God Breathes When Life is Filled with Pain

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/17/2020

Our topic this week is God Breathes… When Life is Filled with Pain. I’m really excited to talk about this, I think this will be super relevant and encouraging. Before we get started, however, I wondered if you could help me out?

There is a little known verse over in Galatians 6:6 says, “Let the one who is taught the word share all his good things with the teacher.” Would you be take just a few minutes and tell us how this Holy Spirit series is impacting you? We can see that record numbers of people are listening, but we really want to hear from you! We also want to know how to pray for you! Go to lakesidechristian.com/check-in.

Well pain is something were deeply acquainted with. And not all pain is the same. There are different kinds of pain, different degrees of pain, even different seasons of pains. We’re not anymore exempt from pain than God the Father, or Jesus the Son, or the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us how even the Holy Spirit grieves!

One of the most important chapters in all the Bible on navigating pain is Romans 8. Not surprisingly, the whole chapter is packed with references to the ministry/activity of the Holy Spirit. I am a little embarrassed, I didn’t notice all the references to pain in Romans 8 until past week. But they are definitely there!

In your Bible, editors insert headings and verse numbers to break up the text, and help us find stuff. The headings/numbers/footnotes/side notes aren’t scripture themselves—their additions! In my Christian Standard Bible, one of the headings they give in Romans 8 is “From Groans to Glory.” Boy, if ever there was phrase to describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it’s that God Spirit carries us from groaning to glory.

This is probably going to be the most important message you’ve heard in a long while! Let me summarize some the PAIN that makes all of us grow.

First, We Groan Because of Fleshly Living. I think its pretty obvious that people have one of two mindsets. Some people have a spiritual mindset—and by “spiritual” I mean a Holy Spirit conditioned mindset. There are many of us who actually pray, and labor over God’s Word, to discern what pleases God. And we do so with the intention of obeying God fully. Not that we can obey God perfectly—still it’s our goal to please God in every single way discernable. In Romans 8:6 Paul says, “The mindset of the Spirit is life and peace.” In Romans 8:10 he says, “the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.” A Spirit-led life is inherently joyful, and life-giving, and peaceful. There is no greater way to reduce drama and trauma in your life than being led by the Spirit of the living God!

But there’s a completely other mindset people have. In Romans 8:4 Paul speaks of those “who walk according to the flesh.” Romans 8:5, those who “live according to their flesh” and who “have their minds set on the things of the flesh.” But notice two things Paul points out about the fleshly mindset—he doesn’t mince a single word. Romans 8:6, “the mindset of the flesh is death.” Romans 8:7, “the mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law.”

There is nothing more painful than living according to the flesh. In the beginning, the flesh is very alluring. You eat, and drink, and be merry. You throw caution to the wind, “so what, tomorrow I die.” But when the pain sets in, we don’t remain so cavalier. Just as righteousness has its own built in rewards, sin has its own built in curses. And sin becomes so powerful Paul says in Romans 8:8, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” It doesn’t say, “will not” it says, “cannot.” Apart from God you can’t stop doing the very sins that are killing you. You’re a dead man sinning yourself, accelerating yourself, toward death!

Doesn’t the pain of sin just make you groan? You never feel so helpless than when you, or someone you love, is groaning under the pain of sin. Who is that can/will deliver you from your body of death? Romans 8:11, “if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die!” But look also, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” OHHH! So the Spirit of God can rescue me! YES!

Second, We Groan Because of Lost Identity. From time to time, people in my life have thought some pretty terrible/harsh things about me. I’m sure that is true for you too. We’ve all been hated, disparaged, for one reason or another. People’s words are a source of great pain… especially the words of those closest to us. But I’ll tell you whose words hurt us infinitely more—it’s our own words! It’s the ridiculous, hateful, false, condemning curses we speak over ourselves! Here is the truth: The more you sin, the more you hate yourself and feel hated by others. Is there any greater pain than self-hate, self-condemnation?

We give people trapped in self-hate terrible advice. We mean well, but we say really ridiculous things like, “You just need to love yourself… talk yourself out it… swap negative thoughts for happy thoughts… be positive, be happy, be joyful.” Telling someone whose depressed, discouraged, or suicidal to just love themselves is like telling a drowning man to just swim. A self-hating person needs a tangible, exterior, reference point beyond “self” by which they can believe they’re even lovable, or redeemable, or salvageable, or worth saving! As believers we have not just exterior confirmation but eternal confirmation of our lovability!

Romans 8:1 “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:2, a new sheriff is in town, “the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesu shas set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:3-4a. “What the law could not do, since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sinful offering, or other that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us. . .” Any debt you owe God has been satisfied in Christ. If you have any doubt about the extent of your lovability, consider the extent of Christ’s love. He died for you, so you wouldn’t have to die!

It gets better. Romans 8:14, “For all those led by God’s Spirit are sons (and daughters).” Romans 8:15-17a, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery, to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children also heirs, heirs of God and coheirs with Christ. . .”

I mean, you can spend all day looking in the mirror telling yourself how much you love yourself… but it’s probably not going to help you much… and the reason is because deep down you don’t believe yourself, you can’t and don’t trust your own words. But now God’s words are a completely different matter. If God declares that he loves you, and God demonstrates that love to the point of death, and God puts his Holy Spirit in you, that’s a different matter. Now you know it is not just self-talk, you know it is true and of God.

There is no greater healing available to emotional pain than the deafening roar of the Holy Spirit shouting over your thoughts of self-condemnation: “You are a Son! You are a daughter! You are beloved! Christ died for you! Have no fear! You are an heir! A co-heir with Christ! Your future is promising and bright!”

There is no greater healing available to emotional pain than God’s powerful Holy Spirit shouting through your ever-weak spirit, “Abba! Father! Daddy! I’m a child of the Most High God!”

Third, We Groan Because of Physical Mortality. I think about all the young children sitting on the couch, maybe listening to their message with mom/dad. What did you understand about your own mortality when you were in grade school? Probably not much. Every parent has different philosophies. For some of you, your philosophy of parenting is to shelter your kids from the reality of death. Right now, you’re working double overtime to cover your kids eyes and ears, and distract them, and prevent COVID-19 anxiety, and explain away fear, at all costs!
I want to say, instead of giving your kids fear, or ignorance, give them hope!

In Romans 8:17 Paul reminds us that “suffering” isn’t our destiny—being “glorified with Christ” is our destiny! Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.” Parents, it might be a year here in Illinois, before your child is allowed to go to church again. That means that you are your child’s children’s minister. You are your teen’s youth minister. Your children and teens aren’t calling up the church begging us to tell them about HOPE. They are sitting shell-shocked in their room, hunkered down in fear, struggling alone with their own mortality. If you don’t point them to HOPE nobody else can right now!

Death doesn’t have the final word. Romans 8:18-25 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 Now in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”

Fourth, We Groan Because of Indescribable Pain. Let me say more about pain though—because having future hope is one thing, and suffering presently another. A few years ago, I had a bout with gout (that rhymes) that was the most incredibly painful thing I’d ever experienced in my life. That gout got into my knees so deeply, literally “any” movement in my body sent piercing pain racing up my spine. I screamed. I cried. I wailed. I had to give up my Macho-Man-Card. Nothing I could humanly do helped. I prayed as hard I knew to pray. I pleaded with God for healing, but that pain persisted weeks. And after my one knee sort of got better, the other got even worse. Pain level… TEN TEN TEN! After a while, I stopped praying with words. You know what I did instead? I just groaned. I just totally surrendered, not to the pain, not to fear/doubt, but to God. I was in too much pain to think clearly, and maybe even to believe clearly.

But right in the midst of my groaning I was reminded of Romans 8:26-28! “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should [ever been there?]. but the Spirit himself interceded for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Think about it! The Holy Spirit groans alongside us. But more than that, he prays, he intercedes on our behalf. I asked a lot of people to pray for me—maybe people didn’t know how best to pray for me. The Spirit knew exactly what to pray, and God raised up some pretty incredible Spirit-led people in this church to get me on the path of healing. God breathes—when our life is filled with pain. (1) He leads us out of the flesh into righteousness. (2) He establishes our identity as sons/daughters loved of God Himself. (3) He clothes these mortal bodies with immortality. (4) He brings healing to our groaning bodies.  

Fifth, Our Groaning is Never in Vain. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one last point. In God’s economy, pain is never wasted. Whether we experience healing, and go on living in this life. Or whether we die and get clothed with immorality and light… nothing is wasted. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” What is God’s eternal purpose? It’s this… Romans 8:29, “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of Son. . .” I’m going to be honest with you—I hate pain, and I hate seeing people in pain. But I have to be honest about this—I love how God uses pain to make us more like his Son Jesus. I love how the work of God’s Holy Spirit (which is also God’s word of redemption) is IN NO WAY IMPEDED BY PAIN.

Romans 8:30, “And those he predestined; he also called, and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.” So there you have it!
When our life is filled with pain. . .
God’s Holy Spirit takes us from groaning to glory!

Scripture Verses

Romans 8

Worship Playlist

Found in You by Vertical Worship

All Creature of Our God and King by Sovereign Grace

In Christ Alone by Passion

Be Still by Hillsong Worship

Study Questions

God Breathes When Life is Full of Pain.

1. What kinds of pain have you experienced in life? How might God’s Holy Spirit help you with pain you are facing today?

2. How are the painful challenges you are facing now helping transform your character to be more like Christ?

3. When have you had to cling tightly to God’s promises, not knowing the outcome of a painful situation?

4. Write a prayer openly expressing your challenges, despair, confusion, or anger about a situation causing pain in your life.


“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.” --C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.


Apply It!

Resources

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, 1940