God Is Greater Than Your Pain
In Daniel 8, God gives Daniel a vision that clearly shows that God’s people will experience pain in their future. In Daniel’s vision, he sees this “little horn” that goes to battle against God’s people and causes a massive amount of chaos. Almost every scholar agrees that this little horn is the Greek king Antiochus IV because it says that this horn grew toward the Beautiful land, which is definitely talking about Israel where God’s people were, and Antiochus was one of the most aggressive enemies of the Jewish people who has ever lived. He wanted to Hellenize the entire world, so he wanted to wipe out anything that was distinctive to Jewish culture and faith. So he made life terribly difficult for the Jews. He sent an army of 20,000 to invade Jerusalem and executed tens of thousands of Jews, 40,000 people in 3 days.
Daniel’s vision shows that God’s people will go through considerable pain.
First, they’d experience SPIRITUAL PAIN. They were gonna feel like their relationship with God was broken. In verse 11 it says that the little horn stopped the regular sacrifice. In 167BC Antiochus stopped the regular practice of the Priests coming to the temple to make sacrifices to God. Those sacrifices symbolized the people’s repentance of their sin and the forgiveness that they could have by God placing their guilt on that sacrifice. God’s enemy would love for us to feel real pain by thinking we’re not ok with God. When we sin, when we run away from God, Satan would love it if we’d feel like God doesn’t care about us, that he’s angry at us. He’d love for us to forget that Jesus has rescued us and holds us close to God. He’d love for us to feel like God’s love for and acceptance of us depends on our actions, our goodness, because that is a depressing, painful feeling.
Daniel also saw that they’d have RELATIONAL PAIN. Verse 11 also says that the little horn overthrew the place of God’s sanctuary. The temple was the place where God’s people would gather, worshipping God in community. But Antiochus took over the temple, and built an alter to Zeus, and started human sacrifices there, and so God’s people didn’t have a space to gather. Guys God’s enemy would absolutely love to attack our community, our relationships. Spurgeon said “Satan hates Christian fellowship. It’s his policy to keep us apart.” He would love for to sow bitterness and gossip and slander into every church, every community group, every relationship between God’s kids. He’d love for you to hold onto the ways that people have wronged you, refusing to forgive them. He’s love for us in our pride to refuse to admit that we’ve wronged others and confess our own sin. He’d love for us to feel the pain of broken relationships.
And then third, Daniel saw that they’d have the PAIN OF UNCERTAINTY. In verse 12 it says that the horn threw truth to the ground, and down in verse 25 he will cause deceit to prosper. We read that Antiochus burned the scrolls of God’s Word and anyone that was found with copies of God’s Word or obeying it were sentenced to death. There’s pain when the truth is thrown away, and lies prosper. When we stop knowing or believing that God’s way is true, when we throw what God says about life to the ground but instead live life in our own wisdom and power, we’re heading toward pain and suffering. Tozer said “Satan’s greatest weapon is man’s ignorance of God’s Word.” That’s his greatest weapon to rob you of joy and lead you toward pain.
Maybe you’re feeling the pain of one of these things. The pain of feeling far from God because of your sin, the pain of broken relationships with other people, the pain of knowing you’ve lived life in your own wisdom and power instead of in God’s and now you’re experiencing the fallout, and the consequences are overwhelming you. Maybe it’s none of those things specifically but you’re in the thick of physical pain, emotional pain, or the existential pain of feeling like your life doesn’t matter.
So is that all we get from Daniel 8? This world’s full of pain, just deal with it, suck it up? Go on with our jobs like Daniel?
No, not at all. I think we see at least 2 life-changing truths in this chapter about what God wants us to believe and cling onto in our pain:
- GOD IS IN CONTROL. Because first, God gave Daniel this vision. Antiochus’ rise to power didn’t take God off guard, his decision to hate God and attack his people didn’t catch God napping. God knows that this is gonna happen, and he’s in control of it, to such a degree, that he has the days numbered for how long his people will go through this pain. God’s completely in control here.
But, maybe that doesn’t sound like good news to you. Maybe that just makes you think you want nothing to do with God if He’s in control and your life is this painful right now. Guys one thing we need to remember is that God’s Control can never be separated from His good Purpose. Yes God IS in perfect control, and he also has a good purpose for your pain. Look at what 1 Peter 1 says: “You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith — more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We will suffer real pain in this life. But God’s good purpose through that pain is to refine us, mold us, change us to know Him and Trust Him and love Him more, to give us a deeper faith. And that’ll result in the praise, glory, and honor of your faith. God’s purpose for your life is praise, glory, and honor. IT IS. I know it may not feel like it right now, but that’s where He’s leading you.
- GOD IS LEADING YOU TOWARD NEW LIFE: Verse 14 says that this pain will last for 2,300 evenings and mornings, and then the sanctuary will be restored. There’s gonna be a restoration. There’s gonna be new life, worship will be restored. The temple was the symbol of God’s presence with his people, a source of life and hope for them, and he’s saying that I’m not gonna leave you without life and hope. I’m taking you away from pain, toward life and hope.
When Moses showed up in Egypt when God’s people were suffering as slaves, Moses told the people that that’s exactly what God was gonna do, it says that they didn’t listen to him because of their broken spirit.
They were in Egypt for a little longer. Like 10 plagues longer. But by Exodus 15 they were singing with full, joyful hearts about how great God was.
He’s completely in control, and he’s leading you toward having a full, joyful heart in him. He’s leading you toward life, away from pain. But he might be leading you there through some pain.
The greatest moment of human suffering happened just about 150 years after Antiochus died. God became a man, whose name is Jesus. And you may know that Jesus died on a cross, like many criminals of his time. It was the most painful way to die. But Jesus’ death was uniquely overflowing with pain and suffering. Jesus had lived a perfect life, not just a good life, a perfect life. He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit and he never sinned. He never did anything that went against God’s way. But as he was crucified, God transferred all of the sin of all God’s sinful kids onto Jesus, and he punished Jesus for your and my sins. He didn’t deserve it. We did. And he took it. It was massively painful, physically yes, but also spiritually, emotionally, psychologically. And it killed him. In that more than any moment ever, it seemed like pain and suffering had won and had the last word.
But it hadn’t. Just as Jesus said would happen, he overpowered death, he had victory over it, and he rose from the dead. Suffering, pain, and death didn’t have the final say in Jesus’ life. He defeated them. And now, and now, look at what Romans 6 says for us: Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. We can be united to Jesus in his pain, in his death. God says that comes through a gift that he gives us: faith. We have faith that Jesus really took our guilt and shame, and that he took the punishment that we deserve. That faith that God gives us unites us to Jesus.
And as we’re united to Jesus in his death, we’ll also be united to him in his life. That’ll be the end of our story also. We’ll have resurrected bodies, sin will be no more, all pain will be wiped away, and we’ll be with Jesus forever.
You can have full confidence that that’s where God’s taking you. If you’re united to Jesus, you’re heading toward newness of life forever. It was the pain of Jesus that made it possible.