What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Though most of us would gladly avoid pain at all costs, we would not want to find ourselves without the capacity to feel it. Most parents would not want their children not to have the ability to sense pain. According to the Modern Medical Encyclopedia, "pain is important as the body's chief warning signal that something has gone wrong."
We should consider pain useful in giving warning of possible danger—indicating the presence and nature of a disease, injury, or harmful stimulus, such as an electric shock or a hot stove. The great God has placed within our bodies a vast network of millions of pain nerves, specifically designed to alarm the central nervous system that danger or potential danger exists.
To a person in excruciating pain—the kind transmitted from a broken limb—the first thing he thinks of is getting rid of the pain. That desire is only natural. But pain reduction at any cost is not entirely desirable! Pharmaceutical researchers have developed drugs (called analgesics or narcotics) specially designed to mask the sensation of pain. Unfortunately, they often do not come remotely close to eliminating the real, underlying cause.
Horse racing authorities have levied stiff fines on trainers for injecting drugs into their horses' limbs when pulled tendons or bone fractures cause them pain. Some people, many of them not even athletes, seem to exist on a regimen of cortisone shots or muscle relaxants, completely overriding the body's natural warning system to cease and desist. Would they have the same response if the engine warning light on their dashboard flashed on?
We should not view pain as an enemy. Its purpose is to alert us, just as the engine light on the car's dashboard indicates low oil pressure, high water temperature, or an empty gasoline tank. Pain means warning!
David F. Maas
Guilt: Our Spiritual Pain
God fortunately has provided for us a capacity to feel pain on the spiritual dimension as well as the physiological. We could say that the spiritual equivalent of physical pain is guilt. The late Meir Kahane humorously referred to guilt as "Jewish AIDS," as the Jews seem to carry past failures like millstones around their necks.
As pain drives us to seek relief and comfort for our physical ailments, guilt also drives us to seek spiritual remedy. In his book Feelings, Willard Gaylin maintains that,
Guilt is not a "useless" emotion; it is the emotion that shapes so much of our goodness and generosity. It signals us when we have transgressed from codes of behavior which we personally want to sustain. Feeling guilty informs us that we have failed our ideal. We should not use "Jesus' grace" as a salve or buffer to mask the spiritual pain indicators God has mercifully given us.
Like our attitude to physical pain, we should likewise not consider guilt our real enemy. Sin, not guilt, is the true culprit! Guilt simply serves as a set of symptoms warning us that we have transgressed one or more of God's living laws. Because in our conscious mind we have willingly submitted to God's law, we now have the capacity to feel spiritual hurt. The apostle Paul suggests that, "if it had not been for the Law, I should not have recognized sin or . . . have had no consciousness of sin or sense of guilt" (Romans 7:7, The Amplified Bible).
God has made it clear that we cultivate and maintain the ability to feel spiritual pain in order to move us away from behavior that endangers us. Paul assures the Corinthians:
Yet I am glad now, not because you were pained, but because you were pained into repentance [that turned you to God]; for you felt a grief such as God meant you to feel, so that in nothing you might suffer loss through us or harm for what we did. For godly grief and the pain . . . produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret; but worldly grief . . . is deadly. . . . For [you can look back now and] observe what this same godly sorrow has done for you and has produced in you. (II Corinthians 7:9-11, The Amplified Bible. Emphasis ours.)
David frequently expresses gratitude for being led back from spiritual pain to spiritual comfort. For example, in Psalm 119 he exclaims, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. . . . It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (verses 67, 71).
David F. Maas
Guilt: Our Spiritual Pain
The first curse includes the whole processes of childbearing, from conception to birth. The Hebrew word rendered "conception" in the New King James version (NKJV) includes the entire pregnancy, while "bring forth" can mean both the beginning or end of the birth process. The Revised Standard Version translates these clauses as, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children."
A human female is unique among mammalian creatures in this respect. Animal females generally bear their young without pain and rarely sicken and die during or from the experience. Women, on the other hand, always experience pain and grief throughout their pregnancies—from morning sickness to contractions—and have historically had a very high mortality rate from childbirth. Better nutrition and hygiene have cut the numbers of deaths dramatically, but the pain and grief remain.
Fortunately, God is a God of mercy. He put within the human female the ability to "forget" her pains in childbirth soon thereafter. Jesus Himself mentions this in John 16:21:
A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
This curse on Eve has a direct relationship with the end of the curse on the serpent, which involves the woman's "seed," both general and specific (Genesis 3:15). We can infer that God intends us to understand that, because of sin, producing "seed" to fight Satan and his seed will be made more difficult. In a spiritual sense, the church, "the mother of us all," endures great hardship in producing children of God.
Thus, the Bible testifies, "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew 11:12), "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), and "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). Even the sinless Christ, the promised Seed, was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3), forced by sin—yet willing—to bear the agonies of human life and death to become the Son of God, the Firstborn among many brethren.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)
Like the burnt offering, the meal offering was completely consumed. The priest placed a portion atop the burnt offering and kept the remainder for his consumption. Nothing remained for the offerer. The meal offering depicts that man has a claim on man. We are obligated to love our neighbor as ourselves; we are our brother's keeper. We owe these to fellow man, and therefore fellow man has a claim on our love, even as we have a claim on his love.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:17, "Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." The drink offering was an adjunct to the meal offering. Clearly, Paul considered his life as an offering to the Philippians for the benefit of their faith in God and His purpose. Because of this, he was not able to live life as he might otherwise have chosen. He was always at their service; he sacrificed his life on their behalf.
Others are named for their service to the brethren. Phoebe refreshed the brethren. Philemon was hospitable, and Luke and Silas made arduous journeys with Paul in service to those in far-flung areas. They, like we, serve people who are carnal or leavened, as the Bible says, and thus their reactions are not always what we would like them to be.
A clear example of this occurred when Mary offered her perfume to anoint Jesus' feet. Judas reacted carnally, asking why this could not have been sold and given to the poor. This illustration shows that sacrifices made for another can be misunderstood, and people can become offended. When we serve, expectations are usually high, but realization sometimes falls short, causing pain even in attempting to do good. We must always remember that it is a sacrifice to be a meal offering. The possibility of pain is always present.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)
We can learn from this that God inflicts pain not merely because we sin. In other words, pain does not always mean that we are being punished; it can also mean that we are being shaped. The pain may occur because we are being formed and prepared for what lies ahead. We cannot be in God's Kingdom unless we are changing, living by faith, and becoming like Him. He is faithful to use pain to turn us into what we are to become. Otherwise, we will never be like Him. It is similar to going to school. School may seem hard, but there is a good purpose motivating the teacher's difficult assignments. So it is with God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and Fasting
We live in a society absorbed with its own feelings. Today, people are addicted to seeing themselves as victims and demanding special tolerance, favor, acceptance, or gifts. Yet a mind concerned with its own painful experiences, rejections, mistakes, or emotional hurts is one that refuses healing. These emotions comfort like old bandages, and many are afraid to see what is underneath. Some cling to them because they give special "handicap" privileges, and they use them to justify what they believe, say or do. It is a demonic delusion because it only perpetuates the pain and denies the freedom or forgiveness that God offers.
Pain should serve to teach and mature us, not box us into the darkness. Hebrews 2:10 says Christ learned by the things He suffered—His pain was His teacher. Likewise, our painful experiences can teach us the contrasts between this human life and the glorious life for which God is preparing us.
However, a mind that feels pain speaks pain, and, if left unchecked, will eventually drive others away. Sharing a painful experience with a confidant is empowering and emotionally bonding, but continually sharing it with anyone who will listen deludes us into thinking that it is good for us when it is actually a kind of psychosis. Preoccupation with personal pain denies the fruit of the Spirit. It brings no peace or joy or love, etc.
Proverbs 23:7 teaches, "For as [one] thinks in his heart, so is he." It is easy to become caught up in life's painful experiences, and some of us have enough of them to fill novels. Yet Paul instructs the Philippians not to dwell on themselves so much: "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4). At times, the best way to put aside pain is to care for the needs of someone else. Positive and outgoing communication provides plenty of time to talk about painful experiences, but it does not allow them to become a way of life. When someone asks, we can feel free to express some of the painful events of our lives, but we should show interest and concern for the other's experiences and provide encouragement as needed.
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)
Jesus had to die a death that was excruciatingly painful. Why? To depict the horrible pain that sin causes. It would not have served God's purpose if He had died a painless death. The picture would have been incomplete.
Any criminal of that time would have despaired to learn he was to be crucified. Crucifixion was not only an execution, but also a method of torture. The Romans usually gave the victim an excruciating scourging first. Jesus was no exception. Before He ever touched His cross, He was scourged, beaten, and insulted.
Over the years we have heard quite a bit about the Roman lictor, the soldier charged with dispensing this dreaded punishment. He used a whip, often with imbedded pieces of metal, bone, or other sharp objects. Romans did not limit their lictors to the Israelite practice of "forty stripes save one," nor to striking just the victim's back. He would let the whip strike and wrap around every inch of the person's body until he was within an inch of death.
The prophet Isaiah prophesies how Jesus appeared after the scourging: "Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage [appearance, margin] was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" (Isaiah 52:14). He goes on to say that He was "wounded [pierced through, margin] for our transgressions, He was bruised [crushed] for our iniquities" (53:5). Is it no wonder that the apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:8, "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
Imagine yourself in Christ's situation, with the skin flayed off so that you could count your bones. Add to that the searing pain of huge nails being pounded into your hands and ankles as soldiers pinned you to the stake. Now add the emotional pain of being denied and forsaken by all your friends. Thank God for the many women who stood by Jesus at that moment of horror—Mary His mother, Mary Magdalene, and others (Matthew 27:55-56). On top of everything else, He had to endure the taunts and ridicules of those for whom He was dying.
Then Jesus experienced yet another horror for the first time: being forsaken by God in heaven. God dumped all the obnoxious sins of the world on Jesus and had to turn His back on Him who became sin for us (Isaiah 53:6, 10-12; I Peter 2:24). How hauntingly mournful it must have sounded to hear Jesus cry out, "'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?'" (Matthew 27:46-47). At this point, Jesus learned what it felt like to be cut off from God because of sin.
The pain grew so great that when Jesus said He thirsted, the Roman soldiers at the foot of His cross offered Him a brew of "vinegar" or sour wine mixed with myrrh as a sedative (John 19:28-29; Mark 15:23). Jesus refused it, knowing He had to suffer pain as part of the picture of what sin does in our lives: It causes a lot of gruesome pain!
After a while on the stake, the condemned person found it difficult to breathe. He could help himself a little by bracing his body upward with his legs and knees, but once he could no longer do this, he slowly died by asphyxiation. To hasten death, the Roman executioners would sometimes break the victim's legs with a club—which they did to the two robbers (John 19:31-32). When they came to Jesus, they found Him already dead and so did not break any of His bones (verse 33; Psalm 34:20).
Jesus did not die of a broken heart, as some Protestants believe. He bled to death from dozens of wounds from the scourging and from the spikes driven through his limbs. A gaping spear wound in His side produced a flow of blood and water. He truly poured out his blood like water to cover our sins (Psalm 22:14; Ephesians 1:7; I John 1:7).
Jesus gasped, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and finally to the Father, who gave Him to us because He loved us so much, our Savior prayed, "Into your hands I commend My spirit" (Luke 23:46). So Jesus died with a quiet confidence that He had finished the work His Father had sent Him to do.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die by Crucifixion?
Our English word pearl is derived from Sanskrit, meaning "pure." The biblical concept of holiness carries the idea of purity with it.
The pearl is an interesting study. Unlike other gems, pearls are produced by a living organism, an oyster, as the result of an injury. It usually begins forming around a grain of sand or an egg of some parasite that invaded the oyster. The oyster protects itself by layering the irritant with nacre—mother-of-pearl—until, out of pain and suffering, it forms an object of great beauty. The offending particle actually becomes a gem of great worth!
So it is with us spiritually. We are an irritant, a botch, a scab on God's creation because of our nature and our sins. But because He loves us, we are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, and gradually we can become a thing of beauty, clothed with the righteousness of Him who bought us.
We can make a number of other comparisons between pearls and other objects used as teaching vehicles in the Bible, such as the mustard seed. Both begin as something quite small but achieve different results. The mustard seed grows into the largest of herbs, but the pearl remains small. What is the lesson? Size does not determine value.
We can make a second comparison with ourselves. The pearl is first embedded in a mass of live but corruptible flesh, then separated and cleansed from its surroundings so that it can appear in its purity and beauty. So it is with the church. It is surrounded by, deeply embedded in, this corruptible world, and must be separated from the world before it can make a proper witness. As long as the pearl (church) remains in the oyster (world), it is of no value.
The production of the pearl is a gradual, even tedious, process. Slowly, the oyster adds layer after thin layer of nacre until the pearl is transformed. So it is with the church. For nineteen-and-a-half centuries, it has been in the making. If we add all who will be in the first resurrection from the time before Christ, then God has been working and adding to its lustrous value for almost six thousand years! All of this has occurred, and the world has hardly noticed, if at all, that this awesome process was progressing right under its nose.
In essence, the formation of the pearl is happening in secret. Colossians 3:3 says that our "life is hidden with Christ in God." Jesus tells His disciples: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). The world does not know where God's truth is transforming people into beings of glorious beauty. They are now just as we were before God revealed Himself to us. They are blind to the beauty of holiness. In fact, they are not merely blind, but as this verse shows, hostile to it.
Drawing the comparisons further, we know the oyster is at home in the depths of the ocean, a scavenger living off the garbage that sinks to the bottom of the sea. Revelation 13:1 shows the beast rising out of a sea: "Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name."
The Bible often uses a sea to represent multitudes of people, sometimes multitudes of enemies. Revelation 17:15 says, "And he said to me, 'The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.'" Isaiah 59:19 reads, "the enemy comes in like a flood." God must take the pearl, the church, from among the ungodly just as the oyster must be lifted from the muck and mire of the sea bottom.
Psalm 18:4-6, 15-16 expresses this analogy beautifully:
The pangs of death encompassed me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. . . . Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were uncovered at Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
So the church, an object of beauty to God, is presently hidden from the world because they do not really know true value when they see it. But it will not be that way for long.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Parables and a Pearl
At some time or other, every human being experiences suffering. A baby causes pain by being born. Many live by inflicting pain on others. We all suffer pain and eventually experience death. Granted, believers alive when Christ returns to this earth will be transformed in a moment, but with this exception, the lot of all is to suffer and die (Hebrews 9:27). Eliphaz spoke truthfully to Job when he told the suffering patriarch, "For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground; yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:6-7).
Although everyone—Christians as well as non-Christians—suffers at some point in life, it is not true that all suffer alike. Seen from the outside, a Christian and a non-Christian suffering from the same incurable disease may appear to undergo the same experience. According to God's Word, however, the two are not equal (II Corinthians 6:15-16).
From God's perspective, the non-Christian is suffering without purpose, or perhaps he is suffering at the whim of Satan, who is merely doing as he pleases with a member of his own kingdom. In the case of the Christian, though, an all-wise heavenly Father is permitting suffering in a carefully controlled situation to accomplish a desirable purpose. God is a Father who disciplines His children (II Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 12:5-8), a truth that the book of Job vividly teaches.
So what is the purpose of a Christian's suffering? To learn from it, we must ask what we are to learn; if we are to benefit, we must ask how. Some of Christ's words spoken when healing the man born blind suggest the answers to these questions.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Man Born Blind (Part One)
1 Timothy 4:2
In I Timothy 4:2, Paul speaks of people searing or cauterizing their consciences with a hot iron. Willard Gaylin writes that "the failure to feel guilt is the basic flaw in the psychopath, or antisocial person, who is capable of committing crimes of the vilest sort without remorse or contrition." We could describe the unpardonable sin as the incapacity to feel remorse or a person's determination to override every warning signal of guilt. If people repeatedly violate their consciences, masking their guilt by using escapist "analgesics," the consequences become devastating. Without the stimulus of spiritual pain, they become incapable of changing their behavior.
This seared conscience is the ultimate result of the process Paul describes in Romans 1:28: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over [abandoned them, Twentieth Century New Testament] to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting." Though God desires to grant all men repentance (II Peter 3:9), a person can reach a point where it is no longer possible because, in his perversion and wickedness, he has burned his conscience to cinders.
We need to thank God for the capacity to feel both physical and spiritual pain. It provides us with the warning and the motivation to change—to be transformed into the image of our Savior Jesus Christ. In accepting His sacrifice for our sins, we take upon ourselves the responsibility—with God's help—to diagnose and eradicate the sins that cause the spiritual pain in the first place, to bring us into vibrant spiritual health. As the author of Hebrews writes, "Now no chastening [painful discipline] seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).
David F. Maas
Guilt: Our Spiritual Pain
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