“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’”
(Revelation 21:3-4, NLT)
On January 31st, 2016, the town of Dalori, Nigeria, was razed, and lit aflame.
Barely a month after Boko Haram was declared “defeated” by Nigeria’s president, the smell of gun smoke in the air– and reports of children being burned alive– permeated Northeastern Borno State . 86 men, women, and children died– not including three young girls who detonated the bombs strapped to their bodies. In one night, the declarations made by President Buhari lost their meaning to those in Borno state.
Buhari’s promise of peace ringed in the ears of those attacked by Boko Haram in the surrounding town of Goniambari village, Borno state, as well. Six people were killed and one was injured by gunshots when Boko Haram invaded their town on the evening of February 1st, 2016 ; like the attack on Dalori, the terrorists used bombs to set homes and buildings on fire. Food and livestock were taken by Boko Haram amidst the smoke and haze– leaving the town as deeply wounded as the sole survivor of the shooting.
These attacks, leaving many deeply confused and full of grief, are all-out acts of war, no doubt mocking the peace that Nigeria’s president declared in December of 2015. The truth is, President Muhammadu Buhari, no matter how much he would like to, cannot declare that the enemy is defeated. But there is One who can. His Name is Jesus Christ.
Many people scoff at this. As their surroundings descend into chaos, and deep sorrow, anger, and turmoil become the blanket around them, they can’t help but cry out. “Where is this All-Compassionate God?” They ask. “And if He is so Compassionate, why am I hurting?” Sadly, these are some of the oldest questions ever asked. For hundreds of years, sinners and saints together have grappled with the problem of pain. Thousands, if not millions of books written by philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and clergymen have tried to make sense out of something so senseless, claiming that God is silent on the subject.
But this is just not true. In fact, the Bible, the Word of God itself, has much to say about the trials and heartbreak we, as humans, face daily. Be it the cause of, purpose for, or value in pain that we are questioning, the Bible has the answer.
The Cause of Pain
Pain is sadly a fact of life. But why?
Pain and death came into our existence because of sin. In specifically Genesis 1-3, the beginning of everything is described— including the introduction of sin and suffering into the world. Genesis 2-3 describes this event: Adam, the first man, is told by God that he can eat from every tree in the garden, but the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God has a reason for this: Adam will “certainly die” if he does so (Genesis 2:15-17).
Later on, in Genesis 3, the unthinkable happens. Spoken to by satan through a serpent, Eve– the first created woman– is asked a question by satan: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). Eve replies, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 3:2-3). From the very beginning, satan was apart of this process; and, going on with the temptation, satan lies to Eve.
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Believing satan’s lies about her Creator, she, and Adam, eat the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:6-7). In doing so, God declares the Truth all along: that because of their eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they, and the world around them, would die (Genesis 3:13-24).
It is from this passage that one profound Truth comes to light: God gave freewill, the ability to choose for one’s self, to mankind. Aided by satan himself, men chose to disobey God’s good command– and traded life in the Garden of Eden for death and being barred from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24). Though mankind created his own fall, God, Christ, had a plan for it all.
While one may understand how and why sin, pain, and death entered the world, the question of the purpose of pain still exists. While pain can seem so senseless, and is so senseless, at times, there is a purpose for it all.
Ultimately, while many try to figure it out, we must, in the end, realize what Isaiah 55:7-9 states.
“…let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:7-9, NIV)
We, as mankind, cannot fathom Christ’s thoughts– including His plans and purposes for the pain we experience. However, there is immense value in the pain Christ allows believers to undergo.
Pain brings us to the end of ourselves. In times of need, many run straight to Christ– which is exactly what happened to Paul the apostle. As Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12, Christ allowed satan to give Paul a “thorn in the flesh” that caused him a great deal of pain (2 Corinthians 12:7). While no one knows exactly what it was, many have thought it to be “a chronic eye problem, malaria, migraines, epilepsy, and a speech disability,” or even “a person such as Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14)” . Whatever caused Paul this pain, it caused him to cry out to Jesus three times, begging Christ to take it away. Instead of taking away the thorn, Jesus told Paul something incredibly profound: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).
This in itself is cause for joy in the midst of pain: while the pain may not relent for a long while– even a whole lifetime– the sorrow a believer experiences can drive them straight to the foot of the cross. Though the pain may be unbearable, it causes the believer to rely on Christ like never before; and in the midst of the deep sorrow, the Grace Jesus gives his children brings them closer to Him, and helps them to endure, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 28. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7, NIV). This closeness with Christ gives immeasurable value to pain in the believers’ life.
Ultimately, through every bit of pain and sorrow, the believer can look to Christ for the Hope, Comfort, Strength, and Guidance He needs. Not only this, but the believer can look forward to heaven, where our pains are achieving something beautiful for us. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV). In this, there is great Hope.
There is no doubt about it: the pain and sorrow humanity experiences is more than overwhelming at times. But one thing is clear: there is an ultimate plan, purpose, and meaning for our pain only in Christ. In the suffering happening to countless precious human beings in Northern Nigeria, may they run to Him.
Again, Christ has used this ministry to bless me, as well.
On February 2nd, 2016, the Pastor of the church family I have been apart of lost his son in a heartbreaking and tragic turn of events. Although I did not know him personally, many in the church did. Is it something that will no doubt change my Pastor’s life– and the lives of everyone in the church– forever. To everyone reading, please lift our Pastor, his family, and the church family up in prayer. Thank you.
Do you know Jesus?
“…because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
(Luke 1:78-80, NIV)
It is because of the tender mercy of God on all of mankind that “Christ came to die for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus Christ– not only the Son of God, but God Himself (John 14:7-9)– stepped down from the bliss and glory of heaven’s throne, and “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8)!
Truly, Jesus Christ entered this world of pain and death for you and for me. Meet the God who Loved you enough to die in your place, here.
Please pray with me:
Lord Jesus, we come before your throne, thanking You and praising You for all that You have done. You died the death we would never have to, so that we might have this hope in You. Lord Jesus, please extend and give this hope to the countless suffering people in Northern Nigeria, specifically in Borno state, right now. Lord Jesus, You are the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3); and Christ Jesus, we pray in Your Name that You would send Comfort, Hope and Joy to those living in the valley of the shadow of death, in the form of Your Gospel.
Lord Jesus, we pray that you would raise up people in and around Borno state to share You and Your Gospel with the people currently suffering there. Please grant those people favor, wisdom, and the Words to proclaim Your Gospel fearlessly, as they should (Ephesians 6:19). As people share You and Your Gospel there in Borno state, I pray that You would soften the hearts and minds of the people there– and, in Your Grace and Mercy, save them from their sin, and give them Hope for the future that they so desperately need.
Lord Jesus, we also pray for the Chibok girls of Borno State. Please, Lord Jesus, move in President Buhari, the military, and all those in power to find, rescue, and finally free these uniquely precious girls. Bring them, and their Loved Ones, closer to You, even now.
We thank You for this, King Jesus. “Maranatha,” Lord Jesus– please come soon. In Christ’s Name we pray, Amen.
Praise Jesus for you, and for your prayers. Be blessed in your walk with Christ. ❤
Sign the petition for the Chibok girls, here!