The Necessary Pain

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“The smallest seed of faith is better than
the largest fruit of happiness.”

~Henry David Thoreau

I’ve found this to be true.  I have had moments of happiness.  Wonderful moments I visit in my mind’s eye often.  But the past few years have been very difficult.  Since the wreck my health has steadily gone downhill.  And we’ve had family struggles I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  So, to talk of happiness…well…I’ve found it to be a bit elusive, at best.

Ed had a post this week on Thoreau and I liked the quote above.  It speaks truth to me. 

A seed of faith, even as small as a mustard seed, is better than happyfruit.  Happiness is contingent upon our happenings…our circumstances.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.  To live in the moment, when the moment is so painful, takes faith.  To get through this moment, to the next moment, takes hope and conviction that what’s not seen will, some day, come to fruition. 

Reading Larry Crabb…still…

Is it really possible to change?  Can a woman molested as a child really learn to embrace her sexuality?  Do men with homosexual urges ever really become heterosexual?  Can people who worry too much about money or their kids, or a couple whose marriage is not more exciting than a television rerun, or people with bad tempers really change?

The word “really” is the issue.  In many people’s minds, change must be nearly complete — at least dramatic — or it doesn’t count…Evangelicals sometimes expect too much or, to put it more precisely, we look for a kind of change God hasn’t promised…We manage to interpret biblical teaching to support our longing for perfection.  As a result, we measure our progress by standards we will never meet until heaven.

Paul prays we may be strengthened with “power through his Spirit in your inner being” and asserts that God is “able to do immmeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 4:16,20).  We therefore claim God’s power as the guarantee of total change from pressure to peace, from disappointment to joy — and then live with an intolerable burden that either crushes us with despair or requires us to pretend we’re better than we are.

The idea that peace and joy might merely support us during times of struggle and sorrow rather than eliminate those times is not appealing.  We want to do away with the necessary pain of living in a disappointing world as imperfect people.  We insist on experiencing neither pain nor failure, so when the inevitable happens, it becomes reason for discouragement.

We will, of course, be flawless — one day.  No hint of perverted desire, no sleepless nights when our mind races mercilessly from one worry to another, no fear of becoming close to people that’s fueled by memories of hurt.  All that is ahead of us, in heaven.  But for now, struggles continue.  There is a necessary pain of living in this world that we must simply accept. 

I’m learning how to deal with “the necessary pain of  living in a disappointing world” as an imperfect person…

…and having a seed of faith in His plan for me.

Therefore we do not despair,
But even if our physical body is wearing away,
Our inner person is being renewed day by day.
For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us
An eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison
Because we are not looking at what can be seen
But at what cannot be seen.
For what can be seen is temporary,
But what cannot be seen is eternal.
~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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17 responses »

  1. I agree Michelle pain is an unavoidable part of life. Taking the right, moral, action will often result in pain. Rejecting the easy, immoral, path to happiness, that some of our friends, family, peers, my choice, can also bring us pain.

    Too many do have it backwards, and make happiness their goal in life. Becoming happy should be a by product of how we live, not a goal we crave. I can speak from experience because as a young man I did chose that path, drugs, alcohol, loveless sex.

    Faith is often not an easy path. When we do find our faith it’s reward will outshine any of the temporary feelings of happiness that a self centered, self gratifying, life style brings. It took me far too long to learn this.

    Thanks for the link to my blog.

  2. That’s been my contention for many years, Ed. In my mind, to make happiness the goal we crave, instead of the by-product of how we live, is to continually be chasing after the wind.

    I’ve found the self-centered, self-gratifying choices to bring the most pain. I do believe God can bring good from anything. He is that great and loves us that much. But, even if He does not…will my faith remain? I believe so. And then after possibly waiting a lifetime, heaven will be that much more wonderful…I’m thinking…hoping…

    Thanks for putting out such a thought-provoking post.

  3. i feel the phrase ‘seed of Faith’ for many people has ‘grown’ into a bit of a ‘monster’.

    Jesus’s scriptural references (esp Mark 4:30-32) to ‘faith as small as a mustard seed’ i feel has taken on a ‘life of it’s own’ and people seem to me to be quite ‘content’ if they believe they have that small seed as anend in itself.

    The problem i see is that so few seem to understand a seed that stays a seed is not what God intends – it is not how he operates or made the world (or us) to so do.

    The seed of Faith is to be planted in fertile ‘soil’, it is to be tended and cared for by us the ‘farmer’, given every chance to grow well and free from damage. It is to be ‘watered’ and is to send forth both root and branch – and ultimately it is to bear forth good fruits – fruits of happiness we may enjoy year after year as a harvest, and as our ‘offerings’ to Him.

    The seed of faith of the Spirit will be watched over and added to by God as He sees fit and right, but when it is ‘planted’ in each one of us it is not just to be ‘left to chance’ and we are to do what we can to ensure it grows and lives and becomes as the largest tree in the field within each one of us.

    Our God is a God of Life – and seeds that stay as seeds and do not grow or grow in stony soil do Him no glory.

    There is nothing to say that we need ever limit ourselves to one seed, providing each ‘new’ seed harmonises with our Faith in God and does not try to supplant or strangle what is growing in us that is helping us become closer to Him.

    <B

  4. Hey, Love! Faith is a gift (Eph. 2:8, 1 Cor. 12:8-11). We don’t get to decide how big the gift…it is simply given. And considering faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, I’m thinking in the tiniest amounts it must be “enough” to get us through the hardest moments. It certainly has worked that way in my life.

    “Seeds” are used in a variety of ways in the NT.

    The “seed of faith”, even the size of a mustard seed, can move mountains.
    The “seed of the Word” when planted in good soil will yield a harvest 100-fold.
    The “seed of the Kingdom” will grow into the biggest tree in the field — the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Peter does talk of adding to our faith through knowledge and the progression is beautiful — the sanctification process in the believer:

    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. (2 Peter 1 — This passage seems to speak most clearly to what you are describing, wouldn’t you say?)

    But my point, even the smallest gift of faith will get us through the most excruciating times of our lives. Praise Him!

    As the father of the boy cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” He will respond to our cries, even when our belief is small.

  5. Thank you Michelle. When I first realized I would be in pain for the remainder of my time here on planet earth I felt overwhelmed to say the least. Without the faith of things unseen, I know I would be overwhelmed. I do think Crabb’s observations of the church are spot-on.

  6. Love the new look here Michelle:) I suppose faith is what gets you through everything, and so without faith we have nothing. I wouldn’t mind some happiness though. But God knows what He is doing better than me. I think I have told you before I read Shattered Dreams by Crabb, which I vividly remember really made the point that we were not placed on this earth to be happy. I must be honest though, I’m tired of being sad and confused, really a break would be nice;) But having said that, God is still God, He is still the only One I want to live for and I do find joy in Him, and so I can keep looking forward with you to the flawless one-day.

  7. Y’welcome, Ric. I understand the overwhelming feeling you’ve mentioned. Sometimes it seems soooo loooong ’til that day when we will be complete. I tend to agree with Crabb LOTS. If we really could love each other without demanding love in return…

    Thanks, Rain. 🙂 Isn’t it interesting that Jesus says “happiness” (blessing) comes from poverty of spirit, mourning, hungering, thirsting and persecution…? In those moments we reach out to the One who is able to feed and comfort us. Anytime I’ve tried to find satisfaction in this realm, it’s been fleeting, at best. True blessing comes from Him, alone. That flawless day…wow. I’m waiting with you. And then, an ocean between us won’t matter one bit. How cool is that? Lots of hugs…

  8. Sis – 2 Peter 1 does indeed speak very clearly of what i was hoping to pass on.

    Agreed that the seed of faith is a Gift from God – not something we create ourself out of (absent from) spirit.

    What i am attempting also to pass on here is this idea…

    i give you a gift, of a seed. You have it and treasure it as being something of value given you by someone ‘special’ and you keep it somewhere ‘safe’ and make sure nothing ever happens to it. You see it often and it reminds you of the special bond you have to the giver and it comes to symbolise happiness, potential and gratitude in your life – encouraging you in these things.

    As your days approach their end i visit you to see how you have got on in your life and wonder if your illness has been overcome and i see the seed where you have kept it – just as i first gave it to you.

    And i am devastated.

    You see the seed was a way i had of giving you the fruit the seed, once watered and grown in your garden, with a little tendering from you that i knew you would enjoy, being a keen gardener, would grow into a beautiful tree that bears a delicious and life-healing fruit that would have made your body whole again.

    Your caring for the seed, while being full of love and honour was not quite what i had hoped and never gave you what i tried to.

    i pray God never feels that way about ‘you’.

    Seeds are not meant to stay as seeds the way i see things. He is not supposed to do ALL the ‘work’ in our ‘garden’ either.

    As Peter and Paul both fully understood (as too, i suspect, did Christ)

    Love you.

    <B

  9. “You see the seed was a way i had of giving you the fruit the seed, once watered and grown in your garden, with a little tendering from you that i knew you would enjoy, being a keen gardener, would grow into a beautiful tree that bears a delicious and life-healing fruit that would have made your body whole again.”

    This reminded me of the promise at the end of Revelation taken from Ezekiel:

    Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life – water as clear as crystal – pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship Him, and they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever. ~Revelation 22 and Ezekiel 47:12

    The seed of faith will be just enough to get me to that Day…a day of healing, rest, completion…beauty.

    Thanks, Love.

  10. Wow – i have read that verse (probably more than once in the last 20 years or so) but can honestly say it was not on my mind as i wrote from the heart (and spirit?) in my comment.

    I’m still going to be praying your seed grows as i think He would want it to 😉

    Anytime Sis.

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    <B

  11. Rev 21: And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea…And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

    Very cool indeed Michelle:) Holding onto His promises…

    Lots of love

  12. I am just now reading this and wanted to share how much it encouraged me.

    I agree that often our idea of being released or freed is not that we could endure the suffering that comes from the challenges with peace and joy but that the challenges themselves would be removed. That is not the nature of our journey though. Like you said to me earlier God is more concerned with our characters than our comfort and I praise Him for that for that is how He takes us from faith to faith and glory to glory.

    Love you Sis XO

  13. So glad this encouraged you, Gch.

    We’re gonna go through challenges, some of our own making, some from others’ choices, but to have the peace and joy to support us…that’s an amazing thing…a supernatural working.

    Love you too, Sweet Girl. XO

  14. sigh.

    i needed this.

    i have wanted His joy and peace to replace what i actually feel and experience most of the time rather than “merely” carry me through it. i need to change my expectations, shift my hopes. i need to start trusting in Who rather than what.

  15. Hey, Alece. I was reminded last night: His grace is perfected in our weaknesses. And to be perfectly honest, I hate that. I’m not yet at the point of being content. I’m not sure how to get there. I do love that He’s taking me deeper and deeper in Him, but still, it hurts like hell.

    “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

    I do know this, when He entrusts us with a trial or tribulation, He never wastes the suffering.

    He’s growing us up…

    Still glossing…

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