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What to Do with Pain

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Deacons  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:22
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Life often hurts. How do we respond to pain, both in our lives and those around us? Learn three practical steps to dealing with pain as we look at Jeremiah's reaction to suffering.

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Introduction

This week marked a movie milestone.
How many of you remember the movie The Princess Bride?
I imagine that many of you, if I asked, could probably quote this movie line-by-line.
It is inconceivable, but that movie turned 30 years old this week.
For those who may not be familiar with it, and I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, the story follows a beautiful young princess and a handsome farm boy who fall in love but are separated before they can marry. The rest of the movie chronicles the often comical situations that bring the two back together.
So, why do I bring that up?
There is one moment where the young woman, Buttercup, thinks her love has been killed by a man known as the Dread Pirate Roberts.
As she confronts him and he seems to make light of her suffering, she yells out to him, “You mock my pain!”
His quick reply is, “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
I think, this morning, that you and I would likely agree with that statement.
Both in our individual lives and in the world around us, we are confronted daily with different levels of pain.
As we see it all, we may even find ourselves discouraged and ready to give up hope.
However, the Bible gives us a powerful picture of a man who dealt with pain most of us cannot imagine.
Turn in your Bible to , where we are going to meet a prophet named Jeremiah.
As we watch him wrestle with the pain he was facing, we will draw out three lessons to help us and others deal with pain.
This morning, my prayer is that this message will be extremely practical for you.
I don’t know what you’re facing, but I do know that God brought you here for a reason.
I want you to leave here with hope, not some kind of dreamed up hope that you will actually be strong enough to overcome it, but true, unshakeable, genuine, biblical hope.
Let’s set the stage for what is going on.
The nation of Israel is God’s special people.
He placed his temple in the middle of the land he gave them, he gave them his law, and he promised all the nations of the earth would be blessed by them.
However, as time went on, the people turned farther and farther from the God who set them apart.
God sent prophet after prophet to warn them that if they didn’t turn, he would send devastating judgment on them.
Jeremiah, who wrote both this book and the one before it with his name on it, was one of the last of those prophets.
For years, he warned the people, and they refused to listen.
Finally, God sent destruction to the city of Jerusalem, and it was horrific:
2 Chronicles 36:16–21 CSB
But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against his people that there was no remedy. So he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their fit young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary. He had no pity on young men or young women, elderly or aged; he handed them all over to him. He took everything to Babylon—all the articles of God’s temple, large and small, the treasures of the Lord’s temple, and the treasures of the king and his officials. Then the Chaldeans burned God’s temple. They tore down Jerusalem’s wall, burned all its palaces, and destroyed all its valuable articles. He deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah, and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until seventy years were fulfilled.
2 Chronicles 36:16–21 CSB
But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against his people that there was no remedy. So he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their fit young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary. He had no pity on young men or young women, elderly or aged; he handed them all over to him. He took everything to Babylon—all the articles of God’s temple, large and small, the treasures of the Lord’s temple, and the treasures of the king and his officials. Then the Chaldeans burned God’s temple. They tore down Jerusalem’s wall, burned all its palaces, and destroyed all its valuable articles. He deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah, and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until seventy years were fulfilled.
Devastated and broken, Jeremiah wrote a series of poems about this destruction. These poems make up the book of Lamentations.
There are five chapters, and most of them deal with the city and its destruction.
However, right in the middle, it seems that Jeremiah turns the focus on himself.
Here was a guy who did pretty much everything right. He told the people what God told him, he faithfully obeyed, and as a reward, he gets to watch those he knows and loves get horribly, brutally murdered.
That doesn’t sound fair, does it?
Let’s look at to see how Jeremiah handled his pain.
As we do, I want you to take notes so you can better handle your own hurts and help others walk through theirs.
We are going to read this as we go along, so let’s look at verses 1-18.
Lamentations 3:1–18 CSB
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath. He has driven me away and forced me to walk in darkness instead of light. Yes, he repeatedly turns his hand against me all day long. He has worn away my flesh and skin; he has broken my bones. He has laid siege against me, encircling me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those who have been dead for ages. He has walled me in so I cannot get out; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I cry out and plead for help, he blocks out my prayer. He has walled in my ways with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. He is a bear waiting in ambush, a lion in hiding. He forced me off my way and tore me to pieces; he left me desolate. He strung his bow and set me as the target for his arrow. He pierced my kidneys with shafts from his quiver. I am a laughingstock to all my people, mocked by their songs all day long. He filled me with bitterness, satiated me with wormwood. He ground my teeth with gravel and made me cower in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. Then I thought, “My future is lost, as well as my hope from the Lord.”
lamentai
The first step in dealing with pain is...

1) Acknowledge the pain.

Jeremiah doesn’t hold back at all in how he describes what he has endured.
Even though this is poetry, he is still open and honest about what he feels.
He feels that God has turned against him, that God is causing him incredible pain, and that there is no hope or future for him.
Do you ever feel like that?
Do you ever feel like everything is against you?
In those moments, how willing are you to be honest with God about how you feel?
Many of us have a hard time truly telling God what we are thinking or feeling.
Do you think God doesn’t know? Do you think that God hasn’t seen you suffering?
God knows the intimate details of your every thought:
Psalm 139:1–5 CSB
Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.
Psalm 139:1–5 CSB
Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.
Do you think God doesn’t know you’re upset or hurting?
Then why won’t you talk to him about it?
Jeremiah did!
Maybe you aren’t willing to talk about your pain because you feel like it isn’t bad enough.
We express that by saying, “Well, at least I’m not going through...”
You may have already done that with this passage this morning!
Sure, we’re having a tough time as a family, but it’s not like I’m Jeremiah here.
Let’s use a physical example that is fresh in our life.
Many of you know that our daughter Emma was climbing on something she shouldn’t have been, fell off, and broke her arm.
When it happened, there was a third-year medical student there who said, “Something is wrong with it; you need to take her to the hospital.”
Can you imagine if I had looked at Emma and said, “Well, honey, it’s not like it’s cancer, and you probably won’t die from it, so just forget about it. Look at what this person is going through…doesn’t that make you feel better?”
She had a broken arm! She needed help, and it would have been wrong for us to dismiss her pain because it wasn’t as bad as someone else’s.
Could the same principle apply to our emotional and spiritual pain?
I’m not saying that you need to make a mountain out of a molehill; I am saying, though, that you need to acknowledge that you have moles!
Be open and honest with God about what your frustrations are, even if they aren’t “as bad” as what someone else is facing.
You may need to talk to God about whatever you are feeling and figure out that he loves you in spite of your frustration.
There is a principle I learned from Pastor JD Greear, which is that in Christ, there is nothing you have ever done that causes God to love you less, and there is nothing you can do that causes him to love you more!
He loves you unconditionally, so be honest with him about what you feel.
Yes, you may be reading the situation wrong, but you may not be able to figure that out until you come to him and lay it as his feet.
Never forget that God knows what it is to hurt:
Hebrews 4:15–16 CSB
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15–16 CSB
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
God is big enough to handle your pain, but don’t stop with this step.
If you stop here, it will make you miserable forever.
We can properly deal with pain when we push on to the second step:

2) Remember the truth.

The entire tone of the passage changes in verse 19.
Read with me verses 19-33.
After giving some space for his pain, Jeremiah refocuses on what is true.
Remember: truth isn’t dependent on how you feel.
If I say that I feel like this music stand is green, it doesn’t change the fact that it is black. No matter how genuinely I believe it is green, it is still black.
In the same way, there are truths that don’t change at all, regardless of how you feel.
The first truth Jeremiah draws on is that:

A. God knows.

Look back at verses 19-20.
Jeremiah calls on God to remember the suffering he has gone through.
They have led him into a deep depression, but they have not escaped the sight of God.
Listen to me clearly this morning: God knows exactly what you are going through.
He sees you, and he knows.
We talked about this on Tuesday in our small group here at church.
In Exodus, God’s people were enslaved for a really long time before it seemed like God was ready to intervene.
They were crying out because of their pain, and here’s how the text summarized it:
Exodus 2:24–25 CSB
And God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God saw the Israelites; and God knew.
Exodus 2:24–25 CSB
And God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God saw the Israelites; and God knew.
Just like God knew what they were going through and God knew what Jeremiah was going through, God knows what you are facing.
In the New Testament, we have the promise that God knows when even a tiny sparrow falls out of the sky, so of course he knows what is going on with you!
That plays out in the second truth Jeremiah held on to:

B) God hasn’t changed.

are the most popular verses in the book.
Lamentations 3:21–24 CSB
Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.”
In the middle of your pain, in the middle of your problem, hold tight to this truth: God hasn’t changed.
Every morning, when you open your eyes, recognize that he has faithfully and mercifully given you a new day.
In fact, I love the way this version translates verse 20.
Although the people of Israel had sinned against God, although their rebellion is what brought on this destruction, yet God, in his love, kept it from being as bad as it could have been.
As you seek to reframe your situation around the truth, I cannot take you back to this truth enough.
You and I deserve nothing but death, yet God, in his love, sent Jesus to die in our place.
In his mercy, he came and rescued us from slavery to sin and the death penalty we deserved.
So, then, no matter what happens in life, in light of our sin, we have no reason to complain.
God hasn’t changed. He is still as merciful as he was when things seemed to be easier and better. He is still loving, and he still took your sin upon himself and died in your place to rescue you.
Never let your current pain distract you from the incredible salvation God has given you.
Sometimes, it is hard to make that connection.
Great, so I get to go to heaven when I die, but that really doesn’t give me much hope right now.
Here’s part of where that hope comes in:
Romans 8:32 CSB
He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?
Romans 8:32 CSB
He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?
If God wold give Jesus in your place and deliver you from your greatest pain, which was spiritual death and separation from God, then what makes you think he won’t give you everything you need to walk through whatever this hard time?
Do you think God saved your soul but can’t give you strength to honor him in this situation?
I know you don’t feel like it, I know you want to give up, but don’t forget the truth: God knows what you are going through, and he hasn’t changed. He is still the same loving, merciful, incredible God he has always been.
Although we don’t have a lot of time to get into it, I want to point you to the third step in dealing with pain:

3) Examine your heart.

In verses 34-42, Jeremiah takes time to acknowledge that the pain the nation is experiencing is because of their sin.
Hear me clearly: not every painful situation is a result of your sin. The cancer you are fighting, the financial trouble you are facing, whatever it may be that is hurting you, may not be a direct result of a sin on your part.
Every bad situation we face is a result of sin in as much as sin broke everything, even nature itself. However, that doesn’t mean that your pain today is always a result of your sin yesterday.
That’s akin to the idea of karma, which isn’t in the Bible.
However, there are times when our sin has played a part in the pain we face. Like Jeremiah, we would be wise to allow God to examine our hearts and show us where we may be falling short of him.
Even if it wasn’t a sin that caused this pain, it may be that God allowed the pain to cause you to spend some time examining your relationship to him.
Perhaps you need to join in with Jeremiah in verses 39-42...
Lamentations 3:39–42 CSB
Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins? Let us examine and probe our ways, and turn back to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven: “We have sinned and rebelled; you have not forgiven.
Lamentations 3:40–42 CSB
Let us examine and probe our ways, and turn back to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven: “We have sinned and rebelled; you have not forgiven.
Has there been a time in your life where you have done that?
Where you have turned to God and away from living life your way? Where you have acknowledged that you have sinned and rebelled and not sought his forgiveness?
We talked about it some earlier, but remember that the pain Jeremiah went through points us to an even greater truth.
Jesus, as God’s Son, warned us that we needed to turn from our sin and follow him. The people rejected Jesus’ message like they did Jeremiah, but with Jesus, they went on to kill the messenger.
They didn’t realize, though, that as they put Jesus to death, he was dying in their place for their sins to offer forgiveness.
Incredibly, Jesus had every right to complain about his suffering, because he had never sinned.
Yet, without complaint, Jesus took our sin upon himself and died in our place.
Three days later, he rose from the grave, showing that he had conquered death and sin and could give us new life.
Why not, in the midst of your pain, turn to the one who took your greatest pain upon himself?
If you are here today and a Christian, maybe you need to do the same thing.
Sure, you have been saved, but you may have been sidetracked by some pain you are experiencing. During this invitation, why don’t you walk through these steps. Be honest with God about your pain, remember the truth, and examine your heart.
Respond as the Lord leads...
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