1 Samuel 26:23
The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have you heard the joke about a man who experienced one hardship after another? Health challenges, financial troubles, relationship woes, and just pain bad luck followed him everywhere. He turned to the Bible for comfort and read that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to handle the temptation. On one particularly bad day he looked up at the heavens and said, “Lord, I wish you didn’t have such a high opinion of me.”
Perhaps you can identify with that sentiment. These two verses, however, point beyond the idea that God has a good opinion of those who suffer (that they can handle it). Jesus teaches that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are actually blessed. Are we to conclude that our pain is a blessing from God?!?
Pain (according to Paul Brandt and Philip Yancey) is indeed The Gift Nobody Wants. We avoid it as much as possible, medicate it when it intrudes into our lives, and consider it an enemy, not a gift. Pain warns us of graver danger: illness, evil, harm of some kind.
Jesus’ teaching, and the promise of 1 Samuel point us not to the pain, but to the faithfulness and favor of God, who invites us to embrace his reign in our lives and over the world. Jesus is at the right hand of God. He rules over all things. Nothing happens apart from his providential rule. Those who embrace that reign by faith discover a greater blessing than a worry-free, pain-free life. They experience a peace the world cannot give.
Whatever pain and difficulty we may experience today will fade away in the light of God’s goodness, love, grace, mercy, compassion, and faithful promises. Whatever pleasant and good things come our way are a reminder of the ultimate glory and bliss that are ours in the kingdom of God.