Monday, July 19, 2010

Pain and Shame


What is it about pain that gives it so much power over men? Why do we universally feel pain is an enemy to be avoided at all costs? Could our fear of pain lie in its power to shame us because it makes us seem so weak? Could it be that pain connected to a sense of shame causes us to be filled with a sense of disappointment and hopelessness which is what we most fear?

Paul says in Romans 5:3-5 "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

The words "now hope does not disappoint" have also been translated "does not make ashamed" or "we're never left feeling shortchanged."

Is there a link between pain and being ashamed or being disappointed that makes pain much worse? I believe there is and I believe that is why Jesus "despised the shame."

Hebrews 12: 1-2 says of Jesus, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (emphasis mine)

The words "despising the shame" do not mean He was resisting the pain. He certainly did not run from His pain! "Despising" means he separated the shame from the pain. By despising the shame He was able to embrace only the pain as God's purpose even though the pain made Him seem weak. He saw his weakness in a context of hope. Having hope is what separates pain from shame. Hope in God overcomes both pain and shame.

As I watch people in pain it seems clear to me that what they most fear is not the pain. What they most fear is the disappointment (loss of hope) of appearing so weak and being in need of so much help. In their pain they begin to feel "shortchanged." Great dependence seems to shame us and make us lose hope. Should great dependence shame us? Does it have to? Did it make Jesus ashamed?

The human struggle with shame has roots in our independence from God that go back to the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since our rebellion against God's love we are easily made ashamed when we are growing weaker. This shame appeared quickly in Adam and Eve. They fled from God out of the pain, fear and shame. Shame made them do foolish and deadly things. It makes us do the same.

Genesis 3:8-10 "And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, 'Where are you?'

So he said, 'I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.'"

Pain can be transformed for God's purpose when we say with Paul "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:9-10

The next time pain comes into your life, despise the shame and face the pain. Embrace your growing weakness without shame and believe in the strength of God to overcome and even use all pain for His purposes. In other words, have hope and you will not be disappointed.

Shame is not our friend. Pain need not be our enemy. Pain can become a part of God's purpose as we deliver God's love by carrying our cross. To transform pain remove the shame of your weakness with hope in God. Despise the sense of being "shortchanged" by pain and see the hand of God's purpose in your pain.

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

1 comment:

Cammie Novara said...

"Could our fear of pain lie in its power to shame us because it makes us seem so weak?" Truer words you won't find on the internet.