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One Thing God Never Said About Pain (So Christians Shouldn't Either)

Originally published Monday, 12 February 2018.

In 1939, before Corrie ten Boom hid Jewish neighbors from the Nazis, she had a dream in which her family was dragged away on a flatbed truck. Corrie’s sister said it foretold bad times ahead, but comfortingly conveyed: God knows.

God knows? Was that some kind of warped consolation? We, too, know what awaited Holland residents in 1939.


Then 1941.

Then another four horrifying years after that.

Prime Minister Chamberlain told Holland that there would be no war. He was asking Corrie to close her eyes to the reality around her. Corrie’s political leader asked her to pretend this was not going to hurt.

Corrie’s God, did not.

One thing God never says about pain? Pretend it doesn’t hurt.

Corrie had an ironclad sense of God’s will, specifically that the barbarism going on around her was not it. However, stepping out to do something about it was going to hurt. God didn’t promise otherwise, but He did promise to be with her the whole way.

Years later, she testified that, in fact, He was.

That God could have saved them all from the Nazis was not lost on Corrie. That He did not was as confusing to her as anyone. If God so loved the world, then one would assume His children suffering in pain must be utterly unbearable for Him.

Which speaks to the concept of God’s love.

Scripture tackles the complexity of God’s love with Technicolor coat Joseph, who is known in church circles for keeping the faith, even though Joseph’s circumstances hurt him very much. How do we know he hurt? He cried. And cried and cried. He’d had troubles and affliction and he called his kids names that commemorated that truth. (Gen 42:24, 43:30, 45:2, 41:51)

Corrie’s father once told her, “Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love,” he said. “Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked, that means pain.”

Joseph’s story is about hurting, but it is also about love, happening right there in the same proximity. God was with Joseph. That love brought about national changes that saved lives and personal changes that saved a family.

But, the process…hurt.

Like Joseph, Corrie had other options. We all do. As Corrie’s father put it, “We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies too.”

Corrie chose neither to kill the love nor mollify the pain. Facing facts head on, she stepped out and did what she could, which saved many lives.

Pretending hurt does not hurt, is not an act of faith in God, nor does it accomplish the work that needs doing. Joseph got this. Corrie ten Boom did too.

So, too, can we Christians, so long as we resist saying false platitudes that patronize hurt and instead stick with God’s script on the matter.

He wishes we would.