There’s a story about a farmer who wanted to sell his mule. He said that the mule would obey any command. A man came along and was interested in buying the mule. He wanted to test and see if the mule would indeed obey any given command. He said to the mule – “Sit down”. The mule just stood still. “Sit,” the customer said again. The mule didn’t move and stayed standing up. “You said the mule will obey any command but I can’t even get it to sit down,” the customer said to the farmer. The farmer picked up a baseball bat, walked over to the mule and smacked it on the head. “Sit down,” the farmer said. The mule sat down. The customer was shocked. “The mule will do anything,” the farmer said, “But you have to get its attention first.”
Suffering is like the farmer’s baseball bat. Sometimes God hits us with the suffering baseball bat to get our attention. We can easily get caught up with our activities and busy schedules that we forget about God. We may focus on our careers, families, friends, hobbies that we neglect to pay attention to God. It’s only when we experience the pain of suffering, like a baseball bat hitting us, that we come to attention and seek God’s help for relief of the suffering.
As C.S. Lewis says in his book, The Problem of Pain,
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Sometimes when we are prospering, we stop turning to God. We start to rely on ourselves and take pride in our self-efforts. We become complacent. The danger when nothing is wrong in our lives is that we may mistakenly assume that everything is all right. In fact, everything might be far from all right. As things are going well, we feel less need to rely on God and start drifting away from Him.
When a person experiences suffering, they immediately experience a change in attitude. Their weakness makes them realize that they need strength from a source other themselves. This sometimes leads them to seek help from a higher power – from God.
Paul knew the value of suffering to get his attention. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes that he was taken up to heaven and shown incredible visions. But this high was balanced with a low. As Paul explains:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul’s thorn in the flesh made him pay attention to God, for whenever he experienced the pain of the thorn, it made him rely on Christ’s power.
So next time, when you face suffering, ask yourself is it because you have drifted away from God. If so, give thanks for the adversity and put your eyes back on Jesus. He’ll help you overcome your trials once you pay attention to Him!
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