I learned that pain had a good part to play. Pain actually became beautiful.
I know of story after story, testimony after testimony where someone was thrust into a crisis, and they eventually came to Christ. Or someone’s crisis opened the door to the gospel for someone else who observed the crisis. In essence, the pain of the crisis prepared them to find the beauty of a Savior.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Months after Kim’s death, I received a message from a former youth group member who was now living in Africa. Josh K. shared that he had decided to follow Christ. In part, he referenced a letter that Kim wrote to him in her own handwriting before he moved with his family. I knew nothing of the letter. Kim’s influence continues. Beauty out of pain.
I also learned, on this unwanted journey, that weakness was strength. Of course, I already knew it. I had heard 2 Corinthians 12:10 all my life:
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
So, the pain of weakness paves the way to find real strength, his strength. If I don’t recognize my need for his strength, I live my life pretending that I can provide all the strength I need. I pretend I can muster it up from my own resources. I avoid acknowledging my weak state. Or worse, in rebellion, I refuse to face my weakness.
Pain is beautiful when it helps us learn hard lessons. As the psalmist declares in Psalm 61,
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” Psalm 61:1-3
The pain of loss will give birth to gain if the pain is embraced. I want to be careful here. Loss is loss. It’s irreversible. Loss itself will never be gain. No one can convince you that the loss of a beloved person can ever be re-identified as gain or good. But loss can pave the way for gain. I have gained deep insights and deeper relationships with my children, for example. I have experienced caring love from my children. Their mother would be so proud of the way they have cared for and loved me. It’s beautiful. It’s a gain in my life, a blessing. And yet, the loss that gave rise to this love is still painful.
In pain, the beauty of Jesus gives birth to a worshiping heart. He can make a woeful heart sing joyful praise. One morning on a hike, I was listening to the song, Life is Beautiful. Rend Collective captures something in this verse and chorus:
“Up from the ash, up from the dust, You’re recreating us. I will not waste this day you’ve made, I will be glad. Rejoice, rejoice, in the sunshine, in the sorrow. Oh, my soul rejoice.”
He is re-creating us. He created us, but the Fall called for re-creation. It’s our role to surrender and to grow and to work out our salvation. Do so and watch God turn pain into beauty.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” Philippians 2:12