Study Guide: Embracing the Pain

Sunday June 21, 2009 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

None of us like pain. In fact, much in our world today helps us to avoid it. Scripture promises that as we follow Christ we will suffer and endure pain but that it is not without a purpose. As we persevere, we experience growth and joy and become more like Christ.

Extended Summary:

In today’s text Jesus tells his disciples what to expect when they get to Jerusalem. He referred to all of the violence and pain that was prophesied about himself, including his own death and resurrection. The disciples couldn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Perhaps they had such radically different expectations that they just couldn’t hear Jesus’ words, or perhaps Jesus’ words were so cryptic that they didn’t know what to make if it. Whatever the case, the text says that the meaning was hidden from them and they didn’t know what he was talking about.

Greg called our attention to the motivation Jesus had in order to endure all of this suffering. He pointed us to Hebrews 12:2 which says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…” Greg talked about the role pain plays in our lives and its relationship to joy. Pain is often an indicator that there is something wrong with us. If we listen to the pain, it will often point to a problem that needs addressing for the sake of our health in the future. Greg used his back trouble as one example of this. If we are too quick to medicate the pain, we may miss the message and then the trouble that the pain is pointing to can become worse over time.

This process of listening to pain, being willing to make sacrifices and changes of behavior to address the issue, and then enjoy the fruits of our labor is pretty counter-intuitive to much of what we call progress in our society today. It used to take significant time and energy to make a meal at home, but today you can just toss something in the microwave or drive through somewhere. Communicating via mail took days or even weeks but now with email, texting and so forth, communication is virtually instant. Research used to mean going to a library and digging through old books but now you can “google” almost anything. Of course, there are some advantages to all of this, but if we’re not careful, it can lure us into thinking that results should come to us pretty much instantly in all areas of our lives. This is just not true.

Most results that are truly joyful will involve an investment of time, energy, and working through some degree of pain. If we listen to what the pain is telling us, it will often identify the way forward toward the goal of health, wholeness and joy. In fact, God promises us that as believers we will face pain, trials and suffering as we follow Jesus. God uses this pain to teach us and help us grow in to more mature followers of Christ.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from this message and the supporting texts?
  2. Read through each of the passages listed above in the key texts section. In these texts, how is pain connected to joy? Why do you suppose it has to be that way?
  3. Can you think of examples of how pain has impacted your life? How did you respond to the pain? Was there something you could learn from it?
  4. We often share concerns and prayer requests related to our pain of that of someone we know. Given this understanding of pain and its relationship to joy, how would this change the way we pray?