By Luke Lezon
When John and Tara Blocker welcomed their daughter Ashlyn into the world, they thought she may be the most well-behaved baby of all time. She hardly made a peep. Tara recalled a bad diaper rash Ashlyn had that landed them at the pediatrician’s office, but still no tears from Ashlyn. As she got older, anytime she would fall or injure herself, Tara said Ashlyn seemed “happy as can be.” She never indicated she was in any kind of pain, even when most people would be.
Ashlyn was diagnosed with congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA). CIPA is a rare genetic disorder caused by a gene mutation that hinders the development and transmission signals of sensory neurons to the point where you cannot feel pain.
The Gift of Pain
Good Morning America heard the Blockers’ story and flew them to New York. They were then put in touch with Dr. Roland Staud, a professor of medicine and rheumatologist. He found mutations in Ashlyn’s SCN9A gene, which is connected to both severe pain and pain insensitivity. Geoffrey Woods, a medical geneticist at Cambridge University, ended up discovering the connection between the SCN9A gene and an inability to feel pain. In an interview with The New York Times, Woods said that he heard of a boy that couldn’t feel pain. He went to see him, but before he could, the boy died. “For his birthday, he’d wanted to do something for his friends—he’d wanted to jump off the first-floor roof of his house. And he did. And he got up and said he was fine and died a day later because of a hemorrhage. I realized that pain had a different meaning than I had thought.”
Pain is unpleasant, yes, but it is an unexpected gift. Without it, we’re unable to detect danger, even if it’s present. It may not always feel like it, but medically speaking, pain is a gift, and I would submit to you that spiritually speaking, pain is a gift as well.
The messiness in our lives is either the offspring of pain or the catalyst for pain. But even when we come to understand that messes and suffering are certainties in a sinful world, it doesn’t make them any less painful. If I know somebody is going to punch me in the face, it’s still going to hurt. Just because I know it’s coming doesn’t mean it won’t be painful; it simply means I’ll be prepared. If we look carefully, though, we’ll find that quite often our wounds become great sources of wisdom.
In 1 Corinthians 1:22–25, Paul says, “The Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (CSB).
The Jews wanted signs that the Messiah had come to deliver them. Greeks sought wisdom, celebrating academics, philosophy, reasoning, and oration. In a crucified Christ, the Jews saw the opposite of powerful deliverance and the Greeks saw the opposite of reason and wisdom.
For those who don’t know Jesus, they see Him on the cross and see God as foolish for getting into that mess and weak for allowing it to happen. But for those who know Jesus, we see that He went to the cross with a wisdom we couldn’t understand and that He overcame sin and death by a power we couldn’t comprehend. The mess of the cross is a powerful sign of deliverance and wisdom beyond reason. It is by His wounds that we receive power and wisdom and are healed. Jesus’s pain and suffering were a gift to us. Maybe our pain is a gift as well, and because of Him, we can press through it.
Pain and Comfort
The ancient city of Corinth was a major city in southern Greece. As an epicenter for trade, it was a diverse city and a wealthy commercial and social power. As a result, it was influenced by many cultures. Paul had to preach Jesus over other gods, idols, and worldviews, often at the expense of his own suffering.
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Paul knows the Corinthians share in his sufferings and writes to encourage them:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us
in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those
who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we
ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly
in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly
in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and
salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort,
which you experience when you patiently endure the same
sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you in unshaken, for
we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also
share in our comfort.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3–7, ESV
In those five verses we read the word “comfort” ten times. For those of you who aren’t mathematicians, that’s two mentions per verse. You can’t know comfort if you’ve never known affliction. Comfort is only understood in light of pain and distress. For us to get to a place of comfort, we have to move from a place of discomfort. This is true of all of life’s messes, from the most trivial of discomforts to the most devastating pains. I appreciate the comfort of socks that don’t slide down because I’ve known the annoyance of socks that do slide down with each step. And I can appreciate the comfort of health because I’ve known the pain of my health hanging in the balance.
The last two verses of this passage in 1 Corinthians say, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” (emphasis added). Comfort and suffering are inextricably linked, and that isn’t a coincidence. Comfort cannot be present where pain has been absent. Where there is suffering, there can be soothing. Where there is soothing, there is a Savior. He is not only a God who brings comfort; He is the God of all comfort.
Taken from Your Mess Matters: Trusting the God Who Creates from Dust and Redeems by Blood by Luke Lezon. Click here to learn more about this title.
What if the mess of your life is where God is about to do his best work?
Life can be a tangled mess. Luke Lezon’s mess came in the form of alarming health issues, transforming him from fun-loving and God-fearing to angry and hopeless. As Luke’s health deteriorated for months without answers, the stress of not knowing suddenly spiraled into a mental and emotional breakdown. As a pastor, he wasn’t supposed to struggle with life’s mess — but then maybe we’ve been wrong about the mess all along. As Luke learned, you are not made of the mess, you are made through it.
If you’re feeling lonely or less-than, ashamed of where you’ve been or anxious about where you’re going, this is a message crafted just for you: God is never afraid of a mess. He’s never run from some dirt and blood. In fact, the mess is exactly where he does his best work. If we believe that God created us from dust and redeemed us through the blood of the cross, we can trust him with our tangled lives.
Your Mess Matters is a lifeline to hang on to, a light in the dark reminding you that God is still at work, making your life more beautiful than ever before. Through vulnerable stories of his own journey and profound biblical truths, Luke will guide you through the process of entrusting your story to Jesus and letting him work his biggest promises through your greatest regrets. With Luke’s encouraging insight and bold truth-telling, your mind will be comforted, your heart inspired, and your soul empowered to let God transform your mess into a masterpiece.
Luke Lezon grew up in Dallas, Texas, before graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in Communication, minoring in Creative Studies. After graduating, Luke married his beautiful wife, Lindsey, and co-planted Hill City Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. After pastoring at Hill City for two years, Luke and his wife moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where they previously helped lead The Alternative and currently lead The Invitation. Luke is a creative, dynamic preacher and teacher of God’s Word with a palpable love for people. His sermons and writings have been shared thousands of times across many different platforms. Luke is a coffee connoisseur, sports and film fanatic, and fur-parent to he and his wife’s favorite and only child, Knox. Above all, he is passionate about seeing others come to know Jesus and make Him known. Learn more at www.lukelezon.com.
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