Encountering God in Our Pain

It’s the story of many biblical characters.

Just ask Hannah who desperately wanted a child but was barren. Ask Joseph who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers because he had a coat and a vision they didn’t like so much.

Let a righteous Job tell you what it’s like to have everything you love violently taken away, and then have your best friends tell you that God did it because of some sin you committed. Are you familiar with that sort of pain?

Listen to David’s cry for justice:

“Vindicate me, Lord,
    for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
    and have not faltered.” Ps. 2:6 NIV

And consider how Jesus, the blameless Son of God, was betrayed by one of his students, and was then abandoned by all of his friends and family in his darkest hour. It was on the cross that he finally cried out in real, agonizing pain, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus experienced the blackest darkness imaginable—separation from the Father—a fracturing of Trinitarian community.

Just as Jesus understands our temptations (Heb 2:17-18), he also relates to our desire for vindication. Yes, Jesus most especially knows the sense of abandonment that comes as a result of living in a world polluted by evil. That’s what God does. He meets us in our deepest pain. He takes evil head-on.

The cross of Christ will teach us a mysterious truth, that is if we’ll allow it.

It’s when we’re alone in our deepest despair that we’re able to discover that we’re not alone, have never been alone, and will never be alone.

Jesus promised his followers that they would never be alone (Matt 28:20). We can listen to Jesus. He is the first and the last, alpha and omega, the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13). We are not hidden from his sight.

A disfigured world drove Jesus into the darkness of a cold tomb, but he came out transfigured and resurrected for the sake of us all. God vindicated Jesus after his radical obedience, after his total surrender.

Paul wrote, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Phil 2:8,9 NIV). Why does this qualify Jesus for the highest place?

He was exalted because of his willingness to suffer and die. He was given the place of highest honor because of his faithfulness to this way of confronting and defeating evil. He gave up his “rights” and emptied himself.

He would die before swinging at the darkness.

Jesus said you can’t save your life by trying to save your life. You must let it go. Trying to overcome the world in your own power, or even forcing your own vindication, is futile. It’s the way of the world, but not of Christ.

This is the way of Christ: enter the darkness and encounter God there.

Do not resist the powers that have sent you spiraling into an abyss of dark isolation and pain. Let God fight for you. Allow him to vindicate you in his time, in his way—the way of the cross. You will discover the light of justice after evil has exhausted itself. Brothers and sisters, wait for resurrection!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV

D.D. Flowers, 2014.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

2 responses to “Encountering God in Our Pain

  • Thomas Arvidsson

    Thanks David! I’m heading for Bangladesh for a pastors-conference where I will teach, and those two qoutations you mentioned above Phil 2 and 1 Peter 5 are two of my main points. I’m encouraged!
    “Leaders as servants” is the topic.

  • Gede Prama

    First time to visit your blog. Interesting article. Thank you for sharing and greetings with compassion. 🙂

Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: