I once spent two weeks n Brownsville, Texas, volunteering for World Mission Builders erecting a church from the ground up. When we left it was ready for brick on the outside and drywall inside. While we saved the newly planted church nearly a half a million dollars in labor, it still was very costly work. Not only did it cost time, it also cost a lot of pain. Hammering nails all day does takes its toll on the forearms, especially untrained forearms like mine. I had never hammered so many nails. I hammered floor joist braces, hammered spacers up in the rafters, hammered off the same spacers once the rafters where supported… We were hammering all the time and my arms ached all the time. I even bought some Bengay at a local Walmart and rubbed it in each night.
On the very last working day of the trip, a vendor showed up carrying five hammers for us to try out. I just happened to be standing close enough to receive one. It was made of titanium and looked very modern. The rep said the hammer retails for $300. I felt very unqualified to be the new owner of a $300 hammer and yet I couldn’t wait to bring it back home and show it off to my family and friends. I asked the rep what made it so special and he explained that the design of the hammer took out the shock that causes muscle fatigue. I knew that fatigue well.
I had some final jobs to do that afternoon and as usual it included some hammering. So I tried out my new $300 hammer and immediately felt the difference. My first thought was, “This is exactly what I need!” My second thought was, “Where was this two weeks ago! This is the last day of my mission trip, I have already been through a bottle of Advil and half a tube of Bengay!”
After reflecting on my work trip, I have come to appreciate exactly how the events in Brownsville turned out. If the vendor would have shown up on day one and handed me the $300 hammer, I never would have known its true worth. I certainly wouldn’t have gone home night after night nursing my forearms, but I also wouldn’t have felt the difference between a $30 hammer and a $300 hammer. Sometimes we need a little pain to appreciate the remedy.
Translate all this into your life and my life. The pain we have experienced, because of our choices and because life is just pain hard, makes the cross all that more meaningful. Imagine if Jesus had taken away not only our sin debt at the cross but also all suffering and pain. We would come into this world without any first hand knowledge of suffering. Pain would be a history subject, but not something experienced. Would we ever really know what Jesus went through for us? I know none of us can fully grasp the depth of humiliation, agony and suffering Jesus went through as He hung on that cross, but we can imagine at least some of it. The reason we can imagine some of it is because we have all experienced some degree of pain, loss, and suffering in our lives. If we never knew loss or hurt, could we imagine any of what Jesus went through? Take it a step further and consider the cure. If we never even touched the edges of the sufferings of Christ, would we be able to appreciate freedom the cross brings? Would we feel the weight lifted, the guilt paid for, and the shame taken away? Would we long for the promises of the cross including the day Jesus wipes away every tear?
Ever wonder why it had to be a brutal cross that brings us this gift of life and peace with God? Consider Communion itself. Ever wonder why the one thing Jesus asks us to do to remember him is all about his torture, his beating, and his bleeding? It is that pain God’s Son endured that sets you free! There is a sense in which God does not want you to forget your pain, so that you can tell the difference between before you met Jesus and now.