To The Pain

I am not sure if I had mentioned previously that my home group is studying the book of Ecclesiastes. It has been a great study so far and I am continually amazed at how much wisdom Solomon had and how much he shared that we far too often do not follow. One of the things I have reflected on the most because of personal and other circumstances not my own, is the problem of pain or existence of suffering in a world created and predetermined by an almighty God. I mean after all, "If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both."[1]

So to this I say, "to the pain." You know what I mean? No? "I'll explain. And I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand, you wart-hog-faced buffoon." [2] God's goodness is often something I hate. It is the reason He had to give his "very good" creation freedom to operate on their own consent. Without this freedom, people would say that God is not good. For instance, if your parents told you what to do and how to act and followed you around and told you every decision to make and you had to do it without question. You would at some point begin to detest that situation. So it is up to God's creation to make wise decisions and do right and seek the will of their master. Where has this got us? Well.. in a world of rebellion because we are too stupid, stubborn, or ignorant to follow His will. With this said, pain is not in rebuttal of God's goodness and omnipotence, rather is a way for God to deal with or accommodate the freedom and our rebellion. To put it simple, we are good creatures inclined to do evil things because of our fallen nature. Our world is broken!

But Why God? Why the pain? The short answer is, pain hurts. Pain causes us to change our thinking and refines our faith. Pastor Tommy Nelson on the study we are doing asks the question, "Name two situations or circumstances that have changed your life and made you who you are today? All of you most likely refer to a painful situation that happened to you or a time when you were hurt by something or someone."  This is an area where "Evangelical" Christians need to be careful. We must not candy coat the Gospel message to be understood that, once you are in Christ, all of your pain and suffering will go away. The reality is, that Christ asks us to take up our cross and the Christian life often means to suffer more. This is why religions with lases fair, every road leads to Heaven beliefs are possible and Christian churches are filled with people who do not know Christ or what the Bible says about anything. It is hard! It is another relationship with the Creator of the universe you now have to maintain and most of us can't even remember to feed our hermit crabs.  

I like the way Lewis puts it in his book, "Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made perfect through suffering is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design." [1]  So what is the real problem of pain? The real problem comes with how we deal with it. It can shape you and make you rely upon God. It can shake you and empty your selfishness and stubbornness. Or, there is the possibility, the horrific possibility, that it could lead to refusal of God and unrepentant rebellion, thus send you straight to Hell.

What are we to make of all of this and how should we respond? We need to look at pain through the eternal lens that Heaven is our home.  "Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you alone, because you were made for it." [1] My wife recently downloaded an album from the artist Steven Curtis Chapman. The entire album is basically a lament and observed grief in him dealing with the accidental death of his little daughter. The response to pretty much every song is that Heaven is our real home and one day we will all be there with our Father. 

Jesus Will Meet You There [3]

When you think you've hit the bottom and the bottom gives way
And you fall into a darkness no words can explain
And you don't know how you make it out alive, Jesus will meet you there.

When the doctor says, "I'm sorry, we don't know what else to do."
And you're looking at your family wondering how they'll make it through...
Whatever road this life takes you down, Jesus will meet you there.

He knows the way to wherever you are; He knows the way to the depths of your heart
He knows the way cuz he's already been; Where you're going; Jesus will meet you there.

When the jury says, "Guilty," and the prison doors close
When the one you love says nothing, just packs up and goes
When the sunlight comes and your world's still dark,
Jesus will meet you there.

When you've failed again and all your second chances have been used
And the heavy weight of guilt and shame is crushing down on you...
And all you have is one last cry for help Jesus will meet you there.


When you realize the dreams you've had for your child won't come true
When the phone rings in the middle of the night with tragic news...
Whatever valley you must walk through, Jesus will meet you there.

He will meet you there. Jesus will meet you there...

This song speaks to so many things that are going on right now, the Ecclesiastes study, and the peoples lives around me. So I will leave you with a quote from my favorite cult classic, "That is what 'to the pain' means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever."[2]

[1] C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain
The Problem of Pain
[2] The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride (20th Anniversary Edition)
[3] Steven Curtis Chapman Lyrics
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