Revelation 9:20-21 – 20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
How do you respond to pain in your life? Do you use it as a tool to call you to evaluate your life? Or, as many, do you allow your pain to lead you into bitterness? It is so easy to harden at pain rather than soften toward the Lord. However, God intends even our hurts to conform us to his will.
In Revelation 8 and 9, we see scenes that are horrifying to behold. Supernatural natural disasters fall on the world because of mankind’s sin against the Lord. People suffer greatly. Yet, in that suffering, God always limits the scope. He does not release all his judgment all at once. He does not destroy all. There seems to be a reason that, though horrible, every judgment is only impacting a limited portion of the people.
Without wondering anything about the symbolism in these chapters, we can learn a valuable lesson. The people rebelled against the ways of the Lord. The Lord, in righteous judgment, allowed them to suffer greatly. But, and this is notable, the final verses of chapter 9 show us that the hardships the people faced were also a call to repentance. That is why the chapter closes with the terrifying epitaph, “The rest … did not repent.”
A proper human response to the horrors of chapters 8 and 9 of revelation as the angels blow their trumpets is to recognize our great need for salvation and forgiveness. The right reaction to the hardships that mankind brought upon the world is to humbly confess our sinfulness, turn from that sin, and seek God’s mercy. But, as we see in the verses above, this is seldom the reaction of humanity.
Now, move your mind away from Revelation. Move your thought process away from wondering about the monsters in the chapters. Stop yourself from considering what part of it is fully symbolic, what part has happened in human history, what part is literally to come, or what it all might look like. Instead, allow yourself to hear the more significant messages of the chapters. Here are two key truths to consider: God has limited our sufferings and our sufferings call us to turn toward the Lord.
First, realize that God has limited your sufferings. How can I say that? People have suffered absolutely dreadful things all over the world. People are suffering ghastly things right now. How can I say our sufferings are limited by the Lord? I can say this because, if you read this post, you are not under the full wrath of God in hell. That means that, no matter how hard life is, you and I have not faced the ultimate of suffering possible. We have not faced the full, unlimited, infinite wrath of God which would be the just penalty for our rebellion against him.
I do not use that last truth to belittle any person’s pain. O how true it is that many have faced pains that are so far beyond our imaginings. Such pain is terrible. I do not wish it on anybody or suggest that we consider it small. All I am doing is reminding us that, in light of eternity and in light of God’s justice, none of us alive today have faced all the hardships we could have. God has limited our pain.
Second, our sufferings call us to turn toward the Lord. In Revelation 9, the author saw that the sufferings of the people in the world should have brought them to repentance rather than doubling down on their rebellion. This should be true of us regardless of the cause of our sufferings. It is possible that we will go through pain as a direct result of our sin. WE may earn correction from God for our actions. That pain should bring us to repentance.
But, there is also a legitimate possibility that we will suffer, and that suffering may have nothing whatsoever to do with any sort of sin in our lives. Many people suffer because of physiological things in their lives not brought on as judgment. Many people are harmed by the evil actions of others or the simple brokenness of this fallen world. And we cannot say that these things are happening as a specific call to repentance. I fully acknowledge that not all pain is caused by the person feeling it.
But, whether your pain is a judgment from God or not, your pain is something that should turn you toward and not away from the Lord. If your pain is caused by your sin, repent. Let your hurt cause you to recognize that you face a far greater hurt in the final judgment. Let your pain move you to forsake rebellion and get under the lordship and grace of Christ.
But, if your pain is not caused by your actions, if your pain is the pain of the evil of others or the fallenness of the world, you should still allow that pain to drive you to the mercy of God. Our pain reminds us that we live in a broken world that is hopeless if left to itself. Our hurt shows us that we need to see justice done and fallenness fixed. Our pain reminds us that our bodies and our societies never do what we want them to do. Our pain reminds us that, without an eternity ruled by the Lord, our lives are meaningless. Yet, if we will come to him, the Lord offers us grace, adoption into his family, forgiveness, and eternal hope. God allows creation to groan under the weight of the fall of man until that day when Jesus returns and makes all things new. Our pain, even our tragic pain, is a call to run to Jesus, get under his mercy, and find our hope in him rather than in the fallen world’s system which can never offer us hope.
Dear friends, I do not belittle your pain. Nor would I want you to belittle mine. But, we can see a biblical call to rightly respond to our pain. If our pain is caused by our sin, we should repent and turn to the Lord. If our pain is not caused by our sin at all, we should run to the Lord for eternal hope. Either way, a right response to pain is to run, as fast as you can, to the open arms of the Savior.