Praising God for the gift of pain

PAIN is good. For a person’s physical and spiritual health. Every believer should welcome some pain in his or her life. It is a gift from God.

I first learnt about the “gift of pain” 10 years ago from Dr Paul Brand, the late English missionary, author, renowned doctor and pioneer in treating lepers, and his book of the same name.

This cold pre-dawn wintry morning (Feb 6, 2009), and sleepless in Seattle, I realised how pain helps me in my Christian life and closeness with our loving Lord and redeemer.

I was aroused from sleep at 5 am by my bodily aches and pain, and the change in time zone after returning to Seattle from my two-month stay in Singapore.

If not for the pain emanating from my back, due to spondylosis (degeneration of my spine), I would have continued my slumber. Instead, I got out of bed – and benefi ted from more than a glorious hour with the Lord. Oh, there were so many things to pray for: the worsening world economic crisis, slaughter of the innocents
in Africa and elsewhere, and for people, alive and dead … an endless list!

In the past I would do this daily, often from 4 am, until the need to go to work at the office caused me to take leave from voraciously devouring His Word and communing with Him.

But, with retirement, age and sloth, I had been getting up later each morning, and allowing myself to be caught up with many little chores, like making myself a strong cup of coffee, walking the dogs, helping to take care of our little grandson. I had too frequently put off this all-important and benefi cial quiet time till later in the day. Sometimes I even skipped my daily hour with our Lord.

And how it left me bereft of the joy and faith reinforcing moments with our Almighty Father, and the intercessory prayer so important in our Christian life.

This morning I, therefore, gave thanks for my physical pain and jet lag that got me out of bed.

Pain, I had learnt from the late Dr Paul Brand, helps to preserve a person. It is a warning sign and symptom, a red alert, of something amiss in our body – and life.

Cursed is the man deprived of pain. I had the great privilege of knowing and spending in the 1990s weekly Wednesday midday group Bible Study with him in Seattle. He and his wife and fellow physician, Margaret, had for many years ministered sacrificially in India to lepers, the lowest of the untouchables.

These outcasts of society had been gradually losing their limbs because they had not this gift of pain. So, they could run over broken glass, and endure boiling water or rats nibbling away at their diseased limbs while asleep, without feeling a twinge of pain (due to dead nerve endings).

It was, I had learnt from him and his books, not the leprosy itself but its deadening effect on the patient’s nerves that caused the many hapless sufferers to lose gradually parts of their body and worsen their physical and spiritual condition.

His pioneering remedies included inventions for reconstructing withered limbs. Dr Brand, who had also studied building construction, became known as an expert at hand reconstruction and other physical parts of the many unfortunate ones afflicted by this dreaded, and still little understood, illness.

So, my own pain this morning awakened me to my need for the gift of pain, so as not to be inured to the pains of a lost world, and neglect more consistent care of my own spiritual health. Such neglect, I feel in myself and see in some other Christians as well, endangers our very life for the Lord, and causes nonbelievers to veer from us, even if we do not go about wailing “Unclean, unclean!”

That was why, I am now convinced, Paul, the apostle, was correct in ultimately thanking the Lord for not taking away the thorn (pain) in his flesh despite his many earlier supplications. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment Me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7 (New International Version).

My pain led me this morning to a re-reading of Romans 5:1-8, the passage in an old copy of Our Daily Journey (June 18, 2003).

It pulled me up short, lest I should be vain and “exalt myself above measure”, a tendency I often have to resist.

This is the Word of God from Romans 5:1-5: “1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

The aggravated physical suffering that I now experience, I am convinced by both Pauls, is a blessing for my good, a gift (The Gift of Pain), and I ought to rejoice, even if sometimes down in spirit.

Because suffering verily leads to perseverance (in my case, to persevere in rising up early to spend time with the Lord); perseverance, character (to produce stronger Christian character and desire to do the Lord’s will and proclaim the Good News to our loved ones, friends and strangers, and living a life that shines for Jesus); and character, hope (hope not just for myself but for the many who

are still lost and who, more than ever in these troublous times, need a hope that surpasses understanding and the gratification the fallen world offers); and hope does not disappoint us (and those who need to put their hope in our Saviour through us); because God has poured out His love into our hearts (not for us to keep close to our chest, but to shower on others, whether suffering saints or hopeless non-believers).

And this hope is poured into us by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us, not to quench but to empower us to do His will.

So, let us pray for pain of some kind to get us on our knees to talk to the Lord, to hear His voice, and feel His love early in the morning, before we begin our day.

Perhaps, you lack personal pain. You could take on some suffering person’s pain, and go alongside him to experience together the joy of suffering that results in perseverance, character, hope and power to heal yourselves and others.

I pray that you will have this blessing, this pain and aching in your bones for lost souls around us before they are doomed to spend eternity separate from our loving Father.

‘The pain I now experience is a blessing for my good’

‘Let us pray for pain of some kind to get us on our knees to talk to the Lord, to hear His voice, and feel His love early in the morning, before we begin our day.’


MSM will rejoice at 12th Anniversary celebrations

METHODIST School of Music (MSM) will be commemorating 12 fulfi lling years of God’s blessings with a worship celebration.

The theme, We Will Rejoice!, is particularly appropriate during these trying times as we hold steadfast to Christ who said, “…in the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Mr Geoff Weaver, Visiting Lecturer and Guest Conductor from the United Kingdom, will conduct the Anniversary Choir, presenting works by Felix Mendelssohn, Roderick Williams, Roy Hopp and Charles V. Stanford.

All are invited to attend the evening of celebration, praise and fellowship at the sanctuary of Barker Road Methodist Church on April 25 at 7.30 pm.

Among other positions he has held, Mr Weaver was Director of Studies for the Royal School of Church Music, in charge of all education and training programmes. Since 2002 he has worked in a freelance capacity, conducting workshops and providing liturgical music training throughout the world, most recently in the Philippines, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Hong Kong and South Africa. In 1998 and 2008 he directed the music for the Lambeth Conference, an international gathering of Anglican bishops.

Mr Weaver will conduct courses on Hymnology, Worship Design and Church Music History at MSM during the month of April.

He will also give a series of public lectures at South Transept Hall, St Andrew’s Cathedral on April 13, 16, 20 and 23 from 7.45 pm to 9.30 pm each evening.

On April 13, he will discuss “Trends and Issues of 21st Century Developments in Hymnody’’.

On April 16, in his talk entitled “Worship and Mission”, he will explore the ways in which music in worship has contributed to the growth of God’s Kingdom.

On April 20, in the second part of his “21st Century Developments in Hymnody”, he will talk about music and songs from the Taize and Iona communities, songs from the world church and the role of the worship song in worship.

On April 23, he will explore the different ways in which God has been perceived and worshipped in his talk entitled “Worship & Culture”.

The registration fees are: $10 per lecture or $30 for a package of four lectures.

To register, please call MSM at 6767-5258 or email msm@msmusic.edu.sg

The lectures are co-sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Singapore.

Mr Weaver’s visit is made possible by the MSM Visiting Professors’ Fund in memory of the late Mr Wong Ha Hee.