Her eyes flew to mine with a shocked, “What just happened?” expression on her face. Six-month-old Bethany broke into gut-wrenching tears.
I had yearned for a girl when I got pregnant with her. I already had two dear sons, but now I had a daughter too. She was an adorable little peanut that we named Bethany, and she had completely stolen my heart. I cherished holding her, treasured rocking her to sleep, and enjoyed just sitting and gazing at her sweet little face. I remember how she looked back at me, with her big brown eyes so innocent, and so trusting.
I was a good mom, doing a lot of good mom-type stuff. That included taking her to the doctor for check-ups to make sure she stayed healthy. This day Bethany was due for her first set of shots. She cooed at the doctor as he checked out her ears and throat. She smiled when he weighed her. She laughed when he prodded her tummy to check for abnormalities.
Then I held her as he prepared to give her the first shot. Immediately she broke into tears, and the look she gave me broke my heart. But the hardest part came when he prepared to give her the second shot. She had already calmed down, and looked at me with those trusting eyes, knowing I would never do anything to deliberately hurt her. And I held her down as the doctor once again caused her pain. She looked the way she felt; betrayed, confused, and a little afraid.
I tried to tell her that I was doing it for her own good, so that she would stay healthy. I explained that the little moment of pain was a more-than-fair exchange for her long-term wellbeing. But she wasn’t buying it. The tears continued for a time, but eventually, as I held her close she grew quiet, comforted by my presence.
I wish that Bethany had been able to understand that it was because I love her so much that I allowed her pain, but she was just too young.
Oh how often I have felt the same way as Bethany. When my Father has allowed pain to enter my life, my objection is usually the same as hers: loud and immediate! I, too, feel betrayed, confused, and a little afraid. Isn’t He the One who is supposed to love me? Nurture me? Protect me? If I can’t trust Him, who can I trust? My world is rocked as I grapple with reconciling who God is—loving and good—with the hard things He allows. Nothing seems certain…
Until I stop and remember. Pain is not only an inevitable part of life, but God works all things together for my good, even this (Romans 8:28). It is not the easy things in life that build my character. If so, God would probably allow me less pain. I am a slow learner, and God chooses to allow short-term pain in order to grow me into a healthy believer. Because pain motivates me to change. It deepens my character and causes me to look to my Father for courage, for help, and for the comfort of His presence.
My faith would be unhealthy without the lessons that pain has taught me. My Father knows that short-term pain is worth the long-term gain it brings.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2
- Do you, as a parent, ever allow your kids to suffer pain? Why, or why not?
- Has God ever allowed pain in your life that made you feel the same way as Bethany did?
- Looking back, what do you think you learned from it?
Father, I can’t say I enjoy pain. I may not always understand what You are trying to accomplish in my life, but You are my Abba, my Daddy, and I know You love me. I recognize that there are things I need to learn that only pain can teach me. But please, help me realize Your presence in the midst of it, so that I might be comforted.