Pain brings up the most persistent questions for me; most likely for you, too. The question is age-old: “Why does a loving God let suffering happen?” No answer is perfect. For me, there is one answer that is inescapably true. C. S. Lewis wrote that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” When life is rich with sunshine and resources, we become self-satisfied, increasingly wrapped up in ourselves. Many develop a kind of conceit, deluded into believing that they have created their success, and all so often, so ready to accuse those in difficult circumstances of being less capable, or even lesser persons!
Levi Lusko is a young pastor from Montana, a man of many gifts and abilities. In a book he titled, Through the Eyes of a Lion, he tells the story of his daughter’s death. Lenya went to visit her Grandparents for dinner and a few hours later, her life here on earth came to an abrupt close during a severe asthma attack. Told without self-pity, the story urges us to grab onto God’s promise of eternal life and the Resurrection. Levi does not gloss over the grief, nor does he diminish the real struggle that accompanies loss. This is no simplistic tract of triumphalism! He offers, instead, a template for applying the Word of God to life, signposts to the path of faith that will protect us from despair.
In one chapter, he talks about the new facets to his life that emerged after Lenya’s death. I could identify with his realization that his pain had broken up hard places in his life and made him much more tender. It has happened to me, too. Once a man who resisted tears, who was too often brusque (I have a ways to go on this), I am now touched easily by pain, much more empathetic than I once was. Yes, God used pain, awful loss, to break my heart, in a good way.
But, even more important, Lenya’s dad speaks of a new ‘anointing’ that flowed into his life. In a section sub-titled, Crushed Like An Olive, he explains. In the Bible priests and kings were ‘anointed’ in a ritual that involved having olive oil poured over their heads. Here’s a reference – “…the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.” Psalm 133:2 (NLT) This olive oil that marked that person as God’s own, as one prepared for service, as one empowered by the Spirit was the product of a crushing.
A press applied great pressure to the olives and it produced the oil that was used for anointing. Now it gets good. “Jesus, who is both King and Priest forever, when to Calvary, but first he went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means ‘olive press.’ …. Beyond the ceremonial oil, there in the Garden, Jesus knelt down and was in such agony (of spirit), under such great pressure that He sweat drops of blood. There He was crushed before He went to the cross. … You cannot get to Calvary without going through Gethsemane.” (Lusko)
My greatest desire is to be used by God to do His work. More than money, fame, or fun times I want to know Him and make Him known. But, I cannot do that without an anointing of the Spirit. Nor, can you. The cost of that anointing is crushing! Isaiah said that the Redeemer would be “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3, NIV) And, Jesus was that! But, from His crushing and anointing flows the Life for me, for you, for the world.
Do you desire to be an intimate of God, ‘anointed’ for service? Pain is part of the process! A. W. Tozer writes that “It is doubtful whether God could ever bless a person greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” You may have to think about that for a while before you add your agreement.
If you are walking in a hard situation, if you are wrestling with pain, grief, rejection, loss, temptation – whatever is actually so common to the human experience – offer it to God for His purpose. Ask Him to make you tender, to sharpen your spiritual hearing, and to release the sweet fragrance of His anointing in your crushing.
No, I am not making it a poetic, romantic notion. It is simply the reality of spiritual endeavor. Here is a word from the Word, Jesus’ own invitation. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)