Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Thankful for the Pain

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As he lay on his back on that bitterly cold Sunday in January 2008 with his stunned Seattle Seahawks teammates gathering around him, Branch surmised something was terribly amiss.
“I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t breathe,” he said.
Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson knew a torn ACL when he saw one and wondered how Branch, his closest friend on the team, would react to another injury, another setback, a pattern that had plagued him since he’d left New England at the height of his career two seasons before.

As Burleson leaned down to comfort him, Branch looked up at his teammate and said, “Thank you, Jesus.” (Jackie MacMullan,

The patriots are my son’s favorite NFL team. The chemistry between Tom Brady and receiver Deion Branch is pretty amazing to even the casual (like me) NFL fan. But for today, I just wanted to draw this one lesson from the career of this talented receiver.

Without commentary on the rest of his career or his personal life, it strikes a chord with Christians that Branch was agonizing on the field on that frigid day, and, in that moment of pain, he said “Thank-you Jesus.”

Are there reasons for us to give thanks in times of pain—even FOR pain? Christians must always answer in the affirmative. James chapter one tells us that it is the trials in this life that work patience and that patience has a perfect work in us. Peter, in First Peter chapter one, tells us that the trials of our faith are more precious than gold and can be found to praise and honor and glory for the Lord. It was Job, the embodiment of pain and suffering who said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

In my personal experience, the pain of losing a loved one has made me long more and strive harder for heaven. I’m thankful. The pain inflicted by a harsh person has caused me to strive to be gentle. I’m thankful. The suffering of illness, both personally and within my family, has made me understand a bit more deeply my dependence on God. I’m thankful. The disappointment when a human being has broken a trust has made me thankful that I serve a God who never breaches trust. Again, I said “thankful.” Most potently, my own sin has made me deeply feel the debt I owe because of Calvary. I am so thankful.

I hope I don’t encounter pain today as I go to town for a Bible study and then finish up my shopping. (God is so very good to let me do these things!) I hope there is no pain involved as my oldest travels home for the holidays or as my husband goes to work on his presentations, goes to give counsel over lunch, or works in his woodshop tonight. I hope that my aged father can stay warm in these frigid temperatures and have less arthritic pain today than he faces on some days. But there will be some pain today. There will be pain over that lunch table when my husband talks to the newly divorced brother. There will be pain in my Bible study as I realize the devastation that sin leaves in its wake and as I try to encourage my friend to walk in His ways. One day, unless I precede him, there will be the pain of that phone call or in that hospital room of knowing my father has gone home and I will not see him on earth again. May I remember to be thankful for the lessons in the pain. May I learn to pray harder and dig deeper in His Word.

Maybe my Hannah put it best when she was five years old. I had cut my hand. It was bleeding profusely. I was desperately trying to drive myself to get the stitches without which it would continue to bleed and infection would likely set in. Needless, to say maneuvering the stick shift was painful and I was crying. Little Hannah, from the back seat softly said, “Mama, don’t you think we should stop and pray?” She was right and we did. And although we rarely verbalize our thanksgiving for pain in those desperate situations, perhaps we should.

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