It was well past 3:00 am the other morning when my body finally allowed me to trudge off to sleep. I had been having another “tete-a-tete” with some real pain, the kind that hurts.
“It just isn’t fair” slides so easily off my tongue. This mess has been going on for years now. I’m not dying of cancer or anything, but it’s still no fun. And, rather than getting used to it, my irritation and impatience seem to be growing.
Like most things I don’t happen to appreciate, the Lord has been using this particular physical hassle to give me a peek at His master design for my life. Now, I hate pious phrases just as much as you do. Things like “The Lord has a plan for your life – just relax and trust Him” sound great in a devotion but may not do much for the agony at 3:00 am.
Of course such high sounding spiritual clichés do spring board from truth. Maybe it’s just the smug little way they roll off our tongues that bothers me.
But, I have noticed a neat thing in the Scripture. It really speaks to me about this whole issue of hurting – maybe it’ll be a blessing to you too.
In Revelation 21, John is describing for us the beautiful new Jerusalem. He starts by depicting the bride adorned for her husband, then he explains about the walls, the dimensions of the City itself, the building ingredients of the foundation and in verse 21 he describes the 12 gates.
Literally it says, “and the twelve gates, twelve pearls, each one respectively of the gates was of one pearl…”
Those are the pearly gates we all sing about. Those 12 entrances into Glory are made of a substance created out of suffering. As you know, a pearl is the product of an oyster’s struggle with pain. An irritant sneaks into its shell, grates away and the oyster responds by coating the particle a little bit at a time. Soon, the very source of affliction is transformed into a beautiful costly pearl.
The parallel to our Christian lives is almost too obvious to mention.
But it’s those pearly gates that fascinate me. It’s almost as if the Lord wanted to remind us that He too knows something about suffering. Physical pain. Emotional anguish. Spiritual turmoil. They’re all a part of those pearly gates.
They stand there as a memorial to the real hurts in our lives. And more than a memorial, a gate, our entrance, an opening to the very presences of the Lord. So the next time any of us are up at 3:00 am, let’s remember those pearly gates and His promise that His grace is sufficient.