What do you do when your pain makes it feel impossible to praise?
In a pair of sermons covering Romans 5:1-11 a couple weeks back we looked in part at God’s purposes in suffering and saw that our response is to be that of boasting or rejoicing in them – not for their own sake, but knowing that God uses suffering in the lives of His people to purify and intensify their hope in Him.  We also saw at the same time that while it may look like this rejoicing or boasting comes automatically amidst suffering in our experience it does not.  Faith and a conscious choice are required.  No one just wants to shout for joy when they hurt.  Our flesh doesn’t want to reply to pain with praise.  Something more than our instincts and reflexes is required then.  Here I want to only briefly ask, What should we do when our suffering hurts so much that we feel like rejoicing amidst it is the last thing we want to do?  Here are a few thoughts, recognizing that they are much easier to print than practice and that only the Holy Spirit can ultimately overcome our reticence to produce rejoicing:

1. Admit your pain to God.  He already knows we hurt.  It is not a secret to Him.  We may be tempted to not admit it because we think we need to put on a tough face or jump right past the pain to praising Him or are failing to trust Him if we admit we hurt, but none of those things are true.  Part of trusting Him involves believing that He will continue to love and care for us at all times and through all struggles.  This expresses itself at times by simply admitting, “I really, really hurt and am finding it hard to trust You right now.”  God calls us to cast our burdens on Him (Psalm 55:22).  And even the sin of unbelief is included under the call to confess our sins to Him (1 John 1:9).

2. Continually re-prioritize your purification and Christ’s glorification in your heart and life.
  Part of what makes pain so painful is that our flesh naturally wants to prioritize our comfort above all things.  While it is not bad to want pleasure, that pleasure is always to be guided and shaped by the ultimate desire that God be glorified in and through us – whether in life or death (Philippians 1:21; Psalm 37:4; 1 Corinthians 10:31).  Therefore, we need to constantly re-assess our priorities and desires.  What do we want MOST?  On one day it may be the glory of Christ and on another it may be to simply escape discomfort and pain.  Which is it today?  There is a need every day to preach afresh to our soul, “You, soul, exist for the glory of Christ.  Want Him more than anything else and believe that He will not bring you through anything but that which He ultimately means for your satisfaction in Him and His exultation through you.”  If we, by God’s grace, prioritize His glory above everything else it sets the stage for the ability to praise Him when it would otherwise appear unconscionable.

3. Consciously thank Him for the trials He ordains and brings to pass in your life.  This can be really hard to do honestly.  It is counterintuitive to thank someone for pain.  But since we know that God “causes all things to work together for good” to those who love Him and are called by Him (Romans 8:28) we can give sincere thanks even when we can’t fathom how something can be used for good (Ephesians 5:20).  We can still force ourselves in faith to trust Him enough to say, “Thank You for this trial.  It really hurts and I don’t understand at all how it will work out for good or why it is necessary that it play out this way, but I believe You and I know You are good and I believe that You wouldn’t bring anything to pass in my life but that which is truly for my everlasting good unto Your everlasting glory.”  As we continually build a pattern of praising Him in faith even for the pain He uses to purify us, He builds a habit in our soul of viewing all things as ordained by Him for good and of trusting Him through every pain.

4. Admit your pain to others and surround yourself with people who will pray for you. 
This too can feel counterintuitive when we are hurting.  Our flesh’s impulse when we hurt is to isolate, but this tends to lead only to greater hurt.  God has placed in a body to bear with and serve one another.  We are meant to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  We are meant to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).  We are meant to spur one another on and to help each other to persevere (Hebrews 3:12-14; 10:23-25).  We are all weak.  We all struggle at various times.  We need each other.  Do not believe any lie that would keep you from finding help and strength through your family in Christ.  God hears the prayers of His people.  Even when you find it hard to pray through the pain you can enroll others to keep praying for you.

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