God uses pain to teach us, Mohler says at SBC Pastor’s Conference

Communications Staff — June 13, 2007

SAN ANTONIO, Texas–Pain has a purpose, serving as a teacher and indicator of deeper issues needing to be addressed, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said June 11 during a testimony at the 2007 Pastor’s Conference at the Southern Baptist Convention.

Speaking on the topic of Christ’s victory in spite of pain, Mohler noted pain is something all people face. The difference for believers is they know pain has a purpose, he said.

“As Christians, we must understand that pain has a purpose because God is sovereign,” he said. “Paul Brand, the late Christian physician, reminds us that pain is often an early warning system of trouble. Pain is often a way that our body tells us that there is an issue. We as Christians, amazingly enough, know that the main issue of pain in our lives is not how to avoid it, but what we can learn from it. Pain is a teacher.”

When Hayes Wicker, president of the 2007 Pastor’s Conference and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., asked Mohler to share about Christ’s victory in pain Wicker had in mind Mohler’s eye difficulties, which required emergency surgery just days prior to the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention. Mohler said he also missed the SBC several years ago, due to an infected finger.

However, little did Wicker or Mohler know that just weeks after Wicker’s phone call, Mohler would undergo emergency surgery to remove blood clots in his lungs that formed after abdominal surgery. Mohler said he learned a number of things from the pain he experienced, the surgery and his hospital stay.

“What does pain teach us? Number one, it taught me the assurance of God’s sovereignty and God’s providential love,” he said. “I like to handle things, I like to get things done and I like to be in charge and take control and make sure that things are as they ought to be. Being a patient in an intensive care unit in the hospital is a difficult place for a control-freak to be.

“One of the things that an experience like this teaches us is that we are not in control and God is. If God is sovereign and He created us for a purpose and He is teaching us through every experience of our lives then pain is a teacher to remind us of His sovereignty and providential love.”

The sweetness of Christ and His faithfulness in the life of believers is the second lesson Mohler highlighted.

“The apostle Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ,” he said. “Not pain, not illness, not death. The apostle Paul also wrote of the Christian’s responsibility to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings.”

Mohler said the experience taught him about the frailty of humanity, as a barely detectable blood clot could have ended his life in an instant. He also said he learned about the limitations of human consciousness.

“I found myself for the first time, in this experience, suffering the kind of pain and medical crisis where my consciousness failed me,” he said. “I could not even pray as I wanted to pray. I could not make the words fit together. And then I remembered in the midst of that confusion the promise of Romans 8 that even when we cannot pray the Holy Spirit is praying for us with groanings too deep for words.”

The need for dependence upon the prayers of others and the importance of the ministry of the local church also stood out to Mohler in the crisis. Finally, Mohler’s love for his wife, Mary, and children, Katie and Christopher, and their love for him hit home throughout his experience.

In addition to these lessons that can be learned in pain, Mohler said our bodies remind us of several things. First, he noted our bodies reveal that an incredible, sovereign God made all people. Second, he said the pain and fatigue we experience reveal the effects of sin. Third, our frail bodies remind us of our mortality, he noted. Finally, Mohler said our bodies show us that we need a Savior and that this is not our final home.

“We have a body that reminds us of our need for grace,” he said. “We certainly cannot save ourselves, but Christ can save us. We also have a body that reminds us of eternity. Pain reminds us that we are not to be satisfied here. For this is not our home. Our bodies are yearning for the glorification that will come when Christ returns.

“We are to trust in God and learn from the pain and pray for each other and encourage each other in the task and be ever mindful of the fact that it isn’t over until God brings all things to the perfect consummation of His will and on that day there will no lame and no blind. On that day, every eye will be dry. We know that by God’s promise to us in Christ. And with that knowledge we can deal with pain.”

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