I don’t know her but I feel from her face a pain that I can deeply understand. It is the pain of loss. There is an old Hungarian proverb, “Adam ate the apple and our teeth still ache.” When man corrupted God’s plan the consequences were staggering. A fruitful planet became a fallen world where evil, disaster and death leave no one untouched.
The first one to experience pain was God. Lucifer rebelled in heaven and that must have hurt deeply. Man followed suit and Genesis 6:5,6 records: “When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
Philip Yancey noted, “Suffering can never ultimately be meaningless, because God Himself has shared it.”
Until God establishes a new heaven and a new earth pain will continue to squeeze us to levels of hurt that even a pill-preoccupied culture cannot escape. So we must embrace and understand it. When an earthquake and tsunami kill and destroy at staggering proportions there are key lessons we should remember that will help us and those more deeply suffering.
1. Do not run from pain. John Powell noted, “When I enter into my pain rather than run from it, I will find at the center of my pain an amazing insight.” Grief is real and grieving is important. Let those who have lost linger and learn in deprivation. To hide and run is only to put off suffering that in later days will be more difficult to handle. What they need is comfort not escape. “If I ever wonder about the appropriate ‘spiritual’ response to pain and suffering, I can note how Jesus responded to His own: with fear and trembling, with loud cries and tears.”—Philip Yancey
2. Pain is not abated by platitudes. To push spiritual principles upon a hurting person, to say, “Cheer up things will get better” or, “God must have a plan in this” or “It could have been worse . . .” is like kicking a lame man. Those awash in hurting need a preserver not counsel. Silence and caring hands surpass a running mouth.
3. Pain doesn’t just go away and there is nothing spiritual about pretending to ignore it. It is nineteen years since the death of my best friend and 247 fellow soldiers. I still feel the loss. Arthur Hallam wrote that “Pain is the deepest thing we have in our nature.” Ah, but is it? Does not love run deeper! But pain abides and when we accept that we find the steps that lead to a greater love.
4. Pain is an opportunity to rouse those who are lost to a hope that is eternal. C.S. Lewis, a philosopher acquainted with grief wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Nothing happens by accident before a sovereign Lord.
5. Pain leads to a choice. The Gospel is meant to lift up so we carefully convey it under the leading of the Holy Spirit. In time the anguished woman may ask, “What is the meaning of life? Why did this disaster happen? How do I fill this empty void that gnaws at my soul and yearns to be filled? If we have been faithful in compassion, good listeners and authentic lovers, God may give us the privilege of sharing with her and countless others the message of His love through Jesus. The question is, “Are we willing to go and be lights where darkness dwells?” God does not hold us accountable for explaining tragedy but we will give account for what we did or did not do with our hope in Christ—herein is the paradox of the wave.
Revelation 21:4--He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.
When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.—C. S. Lewis
Whenever pain is mentioned as being God’s plan, the innate heart of man rebels—“Surely God does not mean that we are only perfected through suffering?”—Oswald Chambers in Notes On Isaiah
©2004 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)