Why Suffering is a Fast-Pass to Deeper Intimacy with Jesus
Part of the Codependent in Colossians Series
by Kim Pullen | April 26, 2018
Series Manifesto: Instead of ignoring the pain following the disclosure of our spouse’s sexual sin, we choose to use our trauma as a catalyst for growth, digging deeply into God’s Word in search of spiritual healing and transformation.
“I want you to know how hard I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
I hate, hate, hate physical pain. When I first read John 6:21 when Jesus said a woman who gives birth to a child forgets her pain, I blasphemed, “Only a man would say that.” Still, it’s been 15 years since my youngest was born and I still remember my powerlessness to stop the wave after wave of labor pains enveloping me.
I hate emotional pain, too (who doesn’t?). So it rankles me that pain and struggle are the tools God uses to build our character (Romans 5:3-4).
Weaned on Pain
Americans are notorious for avoiding pain. We take 16 million prescription opioids every day to eliminate pain; that doesn’t count over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol, Advil, and Motrin. We medicate ourselves daily with more than 1.6 trillion hours of shows and movies. Heck, we change relationships faster than we change clothes when someone hurts our feelings.
The fact is Jesus was weaned on pain. It’s how God prepared him for the greatest challenge of the human age—the Cross (Hebrews 2:10). From his mysterious and suspicious conception, Jesus was a social slur to his hometown. How many snickers and insults to his parentage or to his mother’s integrity did he have to endure?
He was the eldest son yet his siblings considered his mission and his ministry a joke and an embarrassment (John 7:2-5, Mark 3:21). Even though he had the multitudes chasing after him, he was painfully alone (John 2:24).
The Jewish leaders harassed him unmercifully. The crowds tested him relentlessly. His disciples were as flighty and fickle as preteens (John 6:60,66). His own hand-picked Twelve doubted him even after they saw him brutally murdered and resurrected (Matthew 28:17).
Why the rejection and persecution? Why the loneliness and spiritual isolation? Why was it God’s will to put Jesus under the knife? (Isaiah 53:3,10).
So the Son would turn to his Father for strength, wisdom, intimacy, and the power to overcome even death. It was only because Jesus was so tight and attuned with God that he could put death in its place.
I finally stopped fighting and accepted this truth during the four agonizing years of separation from my husband. Quite simply, I can’t “put to death” my sinful nature, become like Christ, or share in his glory without suffering (Romans 8:12-17).
Jesus Up Close & Personal
While it’s certainly not the only contributing factor, it’s interesting that as the opioid epidemic rose over the last 10 years, the number of Americans who affiliate themselves with Christianity dropped.
The further we run from pain, the further we run from God and his ability to work in our lives and bring us to maturity (see “A Perfection Worth Pursuing”). We start thinking we’ve outgrown Him and know better than Him. We scoff at his old fashioned “rules” that don’t apply in a modern world (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).
God always seems to do things different than we would. He chooses things the world deems weak, foolish, and irrational—me and you in our flawed and fallen state PLUS Jesus—to shame those who are wise in their own eyes and who disdain God’s existence and sovereignty (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
But those of us who have found ourselves flat on our back with nowhere to look except up, we get it. We grasp the irony and reluctant privilege of enduring pain. We’ve come to relish the gift of having Jesus “up close and personal” while we suffer.
We experience a depth, embrace a wisdom, enjoy a treasure we couldn’t obtain any other way.
Connecting the Dots
The Apostle Paul was like a first century Harriet Tubman. He put himself at risk daily to help others find their way from spiritual poverty to this cache of understanding. He desperately wanted everyone to have this prized possession (Acts 26:29). In our key text (Colossians 2:2-3), he uses the Greek word sunesis. It means for a believer to have a holistic understanding—connecting the dots (or different areas of their life) and having those a-ha moments—so they can deeply know Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.
As disciples of Christ infused by the Spirit, we are uniquely qualified and equipped for searching out and enjoying this storehouse of spiritual insight. We speak the language (2 Corinthians 2:13-14)! We’ve got the tools (2 Peter 1:3)! All we need to do is to buy in.
God’s just waiting for us to get on board, to hold tight, and let Him take us on a fast-track to a destination hidden since the beginning of time—a breathtaking adventure of discovering the secret wisdom he’s hidden specially for us (1 Corinthians 2:7).
Help someone else on their journey by sharing your thoughts on this post in the comment section below.
Also published on Medium.