the sacrament of pain?

P.T. Forsyth, an early twentieth-century English preacher and writer, once described pain as a sacrament, something through which God imparts grace to us. He stated:

We pray for the removal of pain, pray passionately, and then with exhaustion, sick from hope deferred and prayer’s failure. But there is a higher prayer than that. It is a greater thing to pray for pain’s conversion than for it’s removal. It is more of a grace to pray that God would make a sacrament of it. The sacrament of pain! God has blessed pain even in causing us to pray for relief from it…. Whatever drives us to Him, and even nearer Him, has a blessing in it.


All the above is from David Timms, Sacred Waiting: Waiting in a World that Waits for Nothing. Bethany House Publishers, 2009. 135. The Forsyth quote is from his book, The Soul of Prayer and quoted in Timms’ Sacred Waiting.

Wow!! (for me at least) This gives us much food for thought especially in a society that eschews pain or suffering of any kind, even going so far sometimes to blame the sufferer for their own problem.  Afterall, God helps those who help themselves, right?

Instead of eschewing our pain, God calls us to embrace the pains of life as a means of grace in that the pains of life drive us to the the only true place we can receive help and grace in our time of need, throne of God. It is only in this place that pain can transform us and draw us closer to the Lord.



4 responses to “the sacrament of pain?

  1. WOW…that hurts! 😉 Actually, I would agree that pain can and should be made sacramental in that we may share in the life of Christ Jesus and know his victorious redemptive presence through it.

  2. There are many levels of pain within the framework of human existence. There is the pain of failure, death, injury, sickness, rejection, loss and even life itself. Much of society is geared to escaping, ignoring or sedating that pain.

    On a personal level: I don’t believe that God wants to keep us bound in that pain, rather wants to use that experience to show us more of his grace and mercy in moving through that pain. And I speak as one who has experienced great pain.

    Ultimately the sacrament of pain was completed on the cross. For he who endured the pain of the cross was set free from the pain of sin and death. And this too is our very great and precious promise.

    • I guess it depends on the pain Craig. What about the person who becomes wheelchair bound through an accident that is permanent? There is pain in that and it can go on and on. One of the main ideas Timms talks about is the importance of presence and service as part of our waiting on God – I wonder if pain in life is the main thing people need to remain present to the Lord in service to him? Without pain we often tend to be less present to the Lord and attentive to him (though this is not true of everyone, but many). I knew a person once in College who had become wheelchair bound and disabled through an accident and folks would ask him how he gets through it. He replied that before the accident he didn’t pay much attention to the Lord where as now he is more attentive to the Lord and prays much more than he did before.

      I don’t want to downplay what you are saying as much of the pain we experience in life we can move past, but some of it may be our companions for life.

  3. Even if the pain remains with us till death, we move past it into new life. And this is the hope we have in Christ. And within the framework of great personal pain, God instils a sense of joy which in moves through that pain giving us strength.

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