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Pain in this life up until heaven is inevitable. When times are good it’s easy to forget that and instead expect life to be pain-free. Then, God becomes the bad guy.
Job and Jonah learned this but in different ways. Job had an exceptionally good life, then he lost nearly everything, then he regained happy circumstances. He knew what it is like to see painfully dramatic shifts in his fortune.
Jonah’s life was average; he was neither rich nor poor. But at least he had a relationship with God; he knew God’s forgiveness. Yet, he apparently didn’t remember what it was like to be a recipient of God’s mercy. Or, at least he didn’t want to see people, who he thought didn’t deserve it, be given the opportunity to receive it.
At the end of Jonah (chapter 4), God demonstrates to Jonah the value of caring about others who are less fortunate. Jonah is sensitive to God’s blessing (the plant) the God’s removal of blessing (the plant dying). It’s normal to be sensitive, but God wants us to learn how to distribute our concern equally between ourselves and others.
Some people are overly concerned about themselves to the neglect of others. While some others focus too much on others’ needs, ignoring their own needs.
When the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain required to change, you become sufficiently motivated to grow. If you’re blocking the pain, you’re holding back your growth. If you’re experiencing more pain than you can handle, you’re too isolated from love.
To be able to tolerate life’s misfortunes, you need God. God is love; only He can cause pain to become relatively insignificant when compared with our futures in heaven (Romans 8:18).
I believe Peter was speaking from his experience of denying Christ (John 18:17, 25–27) and being reaffirmed as a chosen disciple when he wrote this verse:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.1 Peter 5:10 ESV
1. Restoring Minimizes Pain
Restore means to return to a former condition, place, or position. God wants you to have what you have lost. This doesn’t mean you will receive exactly the same as what you lost (Job didn’t). But God wants you to move forward according to the plans He has for you.
2. Confirming Minimizes Pain
Confirm means to make it publicly valid. What happens in your life should be relevant to other people in your life. We celebrate and mourn together, not alone.
3. Strengthening Minimizes Pain
Strengthen means to support, increase, and reinforce. If you are going to move beyond pain, you need God’s strength. Pay attention to how God is developing your ability to complete His plans.
4. Establishing Minimizes Pain
Establish means to achieve permanent acceptance. When God establishes you, He does not have plans for you to run away (like Jonah). He is appointing you to accomplish His work.
Notice the progression. Restore and confirm recover what was lost. God wants to heal you. But strengthen and establish go beyond the unimaginable. When God establishes you, you’re permanently accepted. God has called you to eternal glory. You can’t get more permanently accepted than that.
God does all of this because He cares. Whenever you experience suffering, you always have a choice to turn away from God or to turn toward God. Peter experienced God restoring, confirming, strengthening, and establishing him (John 21:15-17). You can, too!
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.