The late Fred Rogers, known as Mr. Rogers to millions of children, met a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Mr. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him. The boy was shocked! People had offered to pray for him, but no one had ever asked him to pray for them. He said he would try; since Mr. Rogers was close to God he figured it would be okay.
Tom Junod, doing a profile on Mr. Rogers for Esquire magazine, complimented Mr. Rogers on seeking to build the boy’s self-esteem by requesting prayer. Mr. Rogers replied, “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.” (from an article in the Tampa Bay Times by David Brooks, July 8, 2018)
One of the possible positive ramifications of pain in our lives is that it can deepen our faith, drawing us closer to God, that is, if we choose to let it. I recall a woman named Jane in the church I served in Toledo, Ohio, who went through a lot of pain during her life. Her husband had suffered from a debilitating stroke for years until he died. Her adult son was fighting substance abuse and losing. Jane herself had been diagnosed with cancer and was dying. Yet, as I visited her, I found her to be full of peace and joy! I had come to encourage her, but she encouraged me! This was because she was close to God, not in spite of her pain, but in large measure because of her pain!
No one likes going through a painful experience, you’d be a masochist if you did. Most of us have to admit, however, that going through bad times does often teach us lessons we don’t easily learn during good times.
Painful experiences can make us a bitter person or a better person. One of the ways it can make us a better person is to let it draw us closer to God. We have a choice.
How we respond to God during a painful time is a choice. We can decide to be mad at God, disappointed in Him, or accept the notion that He doesn’t care. Or, we can choose to cry out to God, to reach out to Him, and to trust Him. The journey through problems and pain can take us, as Fred Rogers said, “very close to God.”
“But as for me, afflicted and in pain – may your salvation, God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29)