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TONY ELDER: God allows us to endure life's painful experiences

Ow! Sorry, but I just sat back in my desk chair again and felt another prick of pain. Those common concepts of "sit back and relax" and "lie down and rest" aren't very fitting for me at the moment.

It's nothing major. I just had another mole removed from my back. It was one of those that came back from being biopsied showing enough suspicious qualities that the dermatologist thought it best to perform further surgery to make sure none of it remained. I've got a number of stitches in my lower back at the moment.

I keep telling myself the pain will be gone in a few more days -- that's when I'm scheduled to get the stitches out. But in the meantime, those little stabs of pain from my skin being poked are rather irritating and are making for some restless nights.

Even though I know it was a good thing to have the mole taken off in order to avoid it developing into something more serious, and although I realize those stitches are performing a valuable service in keeping my skin pulled together so it can heal properly, it still doesn't lessen the discomfort they create.

Many of us have other things in our lives comparable to that -- a situation or circumstance that brings us some degree of pain and heartache, disturbing our peace of mind.

In some cases, it may be something we know is for our own good, such as the chastening from our Heavenly Father which is referred to by the writer of Hebrews. He declared, "No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).

Some such painful experiences are designed by God to help us grow in Christlike character and conduct.

But then there are other sources of distress in our lives for which we have no understanding or explanation as to their purpose. All we know is that they're difficult and painful to endure.

It reminds me of the Apostle Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (see II Corinthians 12:7-10). I'll leave it to others to speculate as to the exact nature of that source of suffering, but whatever it was Paul didn't see anything positive about it. He even referred to it as a "messenger of Satan".

Yet when he pleaded with God three times to remove it, the Lord chose not to do so. Apparently there was some purpose in it. Paul concluded that it was intended, if nothing else, to keep him humble.

God's response to the apostle's request was simply the assurance His grace would be sufficient for Paul to put up with that so-called thorn.

We can claim that same promise for ourselves and our painful situations. If God chooses not to remove it from our lives, He will certainly give us the grace we need to endure it. But in the meantime, it still hurts.

I can look forward to those stinging pricks from my stitches ending in a few days. And we can all look ahead to a time when whatever is bringing us pain in this life will be only a memory.

It may be soon, or it may be many years from now. But one day God promises all pain will be behind us. Until then, let's trust that He will enable us to endure our thorns -- His grace truly is sufficient for each of us, no matter what we're facing.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.