Great Pain, Great Gain!
Updated: Mar 23, 2020
My blog today is a reposting and updating to the revision of a blog I posted in July 2018. I’m doing this as a result of my earlier revision not being easily accessible to our church family and because I now have more information regarding the kidney stone that I passed. In my original blog, I was venting about my failed lithotripsy procedure. I was certain the procedure had failed because I didn’t experience any pain in passing any kidney stones, thus the blog was entitled, “No pain, No Gain”. The kidney stone in my left kidney has been present with me since my 1st failed lithotripsy in February 2014. I originally had the procedure done that February to get it rid of it before I went to study at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in April 2014. On Wednesday afternoon (2/26) this long-dormant kidney stone, that had traveled with me far and wide to many different places, finally decided it was time to move on. This bought great pain to my life, as kidney stones are apt to do. But when I woke up at 2:45 AM and felt no pain, I knew something very good had happened. I had passed this most difficult stone (a cat-scan a week later proved this to be in fact the case). That’s significant because the doctors weren’t sure I would be able to pass this size stone, but praise is to God -I am free from having to carry it around any longer. The pain that I was experiencing Wednesday afternoon into the evening and night were all part of the process of the stone passing through to get to the place where I could dispose of it. So, with this particular pain, there truly was great gain and I no longer need to take this unwelcome freeloader with me on any more vacations or anywhere else I go. I have come to believe through my spiritual journey that pain is a very significant part of the process of spiritual maturity in our Christian pilgrimage.
I believe that God uses pain in our spiritual lives to stretch us and give us a wealth of experience in drawing near to Jesus. There are those that teach that when you come to Jesus all your problems are solved and life will be a bed of roses with great prosperity. That has certainly not been my experience in ministry nor the experience of those to whom God has called me to minister. In fact, Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. The gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it,” (Matthew 7:13 – 14 NASB). Jesus never presented following Him as an easy choice, but always told His followers the truth of the sacrifice that was necessary to be His disciples.
Paul, who knew a thing or two about suffering for Christ, also makes a profoundly significant statement in his letter to the Philippians. In Phil. 3 we read, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to obtain the resurrection from the dead,” (Phil.3:10-11 NIV). Most of us would be thrilled to experience the power of Jesus’s resurrection. It is that power working in and through our lives that assures us of the resurrection that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. But how many of us want to share in the fellowship of His sufferings? Now that’s a whole different ballgame. Yet we can know for certain that it is through suffering that we are transformed into the likeness and image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God can also use our experiences and pain to minister to others. This is seen in Paul’s words to the Corinthians in his 2nd epistle when he writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5 NIV). What Paul is saying here is that because we have been comforted in our suffering and pain, we are then given the ministry of comforting those who are suffering in a like manner. I can totally empathize with anyone who’s ever had a kidney stone attack, as I’ve had this experience eight or nine times in my life. God gives us difficult things so down the road we may reflect the love of Christ in the compassion of God into real-life situations for those who are going through these difficulties. The day I passed this kidney stone I called a dear pastor friend, Pastor Jim M, who has also had significant difficulties with kidney stones. In fact, I ran into him at our urologist’s office where we compared notes, as we were both experiencing kidney stones that refused to pass. When I shared with brother Jim my experience on Wednesday night, he could thoroughly rejoice with me and he fulfilled the passage of, “Rejoicing with those who are rejoicing”. Pastor Jim is a dear friend who I cherish greatly, but now our friendship has a new bond that adds new depth to our relationship.
In Christian ministry, we tend to find our comfort zone and just stay safe and warm in that little comfort zone and never allow God to stretch us to the point of pain. Yet many times it is at the point of pain that we began to grow and see with new eyes how God can use us to make a difference in our world. Again, in our spiritual lives where there is no pain, there is no gain. So, let’s allow God to work in our lives so that we may reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in every situation. And even when we are going through painful circumstances let us believe that God can use our suffering for the furtherance of His work in our lives and for His glory as we minister to others.
All for God’s glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo