Pain, Suffering, and Eternal Love

Imagine, for a second, someone who can’t feel physical pain. Imagine what life would be like for them. They would have to be aware of their surroundings to an amazing degree. If they accidentally bumped the oven door while taking out cookies, they might not notice it for weeks. They would walk around, with the wound deepening, getting infected, rotting away at them. They would be blissfully unaware that part of them was dying. Pain, as much as we hate it physically, is a sign that something is wrong. In our world of advertisements touting instant relief and total comfort we’ve come to think of pain as something that needs to be controlled and managed, but deep inside ourselves we know that’s not the case. The constant headaches and feelings of not wanting to get up in the morning aren’t something we should simply cast aside, they are our bodies way of telling us that we aren’t happy. And we all know that, don’t we? We know that pain is something that works as a reminder. Emotional pain, in an everyday sense, is our mind reminding us to seek or own happiness.
So, firstly, I say to you that we need to change our perspective on pain. Pain, in and of itself, isn’t evil. If there is a God, he isn’t evil for giving us pain. It is a protection, and a necessary one. Suffering, on the other hand, is harder to deal with. How in the world could anyone in their right mind point out the fact that AIDS in Africa could kill off entire countries, completely changing the shape of our world, and in the same breath say God is Good? You’d have to be insane, right?
I acknowledge the devastation that is the AIDS epidemic, and I believe that God is Good.
So I submit to you that I am either insane, or there are more sides to this issue than are normally debated.
I should point out that I struggle with the concept of Hell. That’s a post in and of itself, but so you know, I don’t think that the children dying of AIDS are going to Hell, or that the Dhalai Lama is going to Hell. I think that before we are judged, we see the face of God and are given a chance to either love or despise him. I’m going to cut myself off now before the whole point of this post rambles into territory I didn’t intend it for.
Back to suffering. Christianity believes that this is a fallen world. The world as it is, is not what God intended. We could have chosen to follow his original intent, but humanity fell away from God. The fallen nature of this world means that there is pointless suffering. Children die, people struggle with disease and illness, there are abuses and murders and rapes. All of this things are horrible, but their horrible nature doesn’t in and of itself cast a judgment against God. After all, should a good parent raise a bad child, does the child’s nature necessarily reflect on the parent? Should we sterilize the parents of all children who do bad things? No. Because while God created the ability to do evil, he didn’t create evil itself. You can create something that could do something without that being the original intent or desire. After all, cars can kill, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who drives one intends to kill or that the manufacturers should be held responsible for every death that happens because of one.
I believe that God’s original intent was to give us the ability to choose, because without a choice our obedience would be pointless. But I don’t believe that God ever meant for things to fall as far away from them as they did. Humanity made the choice to turn it’s back, God’s presence on Earth was stifled and creation itself fell away.
So there is suffering, yes. Could God stop it? I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility. But the second that we say God should stop a murderer, will we also say he should stop an adulterer? Or a liar? How much of God’s intervention would we be willing to accept? As someone who has been cheated on, who has been lied to, who has been abused I say I would rather have the pain so that I can have the choice to love God and feel the joy that comes from knowing it’s my choice.
My final point is this: for those who say that if there is a God, why doesn’t he show himself? I reply, he does. I have seen God in the face of my brothers, barring my abuser from coming near me a second time. I have seen God in the face of my friends, holding me while I cried. I have seen God in a beam of sunlight on my pillow, giving me hope that there is still love and life and the world keeps spinning regardless of the darkness in my heart. I have seen God in hands lifted out to strangers who tripped in the street. I have seen God in the eyes of a little child, giving a homeless man her ice cream money. I have seen God in the faces of impoverished children in Mexico, offering meager gifts to missionaries who were far richer than them. I have seen God, and I say that you could, too, if you were open to believing that he exists. God breathed his breath of life into all men, and when we breathe in we breathe him in. He is in us, fueling our better natures, driving us to do good in the face of tragedy.
To quote 1st John 4: God is Love.
Those who know love, know God.
They just aren’t aware of it yet.

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6 thoughts on “Pain, Suffering, and Eternal Love

  1. I’m intrigued by the intro to your thoughts on the concept of Hell. At least with the little you’ve shared, it seems we may have at least a partially common view. I’d love to know more. If you have a post on that topic, please point me to it. Otherwise, please offer one, or some other private email if you prefer.

    Other than that, I’m impressed with your thoughtful positions and the way you present them. Thanks!

  2. I’ll take a little time to research (I like to have articles to back me up when it comes to hot button issues) and write a post. Thanks for your comment and interest!

  3. Good post. I don’t know if I agree with the hell issue. I can see your point about the children not going to hell…but why not the Dahli Lhama? (I can’t spell). Does the Dahli Lama believe in Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord? That’s not our place to judge, but still…if you want to go into the hell topic..its something to think about.

    I’d like to add that every moment of every day, suffering is all around us from the beginning of time until now because of sin. The choice to sin has caused the pain we see around us. And in the aftermath, we see little children dying of AIDS. Maybe it was not their fault they got AIDS, but it happened because there is sin in the world. I’m not saying we get sick because we sinned. That’s a totally different idea that people like Kenneth Copeland like to throw around. I’m saying that sin destroys everyone, not just those who do it. And no one is innocent in the eyes of God unless they choose Christ for themselves. God not only forgives us, He forgets that it ever happened.

    So while life seems unfair and unjust, I totally agree, pain has its place. And without pain and suffering, why would we even need God then?

    Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

  4. I was enjoying your narrative up until the hell thing. Kind of caught me off guard. Since you are my sister in Christ, I would like to ask you where you find it in Scripture that we get a second chance after we die to confess the Lord? I worry that if you teach this and blog this, that it will come back to bite you in the ass. The Bible clearly states that we are to be above reproach when teaching others of Christ and salvation, so we need to be sure that what we are saying to other non-believers and believers alike is Scriptural and not just humanistic ideas based on our need to explain a loving God on our terms.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Mark

  5. As a Mormon, I find your insights on pain intriguing, it follows closely some of the doctrines of our own. You might find the following interesting, as it deals with the need to face opposition in our lives.

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/2

    Also, regarding final judgment and hell, or our chances for repentance in the next life, you might find this interesting as well.

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/138

    Hope you find this interesting and maybe a little enlightening.

  6. Sidney: I do find those passages very interesting. I have a great deal of respect for Mormons, I think the most welcoming and hospitable church atmosphere I’ve ever been at was when we visited the local Mormon church. I really appreciate a lot of their practical applications of the faith as well (especially the emphasis on family togetherness, it’s really beautiful.)

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