God can bring good out of our pain.
God can use it for a positive purpose. Adversity can bring out untapped depths of character and faith.
Beethoven was at his zenith, a well-known, respected, loved composer in Vienna. Then, tragedy of tragedies, his hearing began to go. A degenerative disease destroyed his hearing until he was totally deaf. He could not hear a sound. Unfair? Of course! Of all people to be denied hearing, Beethoven should have been the last. It was a loss for humanity. He left the music world of Vienna and it seemed as if he would never again be able to produce or create glorious music. He retreated to a monastery where he could be alone with his private pain.
But while he was there, God spoke to him. He gave him music that Beethoven alone could hear in is mind. The music was glorious. Writing furiously, Beethoven’s brilliant talent translated silent sounds to marks on paper that could be read and performed by musicians. The results were phenomenal. His Ninth Symphony finally emerged and he stood silently next to the conductor in the beautiful hall of Vienna with the audience seated behind him.
The audience leaped to its feet in thunderous applause. Because Beethoven could not hear the applause, the conductor turned him to face the adulation of the audience. It was a spectacular moment in music history. Even today we still sing, “Joyful, joyful …” Who would of thought that anyone was capable of creating his best music after losing his hearing?
Victor Frankl was a world renowned psychiatrist. He was living in Vienna when Hitler began his persecution of the Jews. He was a young doctor at the time. His parents – fearful and anguished – were thrilled to see their son received an invitation to go to America to work. This was his chance to escape the horror on the horizon.
“I was ecstatic,” Victor said. “I was already in danger. I was forced to wear the Jewish star exposed like a name tag on a chain- on my chest – for all to see at all times – that I was a Jew. And Jews could not leave the country unless they had a very good reason to emigrate. Armed with my American letter, I walked into the emigration office. As I approached the window, I held my briefcase over my chest – covering my stigmatic sign. I handed the letter to the official and walked out of there with official documents allowing me to leave the country for the freedom and safety of America.
“As I walked back to my office I began to have mixed feelings. Should I abandon my father and mother? Could I – should I – leave them behind? My heart prayed for guidance. When I reached my office, I sat, troubled, behind my desk. ‘What’s this?’ I said noticing a broken piece of marble someone had placed in the middle of my desk.
“Just then a colleague came in. ‘Look what I found, Dr. Frankl.’ He pointed to the marble in my hand. ‘I thought you’d like it’, he said, explaining, ‘I was past the bombed out synagogue and saw this piece. It’s the complete capital letter from one of the Ten Commandments! A sign of hope!
“I asked him which commandment it was from. I’ll never forget his reply. His answer was God’s answer to my prayer for guidance. He said, ‘Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).’
“I knew then that whatever the cost, I would not go to America. I tore up my ticket to freedom. I would stay. Yes, I was captured and sent to a concentration camp. But there I found meaning! And I have survived and lived long!” He was approaching his eightieth birthday. Who knows what would have happened if he had gone to America.
Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good to those who love God …”
Joseph said, “… You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).” His jealous brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. But in Egypt, a prisoner in a foreign and hostile land, he the won the favour of the Pharoah and rose to the most powerful position in that nation. Years later his brothers came to Egypt from their famine-ridden country hopefully to buy grain from this unfriendly, but prosperous government. Imagine their shock when the person they had to deal with was their long-lost brother who they had tried to destroy!
Joseph looked into their eyes and said those powerful words, “You meant it for evil – But God meant it for good.” He was really saying, “I’ve leaned through all these years, Life’s not fair. My brothers didn’t treat me fairly, but God is good!”
Not all stories of pain and suffering have such a happy ending. Sometimes in this life, we never see the purpose. Sometimes death itself is a relief from pain.
God uses suffering for our good (Rom.8:28. Phil.1:29; 3:10. 1 Peter 2:21, Acts 14:22. 1 Peter 1:6-11; 4:12-13; 5:10. Hebrews 6:15, 12:2-3, James 5:10-11, Job 23:10-14, 42:5).
God is more interested in the “inner” person. He wants to transform us.
When we suffer, how will we respond?
- With fear and retreat, running from it?
- With despair and defeat?
- With hardness and unfeeling?
- With brave belief that somehow there will be some sense to it in time?