Whether it’s the common cold or a deadly cancer, physical pain is something every human will deal with. We all will be sick and we all will know people with a sickness. Sadly, enduring pain is just a part of living on this planet. Thankfully the Bible gives us specific counsel on how to endure seasons of pain and sickness.
The Bible explains that the only way to endure pain well is through Jesus Christ. Perfect health is not an option for ourselves or for those we love. Therefore, we must seek our satisfaction in Christ to get through physical sickness and pains of all sorts.
The Bible Says: Being Satisfied in Christ Keeps Us Spiritually Strong During Physical Weakness
The Bible explains that joy in Christ is the most important factor for enduring pain. If our joy is rooted in anything other than Jesus Christ, eventually it will fail us.
Only Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Our physical health is always changing. It is a fragile gift. It’s not right to devalue or take for granted a healthy body. But it is also not right to idolize our health and make it our source of ultimate joy.
These bodies are fading. Therefore our joy will fade if our happiness is found only in our lack of pain. Nehemiah 8:10 states, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” If we are not joyful in God, we will be weak. But even if we our physically weak because of a sickness, when our joy is in the Lord, we will be strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Being Satisfied in Christ Keeps Us from Becoming Self-Centered as We Endure Pain
Being physically ill and in pain is no small trial. It is a burden that is heavy to bear and God has compassion on the sick. We too should have compassion both for those who are sick and for ourselves when we are enduring pain.
But the Bible explains that being in pain can also be a temptation to self-centeredness. When you are enduring a sickness, it so easy to only think about yourself and allow your world to be consumed only with your own personal feelings and struggles.
The book of Philippians is tied together with the theme, “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1, 4:4). The entire book is centered on not letting our internal joy be governed by our external circumstances. The point is not to rejoice always, to rejoice in your circumstances, but to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Therefore the Bible says that to endure pain without becoming self-centered, we must have a healthy joy in the Lord at all times.
Paul summarizes his overall theme in the final chapter, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). This is how we can endure pain, through Christ who strengthens us.
In Philippians 2:25-30 Paul commends his companion for not allowing his physical sickness to ruin his joy or make him self-centered, “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus . . . for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. . . So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ.”
Notice that Epaphroditus did what he did “for the work of Christ.” But his attention and concern was not for his own sickness, rather he was “distressed because you heard that he was ill.” He was able to endure pain so well because his motivations were firmly rooted in Christ.
If our satisfaction is not found in Christ, enduring pain and sickness will undoubtedly make us a self-centered person. But if we can have joy in Christ despite the external trial, we will have the strength to love others even while we are in need of love and care.
Being Satisfied in Christ Keeps Healthy People Compassionate Towards Others Who Are Enduring Pain
Whether the sick person has genuinely become self-centered or the sickness is simply lingering and sucking the energy out of the friends, family, and caregivers, caring for the sick is not an easy job.
In Galatians 4:13-15, Paul reminds the Galatians of the selfless love they had for him during his illness because of their relationship with God:
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.”
Because of their love for Christ, though Paul’s sickness was a trial to them, they treated him with love because they treated him like they would Christ himself (Galatians 4:14). Paul is rebuking and encouraging them that if they hope to continue to love and show compassion like they did in the past as good Christians should, then they must pay closer attention to their relationship with God.
Paul knows that satisfaction in Christ is the only motivation that will fuel the caregiver in the compassionate, selfless love that he or she will need when caring for the ill.
In summary, the Bible says that to endure pain we must make our lives all about finding joy in Christ, seeking to glorify God in all things, including our seasons of sickness.