One of my favorite films growing up was The Princess Bride. In fact, I watched it so often that my family went through two VHS tapes (kids, ask your parents what these are) and even memorized the audio sequence to the lengthy sword fight! I know the film so obnoxiously well that my wife refuses to watch it with me.
There is a line that has continued to resonate with me into my adult life. After beating Vizzini (the villain) in a battle of wits, the man in black (Spoiler Alert: he’s really the hero, Wesley) says to his beloved Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
This is a dark and sobering truth revealed in the midst of an otherwise silly and amazingly “puntastic” movie.
It is true that life is pain. As we live between Eden and heaven, we suffer. We experience the pain of sickness, sin and death. Some of us experience suffering in a more intense way for prolonged periods of time and are tempted to despair.
There is great hope in the midst of suffering. The apostle Paul was no stranger to the pains of this life and especially to the difficulties of the ministry. Listen to his words to the Christians in Corinth: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8–10).
It is true that we experience pain in this life. However, this is only half of the truth for us in Christ.
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Pain and suffering are temporary for us in this life. In Christ we are never given reason to despair because he is our unfailing hope, the anchor of our soul.
He is bringing us from one degree of glory to another! The beautiful truth is that this is as bad as it gets for us in Christ. He has secured for us an eternity of unimaginable blessing. He reveals a small part of what heaven will be like, telling us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Praise God that this life is not as good as it gets! Take heart in the midst of your suffering. Jesus is with you in the power of his Spirit, preserving you, growing you in grace, and “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
The meaning of life is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. We find our purpose in serving him. Press on in this service. When you are tempted to burn out, renew your joy in Christ! Find deep refreshment in his means of grace: the Word, sacraments and prayer. Enjoy these blessings in the fellowship of the saints!
When you are feeling weary of this life, take to heart Paul’s words of encouragement, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9–10).
I am coming through a season of being worn out and stretched thin. However, the Lord has sustained me each day. When I thought I could not continue, he provided just enough rest and refreshment to press on. He showed me that with his grace I can handle far more than I previously thought.
I am now able to identify more with Paul’s testimony: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
The Lord brings suffering into our lives, he preserves us through it, he uses it for our good and his glory, and he brings us beyond suffering into glory!
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10).
Hang in there! Don’t lose heart. Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Serve with the strength he supplies. Find your rest, refreshment and renewal in him.
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).