There’s a difference between pain versus suffering for someone who’s born again. Suffering is usually the result of my resistance, while pain is a mark of change.
When I’ve experienced exorbitant suffering, it’s been because I wasn’t receiving the grace to be in my circumstance. My pain, on the other hand, has just been the direct result of change. And pain doesn’t have to be short-lived in order to not be suffering. The pain of change can take a season of time. But if our pain is an inordinate suffering, we might want to ask the Father if we’re in resistance. I know when I’ve been the most resistant to His will in my life; these were my most agonizing times.
Pain versus Suffering in Real Time
No pain feels good in the moment, but when coupled with surrender it will bring the beauty out of our ashes. Our Good Shepherd is not cruel with our pain. If we will inquire and listen, He will inform us of what He is after. Random pain can cause fear, but pain with understanding gives grace. That sharp shooting pain that comes out of nowhere can make us afraid, but the pain associated from working out is tolerable just because I know what is going on. Our Abba wants us to join Him in agreement with the work He is doing. Though He will use pain to cause us to turn to Him, it’s better to be in relationship with Him and know what He’s doing. Knowing may not make the pain cease, but it can give me a sense of peace.
Pain functions to get our attention. Look at pain in the body. Its purpose is to make us aware that something might be amiss. No pain is good in the moment, but when connected with the mind of the Father, it can be associated with blessing and deliverance. Knowing the purpose and intent of pain can give us the grace to accept it and receive it from God’s hand.
Pain in Circumstances
Here are just some of the places and circumstances in which we can experience pain:
- I’ve been lead away from Him in sin.
- I’ve chosen my way over His.
- He’s moving circumstances to bring forth His will.
- He changes situations in my life for blessing or deliverance.
- I have to choose His path when I want mine.
- Leaving what’s familiar and embrace something new.
- I lose something I was dependent on.
- Being freed from a toxic relationship.
- Being given hunger to follow Him closer.
- Having to wait in dependence for Him to move.
- Any time I am challenged.
- Even the direct result of my answered prayers can cause pain.
Yes, pain can be associated with the consequences of going my own way. It also can be felt in the process of His increase in my life (less of me and more of Him). Pain even happens by receiving blessing. Why? Because we just don’t like to change.
“We are certainly in a common class with the beasts; every action of animal life is concerned with seeking bodily pleasure and avoiding pain.”
Pain versus Suffering Can Tell Me a Lot
My purpose in writing this is to make a distinction between pain versus suffering. It’s also to prove that pain is not always the sign that I’m wrong or in trouble. Pain is real and also a proof of life. To limit my pain is to limit my joy. Life is a pendulum and I can’t choose half of the swing. I can live dead, if that’s what I want, but I can’t live Life without pain.
Suffering, on the other hand, is different. Suffering is torment and, as such, unbearable. Living with suffering seems endless and has an element of hopelessness. It’s not that God can’t use our state of suffering, because He does. There just is a better way to handle life’s pains.
As I stated at the beginning, there’s a difference between pain versus suffering. Suffering is usually the result of my resistance to God, while pain is an indicator that things are changing.
Surrender is what makes the difference. How we handle the presence of pain reveals the true state of our hearts—whether we’re yielding to God’s movement or rebelling against His ways.
“Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”
~ C.S. Lewis