In Revelation 5, we find that Jesus is the one who is worthy to open the scroll with the seven seals, based on his work of redemption, prompting the multitudes of heaven to praise him in song: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy” is based on this passage. All this came to mind when I was trying to deal with some strong and lingering pain last month.
As frequently happens when one gets older (so I am told and increasingly get to experience), some pains appear without clear cause. In one such instance last month, I hurt my shoulder, probably in my sleep. I was already on pain meds for something unrelated, but no one told my shoulder, which kept on hurting anyway. The few positions that provided some relief were, unfortunately, unsuited to my getting anything done, resulting in misery almost to tears.
I have learned from previous suffering that asking “why me?” is not helpful. It leads to bitterness and answers nothing. It feels like running repeatedly into a wall: the wall is fine, it is me who sustains the damage and ends up nowhere. Instead, I chose to joyfully submit to God’s sovereign will, standing on his promises that he loves me, has always loved me, and only does me good, no matter what. I repeated these promises to myself, in part, because I need to be convinced of them over and over.
Singing Peterson’s song in church after a matching sermon made me wonder: Is God worthy of my pain? In other words, does he possess the right to afflict me in this way, either because of who he is or what he has done? How does my pain fit into his will and plan? The answer is, of course, yes, he is worthy! We know this is the right answer, though we may feel like the opposite. But just like the passage in Revelation says, he is worthy of opening the scroll because he was slain to ransom us. If my pain accomplishes his purposes, joy is an appropriate response.
We are not alone in this, either. Remember the apostles in Acts 5:41. They suffered pain and dishonor, and rejoiced to be found worthy to suffer in that way for Christ. Paul shared this view (Colossians 1:24, et al) and considered his suffering not worth comparing to the glory of heaven. We rejoice and we hope because he is also faithful to finish what he started, to present us pure and holy to the bridegroom on the last day! Until then, I will—with many reminders—choose to rejoice always, because he is worthy.