is well off, how could we know what to ask. We are deprived of depravity and seem to be lost in the pleasures of a perfect paradise (that is not to say life is perfect, we have simply ignored or otherwise eliminated the obvious problems confronting us and are awaiting catastrophe before we pursue God again).
An obvious, band-aid ‘conclusion’ to these musings would be “Remember, dear readers, to pray even when things are good”. However, a different response may result a more enriching outworking; identify your pains and use them as guidance towards God and His glory. See your pains and depravity for what they could be and let that inform you on what they are; opportunity to pursue God. Since, as the Psalmist suggests, He is near in those moments.
That is not to say you should just allow your problems to exist without hope of making things better. However, let the story you tell yourself be that of God being close in those moments of pain. Draw closer to Him and know that He is Lord.
Josiah Gray lives in Logan City, Australia. He is currently studying teaching at Christian Heritage College and is committed to telling the story of Jesus to the next generation. Josiah’s previous articles may be viewed at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/josiah-gray.html