Craig Groeschel - There's Purpose in Your Pain
One of the most depressing things that I hear people say so often is they'll say, "I just don't see the purpose. What's the point"? It might be in their marriage. It might be in their finances. It might be spiritually. When it comes to the church, they'll say, "What's the purpose? I just don't see the purpose. I'm exhausted. Why should I keep trying? Why do I try to do what's right when it doesn't seem to make any difference at all? It just doesn't seem to matter. I don't see the purpose". There is a reason.
I've heard it said that people hate pain. I wonder if I ask you guys, do you hate pain? How many of you would say, I hate pain? I think most people would say, I hate pain. If that's you, just go ahead and type it in. I hate pain. I'm here to argue, though, that that's not completely accurate. It's my opinion that people don't hate pain. What they hate is they hate pain without a purpose. People hate pain when there's no reason they see attached to the pain. For example, if something bad happens and they don't see a reason. There's a car wreck and someone gets hurt, or you test positive for COVID-19 or you lose your job, and you wonder, "God, where are you in this? I don't see a reason. What's the purpose, God? I'm trying to do what's right. I'm a good person and I try to help people, but I just don't see the point".
I would argue that people don't hate pain. What they hate is pain without a purpose, because the truth is, people can endure a lot of pain if there's a purpose. This is kind of crazy to me, but some people will actually pay money to experience pain, as long as there's a purpose. For example, I know some people that will pay good money to run in a marathon. Now, I've never run in a marathon before, but in my mind, I imagine about mile three, it starts to get painful. Then there's mile four, five, six, seven, eight, blah, blah, blah, 26. And people will pay to run in a marathon even though it's painful, because the payoff, the satisfaction, the fulfillment, the sense of accomplishment is worth the pain.
I have some friends who enjoy crossfit. I did crossfit one time. 4000 pushups, 4000 air squats, 4000 burpees, and that was just the warmup. Then the workout came and it was incredibly painful, but people will pay to endure that kind of pain, because there's a payoff, there's a sense of accomplishment. You feel better, you have comradery, you enjoy the people that you're with, you get in better shape. I miss my front row at church, a whole group of people who now enjoy the gift of sobriety. So many of them endured the pain of detoxing withdrawals, but they did it for the payoff.
My wife Amy is here, and she blessed our family with six kids. That's a basketball team with a sub. That's a lot of kids. And she gave birth six times. I was there for all six of them, of course. I only passed out one time. My record's pretty good. I stood with her five out of the six times. That looks painful to me, but when you hold that baby, the baby is worth it. People don't hate pain. What they hate is pain with no purpose. People can endure a lot of pain if there is a purpose. I wonder how many of you right now, that you're living in a season that just feels completely uncertain. I think everybody would say this is not easy. I don't see a whole lot of good in this. There's a lot of frustration. There's a lot of pain.
The title of this message is: There's Purpose in Your Pain.
Father, we ask that by the power of your Word and the goodness of your presence that in the middle of a season of uncertainty, doubt, frustration, weariness, pain, that we could start to sense your purpose, your goodness, your provision. God, speak to us today. Help us to see there is a reason, there is a purpose in our pain. In Jesus' name we pray, and wherever you are, would you just say it aloud? Say amen and amen.
I want to share with you a verse in the Bible. It's actually the words of Jesus, that used to bother me. Is that legal to say that the words of Jesus bother you? These words bothered me. It's in Luke's Gospel, Luke chapter 22, verse 31, and Jesus was talking to Simon, who his name became Peter, so this is Simon Peter, and Jesus says, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat". So Jesus is saying to Simon Peter, "The devil wants permission to attack you, to try to hurt you, to test you, to put you through some trials".
Jesus could have said, "You're gonna be embarrassed, you're gonna be humiliated, because you're not gonna succeed. You're gonna fall short, you're gonna fail, and this is gonna be a season that's more difficult than you could ever imagine". Let's look at it again. "Simon, Simon", Jesus says, "Satan has asked to sift you as wheat". And then Jesus says, "But I prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail". That bothered me. The devil wants permission to attack, and Jesus says, "Okay, you can have permission, but I'll be praying for you". I'd be kind of like, hey, skip the prayers and just run the devil out of town. Just tell him no. I mean, tell him no, and just kick some devil bootay.
Did you see my edit on the fly? Okay, just run the devil off. The devil's asking Jesus, "Hey, can I attack"? And notice that Jesus didn't cause it, but for whatever reason, He allowed it, and said, "I'll be praying for you". I don't know about you, but it feels like we're under attack right now. Just ongoing, when is this ever going to stop, the frustration, the people that are sick, the people that are hurting, the people that are in need, the people that are losing their jobs, the business leaders that can't meet and are having to make horrible decisions to lay off the people that they love, and it just goes on, and another week, and another week, and we wonder, when in the world will the world ever get back to normal?
Those of you that maybe it's more than just the COVID-19 crisis. Maybe you're just praying and praying and praying that God would let you get married. That's your heart's desire, and now the odds weren't good before. You couldn't find anybody when you went to work. Now you can't even go out of your house, and when you do, everybody's wearing a mask in the grocery store. It's incredibly frustrating. God, when are you going to hear the cries of my heart?
Some of you, you might have felt under-employed before. You had a college degree or a Masters and your job didn't quite seem to measure up to your preparation, and now, you're not just under-employed or under-valued, but you're unemployed, wondering, "God, where are you in the middle of this"? You might feel like you're failing right now in your business, in your marriage, as a parent, as a provider. Whenever it feels like the devil is attacking, when he's testing you, it's important to remember that sometimes, God's preparation comes packaged as pain.
Sometimes God's preparation, it comes packaged as pain. In other words, there is a purpose in your pain. God might be using the pain that we're enduring to do something in us, before He does something through us. The pain that we're experiencing may be preparation for the purpose that God has prepared for us. In fact, I want to show you this in the story with Simon Peter. Now, I don't know about you all, but Peter makes me feel really, really good, because the guy continues to mess up.
How many of you had a friend that you keep around like Peter just to make yourself feel better and look better? Like, "Yeah, you're my friend. No matter how stupid I look, you always are stupider". Everybody needs a friend like this. The devil comes after Peter and attacks him, and I want to show you just the high points of Peter's failures. There's so many of them, but we'll just look at some of the bigger ones that we see in scripture.
Let me give you these scriptures. One of them is found in Matthew 16, and this is where Jesus actually predicts His death. He says, "God sent me to give my life. On the third day, God will raise me from the dead", and what does Peter do? Peter essentially rebukes Jesus for clearly defining His mission. "This is why I came", and Peter says, "No"! Jesus is like, "This is why God sent me", and Peter says, "No"! And Jesus looks at Peter and says, "Get behind me. You're a stumbling block", and then He calls Peter Satan. "Get behind me, Satan". Now, here's a little thing. Any time Jesus calls you Satan, that means what you did was not good, okay? He calls Peter Satan.
I like the meme, I don't know if you've seen the one that says, "The devil whispered in my ear, you're not gonna make it through this", and I yelled back, "Get behind me six feet, you idiot". That's just a little COVID-19 joke in case you're wondering. Get back six feet. Don't get so close to me. Here, Jesus is declaring His divine calling, and Peter says to Him, "No, this isn't gonna happen to you". Matthew 26 is another failure. In the garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was wrestling with His calling, He tells Peter and others, "Stay on guard. Just stay awake. Keep watch". And Jesus comes back a little while later, and Peter's taking a nap. He's sawing logs, he's sleeping away.
John 18, later in that very same story, Jesus is arrested by some Roman soldiers. He's going to do what He clearly explained He was called to do, and Peter again tries to stop it. He draws his sword. This is funny to me. He swings for the Roman soldier's head, and he doesn't even hit the target. He can't even accomplish what he's trying to do. He misses the guy's head, he clips his ear, he cuts off the ear, and Jesus is kind of like, "Peter, calm down, calm down. Put your sword back. You're getting in the way of my purpose".
It is funny, if you read the text, Jesus is like, "Find the guy's ear". I can just imagine it. "Where's that ear? It rolled off somewhere. Find the ear. It's in the bushes. Give me the ear". And then Jesus goes and heals the ear. Then there's the big one, and you see this whenever Jesus prophesied that Peter would end up denying Jesus three times, even before the rooster crowed, and boldly said, "That'll never, ever happen. I will always be in your corner. I'm your guy. If you can count on anybody, you can count on me".
And three different times, three times, the little girl comes up and says, "Aren't you one of the disciples"? And Peter was like, "I don't know who you're talking about". Three times. What's incredibly painful about this is scripture says in Luke 22 that Jesus actually saw Peter do it, and their eyes met at the moment of the third betrayal. Scripture says this. "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times. And Peter went outside and wept bitterly". Wept bitterly.
The pain felt like it was more than he could take. "I'm just such a failure. I let God down. I haven't lived up to my potential. I'm such a failure". I know so many people that feel like this right now. I know business owners who feel like, "I should have seen something like this coming, and now I'm having to lay off good people". I know those who are working from home that feel like, "I just can't get it going. I'm trying so hard, but it's so difficult to be motivated, and I've got kids everywhere".
I know those that are home educating and feel like, "My kids are gonna be dumb forever because of this time with me. I'm such a failure, and here I am, I'm supposed to have the fruits of the Spirit, I'm supposed to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, and the only fruits I have are anger, anxiety, frustration, fear, worry. I ate a whole gallon of ice cream and a half a cake, and that was just my warm-up! Everybody else is having great family time. Praise the Lord! We did puzzles and we played games, and this is so great, and the only game you wanna play is hide and go seek. I'm gonna hide, kids. Don't anybody seek me".
It's supposed to be great for families, and we want to make our families disappear. Where was God in the middle of Peter's failures? Where as God in the middle of his pain, his regret? There was a purpose. There was a reason. Sometimes, God's preparation comes packaged as pain. That's why I try to tell myself, don't just look at life from a perspective of pain. This is so easy to do. It's especially easy in this season, just to look and say, "Well, here's what I've lost, and here's what's not fair, and here's what I used to have, and here's what I was going to do, and we were gonna go here for vacation, and we had this much money saved, and now that's gone, and this just isn't great. Here's what I was seeing, and now here's what I have".
Don't just look at life from a perspective of pain, but see your pain through a perspective of purpose. Realize that God may be doing something in you before He does something through you. That the difficult thing that you're going through right now, it's not without purpose. God may have allowed it to strengthen you in a way that only this pain could strengthen you. In fact, I love what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:28. One of the most-quoted verses in the Bible, with good reason. He says, "We know that in all things". Somebody say, "In all things". "We know that in all things".
That means that in the promotion or in the layoff. That means in the blessing of the relationship or in the breakup. That means when you make great decisions and you're proud of them, or you make the decisions that you regret. "We know that in all things, our good God works for the good of those who love him", watch this, "Who have been called according to his purpose". Somebody say purpose. They've been called according to His purpose. God works in all things, everything. Whatever you're going through right now, this season, God works in all things for the good according to God's purpose, not according to your pain.
What I wanna do is change the perspective of which I look at life, and see God's hand of purpose, even working in the middle of my pain. And I know I can only imagine what some of you are thinking right now, because I feel for you. You're thinking, "But you don't know how much I'm hurting, And you don't know desperate I feel, and it's easy for you, preacher boy, to act like everything's fine in your little preacher world but I'm really hurting right now". Maybe the very thing that you dreaded the most is what God might use to develop you in a way that He can only use that. In fact, the stronger the pain might be an indication of the bigger the purpose that God has on the other side.
In fact, we talked about the words of Jesus that frustrated me. I'll give you some other words that frustrated me. In James' writings, James says this in scripture. He says that to, "Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds". That's just kind of plain weird, right? Like, hey, you're supposed to be happy whenever things go bad. Like, woo-hoo, here's a problem! "Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds". Why? 'Cause there's a purpose. There's a purpose in your pain.
James said, "Because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance". There's a reason, there's a purpose. James says, "Let perseverance finish its work "so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything". Because sometimes, God's preparation comes packaged as pain. In fact, I want to look again at Luke's Gospel, Luke 22, verses 31 and 32. I told you this was a frustrating verse to me, and it can be.
Look again at what Jesus said. He said, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail". Then, watch what Jesus says. "Peter, Simon. and when you've turned back, strengthen your brothers. I prayed for you. And the very thing that your spiritual enemy wants to use to hurt you, I'm gonna use to strengthen you. You will turn back. And when you do, you're gonna be different. You're gonna be stronger. You will be prepared for my purpose. The pain was actually preparation".
If you don't know, after the Resurrection of Jesus, after He did fulfill His purpose and give His life, and God raised Him from the dead, the first person to preach on the power of the Resurrection and forgiveness was Peter, who preached at Pentecost. The pain was the preparation to preach at Pentecost when he said, "Repent of your sins", because he knew what it meant to be forgiven of sins. And 3000 people their lives to Christ and became disciples on that day because God was doing something in the middle of the pain. You may not always see it, but by faith, choose to believe it. God, give me eyes to see your purpose in the middle of the pain. I choose to believe it.
I'll tell you a little bit of my story. It's hard to believe it was only six weeks ago. It seems like six years ago. How many of you would agree that one day equals three months in COVID-19 time? It's crazy. It was six weeks ago that Pastor Bobby and I came back from Germany, and we had dinner with a guy that ended up testing positive. We took selfies with him, hugged him, prayed with him, sat right next to him, and so we thought we were the people most likely bringing the virus back to our state.
At that time, there were no cases in Oklahoma, and we thought, "We're gonna be the people that bring this here, and we could cost innocent people their lives. National news story, Pastor Craig, Pastor Bobby". And we were alone and quarantined, and it doesn't seem like that big of a deal now, but at the time, I felt stripped of all purpose. I felt useless, like I was taken out of the game. I battled this real sense of depression at feeling all alone, and so I realized, okay, there's gotta be a purpose. My purpose is that I'm going to be prepared when I come out.
So I worked 14, 15, 16-hour days. I'd get up, 3:30, four a.m., and I would write until I'd go to bed. I'd take a break to work out and a break to watch one Netflix show, of which I didn't even hit that target on every day. I just worked and worked and worked. I came out with messages prepared all the way through the end of May. I was prepared. And then there was no church and physical buildings when I got out, and I had not preached one single message that I wrote in 14 days of quarantine. Where are you in that, God?
Then, and my pain is not anything compared to what many people are going through right now, but as a person who has the heart of a shepherd. It's a metaphor in the Bible, that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, a pastor is a little shepherd, and then the people, we're all a bunch of sheep. Right now, the pain that I feel is that since we can't gather, it feels to me like the door to the sheep pen is open, and like the sheep can wander, and what horrifies me is knowing that there are wolves out there, that we have a spiritual enemy who wants to pick you off, pick you off, to steal from you, to hurt you, your family.
And I know, because many of you told me, "Oh, but we're so close right now. We're doing life group and we're so close", and I know that's true for some of you, but I am so afraid for so many of you. I am so afraid that in your boredom, you're wandering, and now maybe you're glancing again at pornography that's gonna poison your soul, and I know that there are those of you who weren't relying on the wrong chemicals, the drinks and the pills, and all of a sudden, now, you've gone to those things. And I know that there are some marriages that are doing good, 'cause we have time together, and others, that you're hanging by a thread. And it just, it wrecks me. I know.
I know I'm gonna see a purpose, but I don't see one right now. Like, I don't see it. Right now. There a good news. What I've found in walking with Jesus for three decades is if you look at life in any one snapshot, one moment, one day, it can be easy to be disillusioned, to feel like God's not using that. Where is He? This isn't fair. There's no purpose. What's the reason? I don't see a purpose. If you look at life in any single snapshot, it's so easy to miss what God might be doing, but what I found is if you look at life over any extended period of time, you look over a five-year period and then glance back to that snapshot of pain, you can say, "Oh! There is is".
Now I see how God used it. I didn't see it at the time. I would never wish it on anybody. I wouldn't wanna go through it again. But I'm so glad, because of what God did in me. There was a purpose. In the middle of that pain. So by faith, I'm not looking at life from a lens perspective of pain. Instead, I'm looking, believing I will see God's purpose. What will it be for you? Man, I don't know. I don't know what it'll be for you. Some of you right now, you've lost jobs. You feel like you've lost hope. You've got no idea. You feel maybe angry or frustrated or just worn out and afraid.
The greater the pain, perhaps the greater the purpose that's coming. How might God use it in your life? Maybe for some of you, you will connect with your children in a very real way, for the first time in so long, intimately getting involved in their world. Some of you, it may strengthen your marriage, and I'm not talking about the easy way of strengthening your marriage, like, "Oh, praise God, we have time together". It might be the boom, boom, boom! "We don't like each other". And you realize, "We've gotta address some problems that were underlying a long time ago. It's time for us to get some help", and on the other side of the pain you're experiencing now, you may see the purpose and blessing as God brings healing into your marriage.
For some of you, I just believe there will be ministries born out of this time. You'll see opportunities and ways to meet needs, to help people. Others of you, it might be a business. It might be what felt like a failure actually was a launching pad to something else, because God took you out of your comfort zone, and with all of my heart, I believe that there will be those of you that this very difficult, this very painful time will rock you out of your spiritual complacency. Knock you off of your self-sufficiency to where you come to a point of desperation where all you can do is cry out to a God who was already there and waiting to draw near to you the moment you near to Him.
Is it hard, sometimes? Yeah. It's hard. But there is a reason. Our God is working in all things to bring about good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. What's the purpose for this season? I don't know completely right now, but with every bit of faith in me, I know God will show His faithfulness. Look for it. Search for it. Believe it's there, because our God is that good, and when you turn back, strengthen your brothers. Make a difference. Declare the goodness of God. Declare His faithfulness. Give Him glory in all that you do. Let His goodness be evident to all that you meet, because with our God, there's always a reason. There is a purpose. Maybe this season of pain is preparation for the purpose that is to come.
So Father, today, for those that are hurting, we ask that the power of your Spirit would do what only you can do. God, give them endurance. May we consider it pure joy, when we face these trials, knowing you're doing something in us to develop us, to prepare us for the purpose that you have ahead.
Today, as you're reflecting, those of you that would say, "I wanna trust God for His purposes", you can just lift your hand in your bedroom, in your living room. You can just type it in the chat, "I'm trusting God. "I'm trusting God. I'm trusting God. I may not see it right now, but by faith, I believe it. I'm trusting God".
Father, according to your Word, we trust in you with all of our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding, God, but in all of our ways acknowledging you. God, for those who feel like there's not a point, it's not worth it, I pray, God, by the power of your Spirit you would comfort them, knowing that you will use all things to bring about good. God, give us eyes to see your purpose, that we could fulfill your plan and give you glory in all that we do. Help us to trust. Help us to trust you.
As you keep praying today, at all of our different churches, and living rooms and on the other side of computers and TV screens and mobile devices, there may be some of you who you recognize, "I'm missing out on what God wants for me". If we sat down and could just kinda have a coffee six feet apart, in one day, right to each other again, and I ask you, you know, "How you doing spiritually"? You might say right now, "I don't know. I'm kind of a wreck".
What I hope you'll understand is that our God is a good God and His great desire is to reveal His goodness to you. Our God is so good and so loving that He didn't just shout His love from heaven, but He showed His love on earth when He became one of us in the person of His Son, Jesus. Jesus, born of a virgin, He lived the perfect life without ever sinning or disobeying God, was obedient even unto death on a cross. He gave His life and our God raised Him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, no matter where you are, no matter who much you failed, no matter how far you've fallen short. Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, your sins would be forgiven, you would be made completely brand new.
You may look back and say, "Oh my gosh, I would have never been in a physical building, but I'm watching online right now. That's the purpose. God brought me to Him for this moment". You need His grace, you need His forgiveness. Just say, "Yes, Jesus, I turn from my sins. I give my life to you". Those of you at Church Online, click right below me. Those of you in a chat, just say, "I need His forgiveness. I'm giving my life to Jesus. I'm giving my life to Jesus, I'm giving my life to Jesus", and as you call on Him today, He will hear your prayer, He will forgive your sins, and He will make you new. Just type it in, click below me, and just pray aloud.
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus, save me, and make me new. Fill me with your Spirit so I can trust you and follow you and serve you. Thank you, God. There's a purpose. The purpose to know you, to show your love, to do your will, to live our your plan for my life. Prepare me for your purpose, whatever it takes. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. In Jesus' name I pray.