“And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];” Philippians 3.10 AMP
The only way that we really “get to know” God is to become more like Him, embodying His thoughts, character, ways.
The amplified translation explains what the apostle Paul means when he says “that I may know Him,” that is, to become more acquainted with Him, and to understand the remarkable wonder of His entire being and personhood.
To know God is to become more like Him. And in becoming like Him, Paul also tells us that we will [and should look forward to] suffer like Him (sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings). The more we conform to the likeness of God, the more we will endure so that can share in His sufferings and the resurrection to follow (Phillippians 3.11).
If you’re like me, I have often asked the question, why do we suffer, why is there is pain? And where is God in all of this?
Why Does God Allow Pain?
Over time I’ve come to understand that God’s affliction, or even allowed affliction, produces refinement in us; whether that pain from affliction is physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. Every suffering serves a purpose if we know where to look for it in time.
God uses pain and suffering to prepare and refine us for the times ahead, and certainly in eternity. It’s not an easy answer to accept, but that preparation begins now in this life. Even in tragedy and repentance, God is present and brings Himself closer to us. Pain, as a byproduct, keeps us dependent on God — lest we would try to go on in life without Him.
Suffering in God’s eyes is about what the pain is being used to position us for, leading us to, more than it is about what we’re going through in the moment; because God always operates with the eternal in view. Any evil for any reason anywhere can always be redeemed by God for His Glory.
A Life Without Pain?
I once read about a life-changing story of a man that could not physically feel pain. I was fascinated to read what a life like that might be like. Steve Pete, also known as the man who can’t feel pain, had a rare genetic condition from birth that inhibited his pain receptors or the ability to feel physical pain.
Like me, you might think — that’s dope! Thoughts of a suffering-free life or what it feels like to be a superhero come to mind. What would I be able to do if I couldn’t feel pain? But Steve didn’t think it was dope. Without working pain receptors in his body, Steve sustained many injuries over time that quickly made a very painful “painless life.”
As a baby, he chewed off portions of his tongue during the teething process. Because of his condition, most of Steve’s childhood was spent in the hospital with his longest stay lasting 14 months. Over the course of his life, Steve has broken over 80 bones in his body, and at 37 years young, fractured his back without realizing it for 9 months — nearly paralyzing him.
One researcher noted that, historically, people experiencing this rare condition didn’t make it to adolescence because of all of the injuries and trauma sustained to their bodies. You see, Steve couldn’t feel pain but he was not invulnerable (like Superman).
Painful Consequences Of A Painless Life
Although he physically didn’t feel pain, his body was still susceptible to the same conditions as all of us, including, healing. Steve’s body sustained so many injuries, and continuously, that his body’s response and energy/stamina required to heal often left him feeling fatigued all of the time.
Steve had a brother that, unfortunately, also suffered from the same condition. Though for him, the constant injuries and threat of paralysis became too much and Steve’s brother eventually took his own life.
The man who can’t feel pain can teach us a few things about pain’s purpose in our lives. Even if we’re able to eliminate one source of pain, it doesn’t insulate us from the pains of a fallen and broken world. Although Steve didn’t feel pain physically, he was not exempt from its consequences or the emotional or mental pain that accompanied it. Nor were his family and friends exempt from the pain of seeing him struggle with this ordeal. What was seemingly a blessing on the surface was not without its hardship.
Without pain, Steve had no indication or warning system of the physical dangers that wreaked havoc on his body and life.
Pain serves a greater purpose beyond just reminding us of what we did wrong — it directs us to where we should be.
Pain can and does protect us from greater harm. Pain is not always bad, and in fact, is often necessary. There is a difference between good and bad pain that accentuates our lives. Good pain comes when we press past our comforts and limits. It’s an indicator of what to lean into.
Bad pain comes when we’re out of pocket, in the wrong direction, and out of alignment. It’s an indicator of what to stay away from. Pain is not always a punishment. Pain can be a compass if you listen to it.
Pain Has A Bigger Picture
Sometimes in life, the pain is so distracting that it’s easy to miss the bigger picture. Big or small, good or bad, God is always bigger than our pain and suffering and wants us to look to Him. He is still Healer. And there is nothing that comes to us that doesn’t pass through God’s hand first. It is not easy to walk, but He promises that whatever He brings us to, He’ll bring us through.
I pray that our suffering brings us closer to Him, to not ever lose sight of what He’s doing or His Lordship over our present circumstances. Even when we can’t see or understand it, or it just seems so much, God is still God, He cares, and He responds to His children.
Pain is not all bad if it brings us closer to the Father. Living Christ-like is not a pain-free life. But it is so worth it. Because He is worth it.