Healthy pain helps move you or someone else toward God or godliness. Healthy pain has hope for redemption, transformation, or some kind of positive outcome. When hope of a good outcome fades, pain becomes very sick very quickly.
There is pain that is a complete waste of time and effort. Proverbs 19:19 says, “If you go deliver an angry man, you will just have to do it again” (NLT). When a person takes the blows for an angry person, it does absolutely no good except to bring pain on the rescuer. When a person tolerates the abuse of an abuser, it often strengthens the evil tendencies in the abuser.
When working with addicts, one of the most powerful questions I ask is “Are you willing to give us what we need for us to help you to get better?” If a person is truly willing to do what is needed to grow, I am willing to go to great lengths, even to endure pain to see that happen. If a person is angry and abusive and has no interest in changing, I am not willing to participate in that kind of pain.
For a person to change, there must be a willingness to listen to God and to those who are godly. If a person is closed, I am not in a hurry to chase after that person. I don’t see God pursing the hard hearted. God knows that the lifestyle of the hard hearted will create enough pain for him that he will likely return for help. When he returns, God is waiting for him with open arms.
However, God’s conditions don’t change. He is willing to help those who make room for Him. If the abuser only wants to find temporary favor so that he can return to a lifestyle of abuse, there is no room for God. The love of God will run off that person like water off a rock. The angry or abusive person only finds real connection with God or the godly when the pain has done its work. When pain brings a humility, an openness, a willingness to listen … then there is room for growth. Then good things can happen.
Are you willing to give God what He needs to work in your life? Many Christians in the United States are more culture than Christian. They serve God until there is the first hint of pain. Once pain hits, they are done. A person can only be hurt by what he cares about. The deeper the caring, the deeper the pain.
God wants the deepest places in our hearts given to Him. Abraham’s deepest desire had been to have a son. Once God gave Abraham a son, God tested Abraham to see if the son owned the deepest places of Abraham’s heart or if God was truly Lord. Abraham passed the test. I’m sure that test was painful for Abraham, but it showed him and the whole world that he would absolutely follow God. Period.
The transformation of our culture will require more Abraham’s. Pain can be unbelievably redeeming. So many of the people I minister to won’t listen to me at all until they see that I am willing to endure pain for them. If in the midst of pain I respond in a way that is loving, they begin to trust. But they also need to see that I won’t take abuse and anger in needless ways.
I am continually asking them the question, “Are you willing to give me the kind of influence I need in your life so that I can help you get better?” Initially, people need time and space to figure out if you are trustworthy. During that phase, I am willing to be used. Once a person has had time to see who I am, if that person still chooses a closed off lifestyle, I know I cannot help him. If he refuses to do the things he needs to do to get better, then I refuse to stay involved with that person unless God has directly shown me that I need to stay involved.
Pain with hope. When we are targeting godliness and growth, pain is worth it. Will you get past the pain barrier and become a change agent for Christ?