No one could miss the dark script boldly emblazoned on the nurse’s forearm: Strength Through Pain. It didn’t escape her notice that my eyes were fixated on her tattoo as my mind whirled, wondering what could have caused this young woman’s anguish.
“I’ve been through a lot in life,” Ava* smiled sweetly as she broke the silence, “but I have also grown stronger because of it.” She went on to tell me about the birthday party she was planning for her three-year-old, and the upcoming visit to church on Sunday with her family and the barbeque they’d have together afterward. She never divulged any specifics about the reason for her tattoo. She didn’t really need to because, like her, I can relate to painful experiences that have indelibly marked my soul too.
Shorty after this experience, I read an email sent by a friend about a woman named Suzy* who is battling brain cancer. Despite the tremendous trial she’s enduring, Suzy penned a positive message about her fight against the disease—connecting it to a struggle she’d had years ago while trying to break a horse named Storm. Here’s part of her poignant note: “I think God has to break us to make us useful. If God has broken you, it is because He loves you. You are more beautiful because you have been broken.”
Whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, all of us carry painful scars that are a result of living in this world. In other words, we’re all marked by something, but what would a tattoo artist inscribe as a result of your distress? Would your tattoo read Strength Through Pain, or might it be something more like this:
Bitterness Through Pain
Sadness Through Pain
Defeat Through Pain
Anger Through Pain
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to have an attitude like Suzy and Ava. They’ve taken their suffering and transformed it into something far more powerful and productive, no doubt due to their willingness to look to God for strength and support.
There are many individuals, including some Christians, who struggle with the existence of pain in our world. After all, doesn’t God want people to experience “abundant life” (John 10:10)? Of course! But the reality is that our lives must be lived in an imperfect world—one far different from the ideal creation God had originally designed. Sin changed things, as Jesus reminded us about when He said “here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b, New Living Translation).
I love the ending of that verse. Take heart! In other words, don’t get discouraged. Don’t be sad, bitter, or angry. Because of the Lord’s gift of salvation, we can rely on His assistance in the here and now as we await our perfect, eternal home. Indeed, Jesus summed up our circumstances this way: “ So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy” (John 16:22).
There’s a day coming when we’ll finally be with our Heavenly Father and live the way He had initially intended. And that environment will never be tainted by the problems we contend with now. Actually, Scripture tells us “He 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 21:4). Until that day, may each of us seek the Lord’s assistance as we walk through life. Let’s strive to “rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4).
Please know all of us at Sonkist Ministries ae praying that, even during those tattooing seasons of life, you will “keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you” (I Peter 4:19b).
*The names have been changed to provide anonymity.
Thought of the Summer
For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.