read Mark 13. When one of my nieces was five years old, she fell and cut her head. Before giving her stitches, the emergency room doctor took out an enormous needle and shot her in the head with novocaine, right in the very place that hurt. Tears filled her eyes. “I wasn’t very good at that,” she said. Her reaction made her mother and I cry. Why? Because she was so very good at handling that shot. She just didn’t realize it. She thought the pain meant she had failed.
Sometimes the only thing we can do with pain is endure it. If the pain is bad enough, sometimes just enduring pain is a victory. But the thing to hold on to is that pain itself doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Our enemy (and if you’ve been reading this blog or the Bible for any length of time, you will know that the Bible says we humans have an enemy, a/k/a the devil, who tries to destroy our lives, our happiness and our destiny through accusations and lies) tells us that pain means we’re a failure. But that is a lie. Pain does hurt. Pain should make us cry. Just because you suffer doesn’t mean you’re a failure. There’s a way have victory, even in the midst of pain.
In the 13th chapter of Mark, Jesus discusses the terrible events that will happen before He comes again. He doesn’t sugarcoat them. He says we will experience war, earthquakes, betrayals, hatred, great anguish, false messiahs, and the darkening of the sun, moon and stars. He says no one except God knows when this will happen, not even Jesus. But when it’s done, He will come again.
Some chapters in the Bible are warm and fuzzy. Others, like this one, are full of fire and brimstone. But even in this chapter, God combines love with truth in a way that lights our hair on fire – without burning it.
The key to understanding the beauty of this chapter lies in the analogy Christ makes here to birthing pains. v. 8. Birth always involves pain, no matter how strong the epidural. But you tolerate the pain because you have no choice. You transcend the pain by focusing on the joy to come. And when you hold your child, you forget the pain completely.
In the same breath that Christ discusses these unpleasant details, he assures us not to be afraid. He moves from discussing the “great anguish” to making an analogy with a sweet little fig tree. He assures us that he who endures to the end will be saved.
The reason Christ could be positive here is because of something that He knew, but that His listeners had yet to see: the cross. Jesus Christ experienced the worst of every one of these prophecies on the cross, to enable a way for the rest of us to endure them. Jesus was betrayed. He was hated. The earth quaked when he died. The sun darkened. He cried out in great anguish. God turned his back on Jesus. Jesus was desecrated. Jesus labored in pain in order to give birth to us. And like a mother in delivery, he endured the cross for the joy set before Him. Hebrews 12:2.
Christ didn’t just endure the pain of the cross for the Second Coming. He endured that pain for the joy of being able to have a relationship with us now. Because of the cross, salvation is available to all of us, any of us, right this very second. All you have to do is ask.
And if you’re in pain right now, I’m sorry. So is God. So is everyone who loves you, and lots of people who don’t even know you. No matter what you’re going through, watch for Jesus. You will see the God who loves you in the midst of the pain. His heart breaks with yours. He knows how you feel. He experienced what you are feeling, and more, on the cross so that He can be with you now, no matter what. You can endure pain and have victory with Christ holding your hand. In some strange supernatural God kind of magic, if you cling to Christ in your pain, you will find gardens growing out of any wilderness in your life, no matter how desolate things might appear.
posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on December 19, 2011