Monday morning, I was considering Christ’s agony on the cross. The unrelenting pain intensified by His rejection by a world filled with the souls He created. The weight of sin. The blood-stained ground.
This side of heaven, the world is filled with pain. Some people suffer emotional pain. Others twist in torment from bodily pains.
My father experienced unremitting pain for years after falling down a flight of stairs in his early thirties. This led to several spinal surgeries, some of which did not turn out well, leaving him in constant pain. That experience changed him. The medicines he took to combat the pain were later implicated in a number of psychoses that users experienced. The pain changed my father in many ways and probably resulted in a shortened life.
Years later, I realize that I didn’t understand his pain. In fact, I brushed it off. Kids are like that. All I knew was that my father didn’t want to wrestle anymore. We always had to watch out whenever we did an activity together lest it somehow result in more pain.
People in pain dwell at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Everyone else stands in the light at the entrance, far, far away. The people in pain can see those others, but they don’t feel those others near. Pain separates.
People in pain turn inward. Their pain becomes who they are. I know that folks who suffer from little-understood sources of pain such as Epstein-Barr and fibromyalgia find their pain threatens to overwhelm their personae. People start identifying sufferers by their pain, not by their God-given identity. In time, people in pain can lose themselves amidst their suffering.
People in pain identify with each other. “You, too?” they ask. Then the heads start nodding. “Yeah.” Someone else sits at the end of that dark tunnel and for a time, the loneliness, separation, and even the pain lessens.
From this one truth shines forth hope for people in pain: they know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. For the Christian, to suffer pain is to lose oneself in the agony of the cross, to identify with the Savior, and to be more like Him.
Wisdom comes in pain for the believer who seeks it. It may seem a perverse wisdom, but few of us understand the ways of God enough to know how He molds us in the midst of pain.
For me, pain teaches about the human condition. It reminds me that we are all dust, that we dwell in a fallen world, and that people in pain need relationship desperately.
Some cultures handle pain better than ours does. We have much to learn from them.
A few things I’ve learned from pain:
1. Prayer makes a difference in pain, whether physical pain or mental. Our God is a healer and tapping into His healing comes through prayer. I don’t believe that God will it that pains goes on throughout a lifetime. He can heal. Sometimes He heals through our pain.
2. The caring love of others goes far in reducing pain. Because our culture deals poorly with pain, we tend to shove people in pain into an attic and hope they stay there. Their pain reminds us of our own frailty. And a culture based on youth and vitality has no place for the frail. We Christians need to be counterculture and begin to seek out those in pain because they need the word of Christ more than anyone else.
3. People will not understand pain until they experience it themselves. A woman will never adequately convince a man of the pain of childbirth. A person who’s never suffered through a kidney stone cannot transmit the depths of that pain to someone who has never experienced one. A couple with a quiver full of children will not understand the pain of a couple who loses their only child. But the very act of suffering transforms us into better people if we let God be the God of our pain and let others into it. We will all experience pain in this sin-stained world. Better that we take time to associate with it rather than flee from it every chance we get.
If you are in pain, whether from grief or physical torment, drop me an e-mail at the address in the top of the sidebar, and let me pray for you. Christ dwells with those who share in the fellowship of His sufferings. No reason exists to suffer alone.