For about a week now, I’ve been fumbling with thoughts about pain. Sounds morbid, right? Except that I’ve been thinking about the Privileges of Pain.
Truthfully, most of the world is hung up on, “if God is good, why Pain, Suffering, Death?” Authors have gone so far as to declare loudly, God Is Not Good, (Christopher Hitchens.) But before we turn away from this topic, which we have covered for two months, I want to suggest to you that pain proves that God is decidedly good.
Let’s start at the very beginning, according to Fraulein Maria, in Sound of Music, a very good place to start. What is the very first recording of pain in the Bible? I imagine the animal that God slew in order to fashion clothes for Adam and Eve was the first creature to experience pain. (Genesis 3:21)
If you recall, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first indication of their sin was that they realized they were naked, they became ashamed and they hid. Therefore, God made clothes for them of animal skins.
The animal whose life was forfeit in order to clothe Adam and Eve was the first picture of a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of man. Then, throughout the Old Testament, under the Mosaic covenant, death was required to pay for sin so that man might remain in relationship with God. (Hebrews 9:22)
Fast forward to the first four books of the New Testament. These Gospels tell us the story of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus endured pain’s grand finale in his death on the cross. His pain was the payment for our sin. Isaiah 53:5
But why pain at all? Pain came with man’s sin. Man invited death, pain and struggle into God’s perfect world. (Genesis 3:14-20) But why does pain remain? And if God loves me why must I suffer?
Think of a little child who brazenly ignores his mother, climbs up on his step stool and promptly places his tiny palm flat on a hot burner. What if there was no pain? Not only would the child not remove his hand from the burner where it would continue to destroy his flesh, but also his pride and embarrassment would keep him from running to his mother. If the child was not forced by his pain to seek out his mother – who would soothe his wound, apply ointment and offer comfort?
God knows that if we don’t experience pain in this broken world, we will ignorantly continue to invite sin and death into our lives, essentially playing Russian roulette until one day, unaware of our self destruction, we will die – forever. If pain and death were not the result of rebellion against God, what would drive us into His arms and restore relationship?
I do not mean to imply that pain and suffering are a direct result of sin in an individual’s life. Even those who love Jesus with all their hearts and have trusted him for salvation, experience pain and eventual death. Now look with me into the heart of Christ’s ministry, right in the middle of the Gospels’ stories.
In John 9, we meet a blind man. Because he had been born blind, the snickers and questions circled as Jesus healed the man. “Who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man or his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)
God’s glory arrives in the midst of our pain. When HE saves us. When HE comforts us. When HE is enough. When HIS strength is proved perfect.
God’s glory arrived in the midst of Christ’s anguish. When God showed that HE was willing to go to the farthest length to restore man. When God showed that HE loved us enough to walk among us. When God showed that HE was stronger than death.
So maybe we should quit saying that God allows pain to teach us something. Often that causes us to look inward and try to change what surely must be wrong with us. What if pain is simply so that He can show to us and in us the change He has already made: that He conquered death, that He reversed the power of sin from the very first painful experience in the Bible.