Pain, Pleasure, and Pizza

My beloved boy noticed that last week was particularly difficult and painful so yesterday he snuck into my room and hung this picture from the ceiling and told me, “Now when you’re laying here in your bed, you can look up and see this pizza and be encouraged.”

So I’m laying here, looking at the paper pizza placed here by my precious pride and joy and praising God for this reminder to be encouraged. Maybe it’s weird, but the way my son purposefully placed this pizza where I will see it constantly during the most difficult parts of my day reminds me of this passage I’ve been memorizing…

Pain has me down for the count today, but God’s precious promises and this paper pizza remind me I’m not alone, I’m not forgotten, and I’m loved like crazy. I can intentionally fix my eyes on my Savior and rest in His promise of joy, pleasure, and encouragement that last forever.

On days like today I feel like I just can’t bear this anymore (I’m not a tough super Christian so these days happen about seven times a week.) and I worry that I’m about to snap mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically. But in God’s grace, He gently reminds me He knew I’d be unable to bear this so He gave His own Son to bear it for me. Yeah, I still feel pain, but the real burden of enduring these things well was shouldered by Christ on Calvary.

“There are times when nothing holds the heart but a long, long look at Calvary. How very small anything that we are allowed to endure seems beside that Cross.” ~Amy Carmichael, Rose From Briar

My hope and joy are unshakable and my whole being rejoices because my Lord already conquered punishment, pain, and problems! He is victorious even though I totally can’t handle life right now. (Actually, I’ve never been strong enough to handle life even at its easiest points. I can’t even command my own heart to keep beating for crying out loud, but suffering helps me realize just how helpless and dependent I truly am.) Jesus has endured the cross for me, bearing ultimate suffering in my place so that even when I handle my problems like a total wimp, I am secure in the assurance of eternal joy and pleasure in the presence of my awesome Lord.

I think this is what enjoying Jesus looks like. You’d better believe it also includes oodles of obviously enjoyable moments like pizza parties, singing praises, smelling the roses, and twirling around the living room with a yodeling princess, but these things are merely an overflow of the much deeper richer enjoyment that comes from fixing your heart and mind on Christ. So I’m laying here, shaking with pain, and looking at this piece of pizza pencil art that reminds me of the peace and encouragement that can only be found by enjoying Jesus in good times and bad. (And I’m also getting hungry because pizza happens to be my favorite food and my son was quite liberal with the bacon on this particular pizza picture.)

This is a lesson I’m praying for grace and wisdom to teach well to my own kids. This is why I talk (and type) so much about “enjoying Jesus.” Glorifying and enjoying Jesus is the entire point of our existence and it all begins at the cross where, ironically, ultimate suffering opened the floodgates to ultimate joy.

“At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.” ~ Isaac Watts and Ralph Hudson

Your problems and pain are probably different from mine, but in God’s hands they are all part of the Gospel story that points back to the victory of the cross and forward to the hope of Heaven which make them FANTASTIC opportunities to share our faith with kids. Whether it’s Good News Club kids pointing out my bloodshot eyes, church kids asking why I’m using a cane, or my own kids drawing pictures to comfort me when I’m crying; these are teachable moments where I can choose to look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, and magnify His grace.

Scripture teaches that problems and pain are also great teachable moments for us personally when coupled with God’s promises. (Check out this excellent article on my friend’s blog for more on that topic.) Whatever you’re dealing with in your life or ministry right now, take it to Jesus and fix your eyes on Him. (You could even post some kind of visual reminder, such as a picture of a pizza, where you’ll see it frequently to help you remember to do this.) I guarantee your life will still be more than you can handle, but it can do wonders for your perspective and fill your heart with the hope and joy of Jesus.

Nathan Hamilton
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