The Painful Grace of Pain
Recently I was sick. Actually, to this date, I believe it was the sickest I’ve been. It was an extremely painful experience, and I remember calling out to God to please remove this sickness, and if possible remove it now. Each moment felt as if an hour, and each hour felt as if a day. After two days, my sickness broke and I started to recover. Yet, in my recovery it still took four days to get back to normal. All in all, I was sick six days, but in my mind it felt like a year.
Aren’t we as humans often like this? When pain of any magnitude comes our way we desire the quickest way out. It makes complete sense to be this way. As humans we strive for well being. If we catch any snag to that well being, we tend to find ways to ascertain well being as quick as possible. Sometimes our routes back to well being are not good routes, but at least in our conception they will provide well being. The point is, we do not like to linger in pain of any kind.
I am astounded and amazed with people who suffer through long medical recoveries. To see them for days, weeks, months and even years endure such pain is too much for my mind to bear. But what I find even more compelling are the ones who do so with joy. It is as if they have another worldness to them. They embrace the pain, not that it is easy, but they do not
succumb to its claws. Yes, there are moments and even days the joy does not seem present, but it seems as if in the end, no matter how tough the pain it cannot snuff them out. It is other worldly.
Currently there is a wild offshoot of Christianity that does not seem to embrace this reality. It seems this wild offshoot is so turned off by pain, suffering and hardship that it immaturely closes it eyes too it. Like the child who believes if he closes his eyes no one can see him. Yet, as we all know deep down this life is wrought with pain, suffering and hardship. This wild offshoot seems to be getting a lot of followers, but the world seems just as painful. Which communicates to me my problem when I was sick; we just want it gone. We will do anything for the pain to be gone.
Yet observe Jesus of the Bible. He does not seem to shy away from the issue of pain. In one of his last talks to his closest followers he assured them there would be difficulty in this life. Another time, he told a bunch of people that those blessed are the ones who go through some of the hardest days. But maybe the most impactful is his own experience with pain. He knew his time was coming to an end and he was very upset about it because it was going to be painful. So, he poured himself out in prayer to God the Father. His prayer is honest, and yet other worldly. He seems to embody those who embraced their traumatic illness with joy.
First he pleads for another way. In other words, he says he does not want pain. That is the brutally honest part that all of us can relate too. Just like
every person suffering through chemo does not want to be there, and would gladly have it removed. Yet, he brings out this other worldness by stating, God if it is your will that I go through pain, so be it. We know the rest; he died upon a cross.
So what do we do? We do not want pain, but God has obviously indicated once and for all through Christ that pain is a part of the equation. It cannot be avoided, and faith in God does not seem to mitigate it. To embrace a wild offshoot that closes it eyes to it is dishonest. So what do we do? I believe we must be honest and realize this is something we do not want. To deny this reality is to lie to ourself. But secondly, I believe we must start viewing pain as a lens that we are created for more.
C.S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” In other words, pain is part of the equation because it, like nothing else, prompts us to the deepest of all graces, that you and I are meant for much more than this world. Why, we do not want pain but we know we are going to have it in this life. Thus, if we did not have pain, then our lack of discomfort would enable us to be placid and thus completely asleep to our deepest desires which this current earth cannot contain. Hence, Paul one of the greatest Christian pilgrims, eloquently wrote that suffering is a ‘fellowship’. In essence, pain is the untimely companion that pricks our hearts awake. It awakes us to the fact that sense pain is still present, then we are not home yet. That this life, this current earth and all that it contains is not enough for my spirit. I am meant for more. I am meant for eternity; I am meant for God.
My friends, the next time pain comes it is ok to be upset, down and mournful. But let that mourning eventually turn to rejoicing because the painful grace has once again visited you to say there is so much more, you are not home yet, keep your eyes focused on eternity, and rest in Jesus.
-Andrew O. Chamberlin