The problem of the pain in this world has long interested me. Our culture hates pain but at the same time is obsessed with stories of great pain. We pop Tylenol at the slightest headache but spend millions to see movies dealing with heart wrenching plots. Why are we so scared yet obsessed with pain? Why does God allow pain? Is there meaning to be found in midst of our pain?
Because of the magnitude of this topic I will split it into two different posts. This first post will deal with Physical Suffering and in the second post with Emotional Tragedy. These posts can’t answer all questions or make bad situations better. Rather, this an opportunity to view pain differently.
In our western culture we are wimps when it comes to pain. If I get one small headache I can’t seem to function without popping a few Tylenol. We live in such a comfortable and a largely pain-free culture that when we experience pain it seems very abnormal to us. Just think of the last time you stubbed your toe. More than likely a few ungodly words slipped out your mouth, or at least ran through your head. Why would such a pain exist?
Whether we like it or not, physical pain is reality of this life, no matter how hard we try we can not avoid it. Most of us will spend a good majority of our lives trying to avoid it and numb it but really to no avail. Despite all our vain attempts, our bodies regularly encounter physical pain. But is there a purpose in it? Surely God is not a sadistic being who enjoys watching us writhe in pain. We are created with such complexity and purposeful design, so maybe there is a purpose and reason for the pain we experience.
If we were to imagine a world with no pain I’m sure most of us would think of it as heaven. But would it really be good if in this world there was no pain? Some people don’t have to imagine a painless world- it’s their reality. A small percentage of the world have a genetic disorder called “congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis” or CIPA, basically meaning they feel no pain. Some of us might think that would be the life, but if you ask them they’ll readily tell you it’s hell.
It’s not until pain is absent from your life you realize that pain is actually good for us.
Pain tells us when something is wrong with our body, whether it be a headache communicating the lack of water or the pain of touching a hot stove telling us to jerk our hand away. Pain is an alert system telling us to take immediate action to stop further injury to our body. Imagine a life without that indicator, all the damage would still accrue, but you wouldn’t know you were hurt. Daily mundane activities like chewing your food would become fearful because you would never know if you bit a piece of your tongue off. The ability to feel pain is essential for our body’s protection; it prohibits further injury and alerts us to something out of place in our body.
Maybe you think like me and wonder why God, the master designer, couldn’t have come up with a better system. I suppose He could have; something less severe could still alert us to something that is wrong in our bodies. But if He did that the urgency that pain communicates would not be there. When we feel pain we want to stop it, so we fix the problem as quickly as we can. The urgency is what makes us want to stop or fix the problem. Without that urgency we might be tempted to put it off for awhile, causing our body lasting harm.
Pain, although often hated, is more of a blessing in our life then one might give credit for.
I believe our culture has a faulty view of what pain is and the purpose it serves. We’d much rather take a few pills to mask the pain and ignore what our body is trying to tell us. We view pain as the enemy in our life, when really it’s a helper. Not that we should embrace pain and enjoy it, but we should understand it and the reason why it exists.
When we have a faulty view of pain I think it makes it more unbearable and unreasonable. When pain is our enemy every time we experience it, pain wins and we lose. But when we shift our view from pain as an enemy to pain as a helper it becomes more bearable and makes more sense in our life. Pain isn’t “beating” us in some cruel game; rather it’s trying to help us keep our bodies in good health.
Pain is not torment from a sadistic God, but rather a tool to keep us in one piece as we walk about a dangerous world.