‘Paining’ God

Posted on October 1, 2020


By David Ettinger

A Balanced Approach
I remember back in the late 1980s hearing our pastor, during a sermon, say, “I’m surprised how many people came up to me after last week’s message thinking I was speaking about them.”

His sermon had to do with sins Christians commit and need to repent of. Our pastor clarified that he did not have in mind any of those who approached him, but complimented them for their sensitivity. He went on to say that it is good for believers to examine themselves, but at the same token not to apply every sermon or chastising Bible passage unnecessarily.

I appreciated his balanced approach, and always kept this in mind. If I heard a message or read a Bible passage which truly convicted my spirit, then I took it to heart and applied it. However, if I was walking solidly with the Lord, I considered the wisdom of what was said or written, and held on to it for another time.

Proper Application
We should always aim for proper application of sermons and Bible passages, which brings me to a passage I believe, when applied to the entirety of the believer’s walk with God, is always applicable.

Psalm 1

Psalm 78, written by Asaph, is a condemnation of ancient Israel, which persistently spurned God’s goodness with constant sin and acts of faithlessness. The key passage is verses 40-42: “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power, the day when He redeemed them from the adversary.”

Talk about proper application! Yes, this is addressed to ancient Israel, and not everything God said to ancient Israel applies to believers today, but this passage does!

For believers, self-examination at this point is called for. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following:

  • During your Christian walk, and particularly within the past three months, have you “rebelled,” i.e., “sinned” against God?
  • During your Christian walk, and particularly in the past three months, have you “grieved” God with your behavior, whether “aggressive” (willing sin) or “passive” (neglecting Him)?
  • During your Christian walk, and particularly in the past three months, have you “tempted” –  a better translation is “tested” – God with acts of disobedience?”

Of course, these are all rhetorical questions: the answers are – or should be – “yes” without even have to think about them.

pained hands

“Paining” God
By committing the above, do you realize you have “pained the Holy One of Israel?” (Note, the NASB version is the only one which uses the term “pained.” Other versions use “vexed,” “provoked,” and “distressed.”)

Sometimes it is difficult to believe that such measly individuals as ourselves can bring pain to the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God of the Universe, but it is true. Don’t forget, we are made in God’s image, which means we are given intellect to think as God thinks; will to do His bidding; and emotions to feel as He feels. We can feel love, sympathy, and pain because God feels love, sympathy, and pain.

So yes, God feels pain, a pain similar – I imagine – to what parents feel when their children either go astray or neglect them. We pain God by willful sinning. We pain God by neglecting to thank Him for the goodness He bestows upon us. We pain God by failing to spend time with Him in prayer and in Bible reading.

And, according to this passage, we pain God by neglecting to thank Him for redeeming us from the power of the adversary, in our case, Satan. I know most of us thank God every time we sit down for a meal, but do we thank Him at least once daily for saving us? Me neither, and I believe this pains God.

A Painful Truth
It is a painful truth that we as Christians pain God, but being aware of it is a good way to deal with it. Examine the things in your life that could be paining God, and make a legitimate effort to curb it. For the God who loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you, can you do any less?

May God bless you abundantly as you determine to bring Him joy rather than pain!