Pain in all its forms often comes as a heavy weight we must endure. But that was not Paul's perspective on pain in 2 Corinthians 4:17 when he referred to his troubles as "light and momentary."
We see how Paul lived out that perspective on pain in all kinds of ways throughout the New Testament—particularly in Acts when a person or group of people would come against him and his proclamation of the gospel. When challenged, Paul would clearly explain his faith and proclaim the truth of Christ in spite of doubtful and often dangerous and hostile listeners.
He would describe who he had been before Christ, and then explain how Jesus dramatically and specifically called him to repentance and faith and then to proclaim God's message to both Jews and Gentiles. Next, Paul would use what he knew about his listeners' knowledge and experience to build a bridge to the truth of Christ.
Regardless of the listeners' responses, there were two things that were certain in those circumstances:
- Paul had a unique path and unlikely permission to proclaim the gospel.
- Through persecution and pain, Paul had the opportunity to speak the truth and call people to repent and believe.
A Unique Path to Share the Truth
I have found this to be true in my own life as well. Trial and pain have given me unique paths and special permission to share my testimony and proclaim truth.
When I was twenty-three, shortly after I got married and started my first job as a first-grade teacher, I experienced a couple months filled with headaches and nausea. Doctors discovered that my symptoms were caused by a tumor in the center of my brain. After surgery to remove the benign mass, I had a second surgery to have a shunt inserted in my brain.
My diagnosis and surgeries gave me many opportunities to more fully grasp and then proclaim my dependence on and trust in Christ. I had conversations with all kinds of people before, during, and after my surgeries. With the teachers and parents at the school where I taught. With family members. With friends. With nearly every nurse and doctor that walked into my hospital rooms.
People listen to a twenty-three-year-old with a brain tumor.
The same was true for my husband. As he cared for me at the hospital and at home, he had countless opportunities to be candid about our journey, to share that our hope and trust were in Christ, and then to tell about or display His love and truth. We realized very quickly that we had been entrusted with that tumor. God was using it to shape us more into the likeness of Christ. And it was our path and permission to proclaim the gospel.
The gospel paths continue anytime we share our story with a new friend or acquaintance. They increased once again as I experienced life-threatening complications when my first shunt failed seven years after it was implanted. By that time we were young parents of three little children, walking through an intense health crisis. So we had new kinds of conversations and opportunities to share our faith and trust in Christ and then proclaim His Truth.
Another challenge came about later when I had to have a third shunt implanted and experienced other life-threatening complications. Then as parents of four school-aged children, it wasn't just my husband and me who had the opportunities to grow in trust and dependence on Christ and then talk about it with others. Our children—particularly our two oldest—experienced the same. The two-and-a-half centimeter tumor that was in the center of my brain sixteen years ago has been at the center of growth, dependence on, and proclamation of Christ for my whole family.
Proclaiming Christ through the Pain
If you've gone through something like this—a health trauma, a devastating loss, a time of intense trial—someone probably shared with you, like someone shared with me, that you would be able to use your experience to bring comfort and help to someone else in the future. That has absolutely been true for my family many, many times. You may also have experienced the growth in dependence on Christ that we have experienced. Suffering has a way of stripping away the unnecessary and making the essentials clear.
But have you grasped your unique paths and permission to display and proclaim Christ through your pain? In a world that is increasingly hostile to the absolute Truth of the Bible, pain can come with platforms to proclaim that Truth you might not have otherwise. Struggle and danger come with living-color proof that we are utterly dependent on Christ. Walking through the agonizing results of sin illustrates our need for a Savior. Loss comes with permission to clearly state that Christ is the only way to have a relationship with God and eternal life.
While the extent of our declarations will not be as far-reaching as Paul's, you could be the tool—the broken, hurting, suffering tool—that God uses to bring more people to Himself. Will you proclaim His Truth through pain? How can you seek out opportunities to proclaim the gospel through stories of your struggles? The path and permission may not come any other way.