Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
I, personally, find this one difficult to relate to, but that could be in part because I’ve not gone through too much intense pain in my life. There have really only been a couple times where I’ve been injured much at all or threatened with asthma attacks; but beyond that I’ve led a relatively peaceful life (from a health-standpoint).
One important thing I wish to point out here is that I don’t think Edwards is only talking about physical pain. Any time there is emotional pain/struggle, depression, times of feeling “off”, of intense frustration with a particular situation, I feel this statement would apply. The thing is, when we get in these modes of hurt, it’s easy to focus on our own situation, on why it’s unfair to us, why it ought not to be happening, how things could be better if the particular situation wasn’t present in our lives,but all of these focus on the woes of ourselves rather than what the situation may be accomplishing, or how very temporary all of it is.
For instance, Edwards talks about examining “the pains of…hell.” Hell is not a temporary plaguing feeling or an in-the-moment sense of frustration. Hell is eternal, Hell is forever, and there is not one moment of mercy or hesitation in anguish. Our pains, struggles, and frustrations are but blips in a radar in the vast comparison against Hell–and not only in terms of the pain experienced, but the time impacted as well. // Now I want to make it clear that the pain and struggles, frustrations and difficulties we face in this life are very real, I’m not trying to say they aren’t, I’m simply trying to paint a picture of this resolution and what point Edwards is getting at in doing our best to take the thoughts off of ourselves and think to what other people must endure (sometimes eternally).
Another piece of this resolution talks about meditating on the “pains of martyrdom.” You see, martyrs are among those who are risking their well-being, their families, and often their lives to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel to the lost and the hurting. They are persecuted, beaten, driven out from cities, excommunicated, sabotaged, and much more [just read Foxes Book of Martyrs], and yet amidst all of these things, they embrace it, and persevere through it. You see, there is a stark difference in my own life [and likely, yours as well] and that of the martyrs; in times of pain, sickness, or strife–as I mentioned above–we have a likeliness to turn the camera in on ourselves, justifying why we shouldn’t be in this situation. The martyrs, however, are denying their own rights in light of the Gospel because they know that God is worth anything they could ever go through [and more!]. They know that God will prove Himself faithful, and that through their perseverance souls will be claimed for the kingdom.
Essentially, we are stuck saying “I deserve better” when they are saying “Christ deserves all.“ // Where would you rather be?
One modern day example of embracing pain and miserable circumstances and using it to live in an urgency, passion, and proclamation of the Gospel is Matt Chandler. Matt is a pastor at The Village Church, in Texas, and has been diagnosed with an extremely intrusive form of brain cancer. The circumstances surrounding this diagnoses are heart-wrenching and the chemo he undergoes is extremely draining–as one would expect. Still, throughout all of these uncertainties and struggles Matt Chandler has been living with more intensity, further urgency, and greater awareness of the Gospel and how short our lives really are on this Earth. He is living with a fire lit under him to spread the word of God to the people of God in a way that will edify and sustain the saints, as well as navigate people to the cross.
An amazing article that outlines his path can be found here: http://ow.ly/4Jcv7
and another sermon he very recently preached on suffering can be found here: http://ow.ly/4JcwW
Take a moment to pray that you will be affected in meditation on these things and that we will be able to take the lens off of ourselves and onto those proclaiming the Gospel, and the God who is infinitely above it all–working everything out in His perfect will.
May we be encouraged and renewed in these thoughts.