Not Every Pain Has A Lesson


There is NO connecting-the-dots on every instance of pain.  You can’t tell everyone, “God has a plan for your life.”  You can’t always say, “Everything happens for a reason.”

A blind theology on suffering only works for the unquestioning.  It can work until you have to comfort a young boy with cancer, a mother who has lost her son, a suicidal high schooler, an entire nation oppressed by genocide, a family torn by a school shooting or drunk driver, a pregnant victim of rape.  At this point: it is atrocious to say, “Pain forces you to grow” or “It takes a painful situation to change your ways” or “God is teaching you to trust.”

I think we probably say those things because most of us have had it way too easy.  And actually: they’re not biblical or from the heart of God.

What if there really is no spiritual lesson from your pain?

What if “God’s amazing plan” only makes sense to the privileged upper-class?

What if you never see the reason for why you’re going through this horrible ache? 

What if you’re that starving, kidnapped, beat-up kid in a scorched third world country?


Certainly there is some accommodating theology, but we jump to that too quickly.  The hard truth is that we live on a fractured planet with a broken people who are dislocated from their source, and nothing is as it ought to be.  Ugliness is bound to happen, and when we try to moralize or spiritualize, we find ourselves on unsteady ground with unanswered questions.

We’re not to gloss over this with pat doctrine and retroactive theology — but to enter into the fray with sleeves rolled up and armed with the strength and mercy of God. To say “God has a plan” while people are suffering is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. 

God does have a plan, and that was the sending of His Son to redeem this fallen world.  It was the inauguration of a Kingdom in which we are the participants, and until Jesus comes again, we’re called to fight evil in its every form.

All this “Let go and let God” complacency has us sitting on the sidelines.  If you are united with Christ: you are an agent assigned to aid in the healing of your corner of the universe. God is still the God of every situation — but more than that, God is the God IN the situation, suffering with us, embracing the broken, restoring wounded hearts, and waiting for us to get involved too.

I hope we are not too quick to declare a life-lesson for every pain, but instead show solidarity as Jesus did.  His very presence as God in the flesh means we do not need more talk, but rescue.

— J.S.

12 thoughts on “Not Every Pain Has A Lesson

  1. SO well said! not incorrect but incomplete! “God does have a plan, and that was the sending of His Son to redeem this fallen world. It was the inauguration of a Kingdom in which we are the participants, and until Jesus comes again, we’re called to fight evil in its every form.” Have not heard it ever said any better! Amen! 😀


  2. Wonderfully stated. This is darn good preaching that motivates us to accept and engage the hurting places of life with the love and grace of God. It is gospel. The kingdom is so forward-looking: unfortunately there is pain and trouble–and, like you say in “Tears,” we must pause to accept them–but there is mercy and hope that heals. I often say we may not be able to thank God for everything, but we can be thankful that he is somewhere in and above the gloom with the deepest regard for us.


    1. Thanks again my friend. Really do appreciate your comments here. I feel no matter how much I write on pain, it’ll always be inadequate or missing something, and will come off trite or short-sighted. But I suppose that is part of the pain.


  3. I agree with you. However, I believe we all live in a fallen world. Mixed in my life has been emtional and physical pain. However interpearsed have been periods of great joy such as the birth of my children. A peace that passes all understanding as I sit with my husband just enjoying each others company. A quietness as I hear God’s still voice. A tranquality in accepting life as it is.. Yet, there is a heart break for love ones passed. Heart break as I watch friends and family destined to chose not God and to continue in their addictions.
    Heaven awaits for me. Until then, I can pray for my family and friends who do not know Him. I see this world sold a line of lies and destroy themselves.. I weep for them. There is always the possibily they will be condemed to eternal damnation. I shudder to think about this.
    Thank you for the good blog.


  4. What do you suggest we say when our friends are grieving/going through difficulties we’re not comfortable with? I understand that the answer is relative to each person/situation, but do you have any suggestions? Thank you!


    1. While it all depends, I think just agreeing & listening helps. “I know it sucks. I know it hurts. I’m sorry.” It sounds like enabling, and I guess it could go that way, but when I’m hurting I usually don’t want a lecture on anything. The silence of listening is more healing than we think.


  5. Well-founded with Matthew 25:31-46 only the best example.
    40 years ago I asked a missionary how she told people who were starving that God loves them. She replied, “You just tell them.” I was horrified. “Christian” butts on a chair feeling sorry for others isn’t the Jesus way, the One who died to save us. Get the butts into gear and feed and clothe and visit, cast out demons, risk. “There is no greater love than to lay down your life…” A prayer meeting is the start, not the all, of following Jesus.
    Tough words on a tough teaching, but is not optional for the person truly loyal to Jesus.


  6. I would disagree wholeheartedly with your title. Every pain we experience ABSOLUTELY carries a lesson. Now granted I’m discounting issues such as abuse and pain that comes from trauma. But most pain we experience in life does carry a lesson we should try to learn from.


  7. “I hope we are not to quick to declare a life-lesson for every pain, but instead show solidarity as Jesus id.” –wow. thank you for saying this. I need it.


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