Pain is an important element of reality in this world. It is not only often helpful but is absolutely necessary to human health and well being. How do you know to keep your hands away from an open flame? To wash a grain of sand from your eye? Any physician will tell you that a person whose nerves can't send pain signals will have serious problems in living a normal life.

Yet there is a serious error in some churches, Bible study materials, and personal belief systems when the naïve claim is made that true faith makes one immune to suffering. Really? Then I wonder why it didn't keep innocent Naboth from being stoned to death when wicked King Ahab decided to seize his land? How could Stephen have been murdered for bearing witness to Jesus? Or Cassie Bernall at Columbine? Or Martin Burnham in the Philippine jungle?

God allows suffering, but he is not the one who causes it and sends it into our lives. We experience pain because we live in physical bodies in a contingent world. We suffer psychic pain because we are sensitive to misfortune, loss, and death. And the most horrible wounds that come to our spirits are traceable to our own wrong choices — rebelling against God and hurting one another.

Faith is not a vaccine against these things. If it were, everyone would be a Christian for the worst possible reason! It would indulge our selfishness. It would exempt us from the tough things everybody else has to face in this life. More correctly, faith is a relationship with God that provides the daily presence, strength, and encouragement of the Living Christ for whatever comes your way.

Are miracles real? Does God still deliver people from their suffering by clear and direct intervention? Certainly. But miracles are by definition rare and out of the ordinary. So I'm suspicious of the person who — especially in front of a camera — offers to make the uncommon and infrequent into on-demand events.

Faith is not a vaccine against these things.
The answer Paul was given is surely the more typical reply to suffering people: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) Instant peace and easy answers are not God's promise to you. His pledge is that you will never be unloved and alone.

Pray for pain to be a bridge rather than a barrier for you. Never feel obliged to deny its reality or menace. But trust God to provide sufficient grace for each day. And give him the chance to work the world's worst to a spiritual victory.