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How to find peace and purpose when life’s pain shocks you

During World War II in England, we lived in Liverpool which was bombed continually. So my father, on leave from the war, moved the family to the comparative safety of the English Lake District. There were no houses to rent or buy at the time because of such a tremendous migration of people from the towns enduring the Blitz, so we bought a boat with six bunks and moved on board. My father returned to the war and we settled into our new home. As young kids, we loved living on the boat moored in the beautiful bay of Lake Windermere, although my mom, who couldn’t swim, hated that period!

There was one problem, however—we had nowhere to bathe. So over the side of our boat we’d go every morning before we got dressed for school. One of the things that stands out most in my mind about those years was the shock of jumping into that cold icy water. Even though I knew the water would be cold and I’d prepare myself for the shock of that frigid lake, it still took my breath away every time.

That’s often how it is when we go through difficult times, too. We struggle to catch our breath, and what we want more than anything is for God to immediately take away the pain as soon as possible. But often, we find ourselves waiting.

Remember the story of Job? God allowed Satan to attack him. As a result, Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health. Yet the Bible tells us, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22).

What most people don’t realize about the book of Job is that the main thrust of the story isn’t about the attacks of Satan, the pain and problems allowed, but the overwhelming majority of ink devoted to the book—around 24 chapters—describes Job’s experience of His “present presence” of power and peace through it all. You see, when it comes to the shock of sudden suffering, it’s easy to wonder why God doesn’t hurry up and make it stop as suddenly as it started. But sometimes it takes waiting it out with God to bring the blessings from the batterings that life brings.

Just like that shock of cold lake water on my skin, the initial pain or trouble can be a wake-up call to know God in fresh and wonderful ways! The devil loves to use trouble to slow us to a dead stop. He tries to use trouble that God allows to come our way to make us wait until things are “normal” again before we continue to serve Him. But waiting and relying on God through the suffering allows us to cast the bundle of our burdens on God, and learn that He will help us to endure as we continue with patience to finish our race, keep the faith, and continue to do what He’s called us to do.

God’s plan for our pain is purposeful. Being in God’s “waiting room” isn’t easy. Yet, as we patiently wait it out in the valley of pain, we grow as we lean on Him. And while we do not praise Him for the pain, for the sickness, or for the suffering, we can praise Him for who He is in the middle of it all.