Pain: a pathway to praise

For those who don’t know the Lord or believe in eternity, pain and suffering are the apex of human tragedy; for those whose trust is in the Lord, it’s a pathway to praise, encouragement and evangelism.

These past few months have been heavy. I’m not sure if there’s another single word that would adequately describe them since they have been such a mixture of difficulty and pain, yet also of joy and hope as God has continued to show Himself faithful and good through it all. Some of the challenges, like the chronic suffering of my wife, the death of my sister, and my son’s amputation have been “mine,” while others, like tragic losses, shattered marriages and ravaging sicknesses, have been “others’” and yet have weighed heavily on my heart as we “weep with those who weep” and walk through life with each other. 

Psalm 40 is such a beautiful reminder of how to process and respond to hardship in a way that brings glory to God – our ultimate purpose and source of joy in this life. In it David begins by expressing his dependence on the Lord, even when God seems not to hear, or delays His reply, saying, “I waited patiently for the LORD and He heard my cry.” In my wife’s case, she dealt with daily and debilitating pain for eight years before the Lord provided relief. You can bet she cried out to the Lord. Many of us cried out to the Lord on her behalf. Yet, in His providence He allowed nearly a decade of life-altering suffering to elapse before He drew her up from the miry bog. Patiently waiting is so very hard, but the lessons learned during that time, and then the hight of joy that follows suffering, are good gifts from a good Father. 

The Psalmist then declares that God put a new song in his mouth – a song that many would hear, and by it come to trust in the Lord. There are so many songs that exist, many of them in the Bible, that proclaim God’s mighty, miraculous, saving acts that have encouraged suffering saints and told of God’s character and deeds to lost people. If you don’t think you have musical or vocal ability, don’t despair! In verse nine David says, “I have told of the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation.” If you can’t sing it, say it! The point in this Psalm is to give public expression to God’s faithfulness and working in our lives. 

It may be that you, like many, don’t feel comfortable speaking to groups of people whether it be to a dozen folks at a Bible study or in front of hundreds of people on a Sunday morning. Pray that the Lord will help you not restrain your lips (v.9) and hide His deliverance within your heart (v.10). As verse five says, God has “multiplied … [His] wondrous deeds and [His] thoughts toward us” and thus we have the privilege to “proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the opportunity and courage to boldly share how God has saved and blessed you. Your testimony gives glory to God and encouragement to those around you. 

It may also be that you’re still in the midst of the “pit of destruction” and the only song on your heart right now is one of lament. Remember when it seems evils have encompassed you and your heart is failing (v.12), as David did, that God will not restrain His mercy from you, and His steadfast love and faithfulness will ever preserve you (v.11). Wait patiently on the Lord and remember, as verse four says, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,” and continue to pray verse 17 – “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” Trust in the Good Shepherd to lead you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and keep praying verse 13 – “Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!”

The longer I have lived and the more people I have known, I have come to see that suffering and pain are a ubiquitous part of human existence. For those who don’t know the Lord or believe in eternity, pain and suffering are the apex of human tragedy; for those whose trust is in the Lord, it’s a pathway to praise, encouragement and evangelism. In other words, God gets the glory, fellows saints are reminded of God’s character and deeds, and some who do not yet trust in the Lord “…will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

No matter where we are in our own process of deliverance, may we remember the words of Psalm 40, especially verse 16, which says, “But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!’”

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