I was never the reckless, perpetually bloody-nosed kid. I didn’t climb trees or jump off rooftops or get into fights. Well, fist-fights with people other than my little brother at least. Most of the time I had my nose stuck far into the pages of just about any book I could get my hands on. Well, if someone slammed the book shut, I suppose I would probably have a bloody nose. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I was a bit of a nerd. But I’ve also had my fair share of scraped knees (with the scars to prove it!), torn ligaments (including my ACL), and a few trips to the ER.
Pain is one of those things that we just intrinsically push away from. We avoid it at all costs and go out of our ways to ensure that our suffering is at a minimum. But this is not some deep truth I’m unraveling; it’s common sense. No one likes to get hurt. No one likes bruises, sickness, a broken heart, or death. I would argue that even the self-inflicting sadists out there cringe at every painful blow. There is just something so disturbing and yucky about pain. It makes sense that we avoid it.
But maybe… Maybe pain and suffering is one of the gifts of the grace of God.
“What? Did he really just say that?”
Pain and suffering and sorrow remind us that something isn’t right. Surely this isn’t what we were made for! Is there joy and satisfaction in sickness or loss, heartbreak or death?
So then, what were we made for?
If you believe in the God of the Christian worldview, hopefully you understand that He made everything, and made it perfect. Sunshine and love, community and purpose, lollipops and unicorns. I’m still looking for the last two in Genesis, but I’m sure I’ll find it in the Hebrew. He made it all, and he made it good.
So what happened?
If you haven’t noticed from the last several millennia, we humans are a rebellious lot. Someone tells us not to do something and we want to do it. We’re not always the smartest. In Genesis, Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit and changed the course of how things should be. Now there’s pain in childbirth and work has become hateful. Creation which was meant to be subjugated under man strives constantly with man, man strives with man, and man ultimately dies.
And this is where pain steps in and does his work. Through it all, we’re inadvertently pointed to the fact that we were not created for pain and brokenness but for peace and wholeness. Something isn’t right and we know it. Pain and suffering and heartbreak cause us to long for the good news that it doesn’t have to be so. Living in hurt doesn’t have to be a reality!
There is a place of healing and shalom, of rightness and justice. Jesus came into a tumultuous world and brought the solution to the longing, anguish, and trouble the world groaned under. He was unjustly afflicted, scorned, and murdered. And in all this, He brought an everlasting Kingdom of peace, love, and life. Our pain cries out for this Kingdom. Through it, God reminds us that such a Kingdom exists, and we were meant for it.
Bring on the pain!