This story about accepting pain for greater good was submitted by my dear friend, Joy Bennett. I’m grateful for her friendship and insight into a tough topic that I have struggled as I wrestle with God about things I don’t understand.
Accepting Pain for Greater Good
He was very ill. He had been for a couple of days. When his temperature spiked to 103 degrees I became extremely concerned. I knew that I had to help my husband get his fever down. I kept fluids in him. I kept cold compresses on his head and under his neck. I gave him fever-reducing medicine. I seemed to have tried it all and yet, the fever was still winning.
I gazed upon my strong husband shivering on the couch and decided it was time to pull out my last resort. I pulled back the curtain. I turned on the faucet and I filled the bathtub with cold water. I grabbed the ice-cube trays from the freezer and emptied them into the tub. He heard what I was doing and began to cry out in protest.
As I approached him and began undressing him, he looked at me with pleading eyes and tried to push my hands away. I told him this was the only thing (save taking him to the hospital) that I could think of to help him reduce this too high of a fever. I helped him to the bathroom. I removed his slippers. I held his hand while he lifted his first foot into the icy water.
“I’m ok. I don’t need to do this,” he cried out. I had never, to that day, seen my husband cry. This time was the closest though. His eyes filled with tears and he begged me not to force him. As I helped him lower himself into the water, I felt like the cruelest person on the planet. He said, “No, no, no…” I said, “Yes, honey..yes.”
Tears began streaming down my face as I forced my shivering husband to stay in the frigid environment. I looked into his pained eyes and I cried out, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. This is going to help.” My heart was literally breaking and I was nearly sobbing myself. I stroked his head. I rubbed his back. I watched the clock seem to tick by at the slowest pace ever. I looked into his deep brown eyes and knew I was causing this anguish. It was gut-wrenching.
The few minutes he was in the tub was excruciatingly long. Finally, I relented and let him escape his icy hell. Trembling, we made our way back to the couch where he curled up in a blanket and shook for a few more minutes. I felt awful. I didn’t know if it would work, but I hoped and prayed.
His fever went down. It stayed down. Turning my burning husband into a popsicle worked. His fever never returned to that high of a rating and he was on his way to being well. The terror of what I had just put him through, however remained forever burned in my heart.
The whole experience made me realize how much I loved him and how much I wanted him to be well. I had to cause him great pain to help him. I never considered when I took my vows that this would be what I would have to do! Wasn’t I supposed to be his helpmate who alleviated his pain and suffering? Why would I do this? Because, it was necessary for healing. Then, it hit me like the shock of jumping into icy water; God experiences this with us.
I never thought about God’s suffering in quite this light before. How he watched in sheer terror as His own son was beaten and crucified. I’ll bet tears were streaming down his cheeks. How he loathes seeing me placed in unpleasant situations for my own growth and betterment. I’ll bet he says, “I’m so sorry..” I am not comparing myself to God. There is no comparison.
I do, however, liken my experience with my husband to a fraction of how God must feel when calling his people into right relationship with him.
So many people question how a God could allow his people to suffer. When I hear those questions today, I am reminded of how I permitted (even forced) the love of my life to suffer. It was because through that last ditch effort of suffering there might come healing. Through suffering, healing; through healing , life.
I don’t profess that all suffering is at the hand of the Almighty for there is an evil in this world that much suffering is to be blamed upon. I will contend that as I had see to it that my husband suffered for a better gain, so too might God allow suffering to bring about his better plan for us. Most importantly though, I think about how much God’s heart must break and how gut-wrenching it must be for him as it was for me watching the one I love be in such pain.
I know in my heart I had his best interests at heart; now I know even more first- hand how much God has mine in his. My struggles may be painful, but I know that God is going to bring about an outcome for my better good AND he is right there crying with me, stroking my back and waiting in anguish for it to be over and for me to be well again.
When I hear people say today, “how can God allow people to suffer?” I tell this story. It doesn’t answer all of the questions or circumstances of pain and suffering, but it can, for some, offer an empathetic insight into God’s character and overall plan to bring about peace from suffering.