Is Pain A Gift?

If we saw the difficult moments of our life and the pain they create as a gift in which God gets to make himself known then we would more easily connect with him and gain traction on our journey, according to Joni Menard, a long-time God Journey listener, blog commenter, and resident of Edmond, OK. In this first of two parts, Joni schools Wayne on the unique struggle of the feminine soul and its implication on the God journey. Sharing from her own unique journey and a great crisis she that engulfed her, Joni encourages others to come in our brokenness before God and find out how deeply loved they are in the tender gaze of an adoring Father. Then will you know that he views you as a treasure.

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  1. I’m 59, married, 5 children, followed Christ since 7. I love the Lord and am not religious at all. I believe God’s ultimate desire is to share His glory with me, as well as to complete the forming of His bride from among all ethne. We have a precious group of couples who fellowship very informally most weeks and we have other close friends who really love the Lord.

    I’ve received every spiritual, medical and therapeutic intervention imaginable, with some extended seasons of joy, since depression started in the late 80’s. We even were trained for 18 months in Theophostic prayer. A year ago I started waking with crippling anxiety that could persist the whole day and I would feel I’m totally inauthentic and removed from normalcy, despite having a wonderful family. From Type A and B abuse/deprivation growing up I may have still not formed a peaceful identity. Now am functioning well as long as I stay on Cymbalta and Lorazepam. Without those I feel totally overwhelmed by life. I want the reality that “Holy Spirit, You are all I need” to run deeper and more experiential. My wife hears God’s voice constantly. I don’t.

  2. A quick note to say how much I appreciated Joni’s insight and the playful way she talked about bringing a feminine voice to this journey. Glad to see that these are issues (how pain impacts our response) to God and His process of invitation in our lives on both men and women. I’m thankful for the growing space to see both sides as equal even when we’re “wired” differently in some areas. Looking forward to more of this conversation next time.

  3. Loved your thoughts Joni about the joy and presence of God being transformative.

  4. First let me say that I am not a woman, though my wife often tells me I fight like a girl. I don’t know what that means. 🙂

    I understand what Joni means when she says, “Pain is a gift.” I see it like this: I lost my sister in the 9/11 attacks in NYC. She and I were very close and she was getting ready to move with her boys to the same neighborhood in NC my wife, boys and I were living. My wife and I just happened to be off that day when we could hear the voice of a friend on our voicemail saying, “Hey! I just saw on TV that a plane has just flown into the WTC. Isn’t that where Frank’s sister works?”

    Immediately we were up, turned on the TV and after a bit tried to call my sister Sue, we called her Susie. But it was strange because it was at that moment that I could sense God’s presence palpably. A peace swept over me that was inexplicable.

    Without belaboring the details of the events that followed, God’s peace stayed with me during the ordeal. It was a gift because of what I was able to do for others during that time. I started getting emails and phone calls from family, friends even from days long gone, and complete strangers. All wanted to know where God was in all of this? How could this happen to Sue? She was such a great person and had a whole life ahead of her.

    To this day his peace is with me and though I have my dark moments of sorrow because Sue couldn’t be with us at our mom’s 90th birthday, Kim’s and my 25th anniversary, the graduation of her boys (soon the youngest will graduate from college), and all the other special moments since that day. But I remember that Father loves her every bit as much as he loves me or you or anyone on this whole planet. He didn’t cause this tragedy, nor the one in Boston, the quake in China, or the explosion in Texas. But he is there to walk us through the pain we face, any and all of the pain of this life. That is the gift I believe Joni is talking about. His presence is our gift in good times and bad. As it says in Ephesians, we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ.”

  5. Joni – thanks for taking time to speak on the Podcast. I’ve listened to about 50% of the podcasts over the last 7-8 years and this is one of my favorite. I really appreciate the growth and wisdom in your words and your testimony (an often misused word in my book).

    Wayne – Thanks for including Joni. Love to hear more with her (like the ones you did with Tom M).

  6. Thanks Joni. Wayne you interrupt a lot. I think some interesting threads were not explored. I think you are being yourself but she has a different personality. My thoughts. Useful or framing or wrapping fish……..Mark

  7. Thank you for sharing, Frank. Your words are an encouragement.

    I look forward to hearing Joni share more about Father’s working through our pain to reveal his love for us.

  8. Question – what is the difference between God sending something and God allowing “something”?

  9. @Chad, the perspective I took away from Wayne and Joni exploring this…Wayne was sharing his caution in “blaming” God…like giving God the character of someone who’s unloving. Rather Wayne saw this as the gift being “wrapped” in the pain. This is different than God saying “OK…I think I’ll send Joni (insert x)”. Rather it’s the mystery of looking at the brokenness which is a part of living here on earth and seeing Father’s tears as He walks His children through various degrees and types of pain. These events can be transformative and this is Father’s vision…even when we’re angry about what’s happened or confused or both. The walk is about Jesus gently bringing us to a place where we see His love more clearly…not necessarily have all of our questions answered. Not sure if this clarifies for you…just adding a few thoughts.

  10. Wow you people are amazing. Sue, precisely. Well said. And Mark you my friend are on the money. All though when Wayne and I were actually in my kitchen it did not feel like he was interrupting. But on some of the podcast I find myself hearing him interrupting. I don’t know, conversations are messy.
    Want to thank everyone for their very kind words and for listening in. I love Wayne’s description of me educating him. Very funny. I am still not sure exactly what I mean by feminine perspective. When I listen to these conversations, I can pretend to be there, and what I say and ask and respond with seems like it stays unspoken. I chalked that up to my gender perspective. I know we see the world differently. I struggle to put words around it.
    I love the people on this forum. You all have no problem putting words around your experiences.
    Thank you again for encouraging me. We don’t do that enough in the Body.

  11. Sorry this has nothing to to with the podcast, I just wanted to share this.

    So many years I worked for you
    Did what I thought you wanted me to
    It took me all this time to see
    You didn’t want my work, you wanted me

    I tried and tried so very much
    To build your kingdom, to build your church
    But all that I did and tried to do
    Is not worth a minute of knowing You

    I tried my best and thought for sure
    If I worked real hard you’d love me more
    Didn’t think for a minute I was insulting your Son
    By trying to pay for what He’d already done

    Loved completely with a love that’s free
    With a love that depends on You not me
    Loved if I do, loved if I don’t
    Loved if I will and loved if I won’t

    Loved by a Father who I’m learning to trust
    To trust cuz I want to, not cuz I must
    Loved by a Father I’m getting to know
    Whose love my life is beginning to show

    I worked out of guilt, I worked out of fear
    Missing your love year after year
    It’s taken me all this time to see
    You didn’t want my work, you wanted me.

  12. Thanks Joni for sharing part of your story – there was so much I could relate to: we lost our first child 21 years ago and yes, there were times I felt like I’d lost something in motherhood (a good way to describe it!!!)

    I wouldn’t necessarily think that “pain is a gift” because it could easily be interpreted as “go hurt, cause than God will bless you.” My husband and I were missionaries for 15 years and sacrificially gave of ourselves in our own country. The culture of the organisation affirmed “wholeheartedness” in the work, and so no-one ever voiced they might be on the verge of burn-out; to do so would suggest you had lost your commitment to God and his kingdom work; that somehow you had failed in your relationship with God. Heaven looked good to me cause then I could stop and take a thousand-year break. Looking back I now describe this conformity as “human sacrifice” – the work was more important than the worker.

    I reckon there are “gifts” that come through experiencing a painful time. I can now empathise with mothers who loose a child – I can be an ear that listens and understands the confusing emotions. I can love those who have given up on trying to build a relationship with God cause I was in that place. The gift is discovering the place of closeness to God, where his love of me compels me to love others.

    I loved the description of “joy” coming through the smell of naval oranges from California. For me in Australia its the smell of rain on eucalyptus trees, sunshine on my head on a cold winters morning, or the intricacy of detail of native bush orchids that is seen through my camera’s lens – each bring joy and wonder. Perhaps these are the things that haven’t been twisted by sin in my life, and I’m freed to simply enjoy them as a gift from God.

  13. Joni, I loved this conversation. And I completely get the joy part you said would make you sound weird to many. The mention of the fragrance of the navel orange and the connection to Divine Presence completely resonates with me.

    Looking forward to listening to the rest of the conversation.

  14. Joni, I understand what you meant about your motherhood taking a hit. It’s our identity and mission and responsibility. It’s part how deeply we care for and love our children, part the responsibility we shoulder for their safety and development, but it’s more. It’s hard to put into words. Motherhood consumes our sense of who we are. If we think we failed at mothering, that sense of failure is very deep.

  15. Thanks, Robin, for sharing the poem. It’s just what I am learning to know about myself and my Beloved. There is no higher joy than to know that we are well and truly loved!

  16. Wow I lost track of this thread. Robin you had no idea what was coming on the next podcast but OMGOODNESS that poem is a beautiful description for me of what I meant by Divine Gaze.

    Rosa you fleshed out really well the issue (which Wayne brought up yay) the distinction about how pain is a gift. Here is another way for me to say it: Daniel’s death is not my pain. His death created a dent in my “mothering heart”. That because this happened my mothering was going to fail. The lie in that is that God would be absent in my mothering. That is the real pain. And then later on at the same time receiving that gentle reassurance that there is no separation between us even when it doesn’t feel like there is connection. Which is a picture of exactly what was going on on the cross. God was not absent He never left Jesus even when it feels like He has left. Some how pain exposes this lie. I don’t want to pretend that I understand any of it. Its all grace and its all mystery.

    I am thinking every human heart is wounded. We want to hide it (deception) because to see it is to feel it and know it. We all come to each other(in community) (and God)wanting to be relieved aka healed of the pain. And what a false notion. And what if Paul’s request for removing the thorn is this kind of thing. Not his crippled way of walking or problems with speech or any of that stuff. Because its the heart wound that will keep us either running to Him or like the prodigal running away from Him. I wonder if Living Loved would mean we drop the story(expectation) that the “pain” “wound” “thorn” should be removed(healed) and instead received, as Paul did, as a gift for our relationship and to enhance our intimacy level with the Trinity.

  17. Thank you, Joni, for your thoughts in the Podcast and on the comments. I understand what you mean about Paul’s request for removing the thorn. I have been praying that God would remove a thorn of pain in my life, but also I know that the pain is here to stay and will always be a part of my life, and that joy is also a part of that pain. I chose to ( to use your words) make a “cliff jump” into that pain. I knew God was there with me, His presence and love pulling me to a deeper level of relationship with Him. I chose to feel the pain and not deny it. I look back and it seems like I cried for more than a year, but I also was filled with a deep joy throughout the same time. It is hard to describe, but I know that going through the pain and choosing to feel the reality of it would help me to not displace it in my soul and have it breed other problems later in my life or adversly affect others in my life, like my husband or my children. Now, just on the other side of that pain, have a new freedom in my life and an awesome joy that is unexplainable. Thank you again, Joni, for your thoughts. I am looking forward to listening to your continuing conversation with Wayne.

  18. I so appreciated Joni’s female voice on the God Journey. I want to share something as I am not a religious type at all, but my relationship with god is a guiding force in my life. I so appreciate the show because I find few religious or spiritual places that discuss a relationship with god with “no strings attached”.

    On my own deepening connection with a higher presence in my life, I struggle to connect with something I hear often on the show – the concept of “God, our father” and referring to God as He. I have a difficult and strained relationship with my own physical father due to decades of emotional and other forms of abuse. It is a relationship I am slowly working through, including the concept of forgiveness, which is easy to suggest, but more difficult to put into practice.

    Anyway, I recently found a service that used language that was more inclusive of the female spirit in God alongside the male. I found barriers were lifted and God right there, so easily. It might seem like just semantics, but given my own personal history, I thought maybe God was finding its way to me.

    As I so appreciate the podcast and its much needed voice in today’s spiritual communities, I’d like to suggest looking for ways to incorporate more female voices and the ideas of “She, our mother” to accompany “He, our father.” I know this is not traditional in religious circles… but I know it would help me, and perhaps many other women who struggle with this notion.

    In prayer and love,

  19. I just had a thought while listening to this podcast and wondered what others think.
    you guys were talking about eve thinking she was doing something good when she disobeyed God in the garden. But then when God came looking for them they hid and were ashamed.

    What if they had not been ashamed and just admitted that they had been tricked into thinking they were doing something good and been repentant and asked God to help them to see truth in everything?

    I’m just thinking that it wasn’t that they were tricked it was that they were afraid if God.
    msybe, the the thing that needed to be fixed was their fear and shame not their weakness and ability to be tricked by the enemy

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