Sometimes you cannot decorate the narrative of today so that it sounds good. It just hurts. And it’s hard. Friends of mine lost their son this week. During his life, he and those who loved him suffered as he struggled with addiction. Life was hard. This is harder. Many other friends are either wrestling with their own addictions, chemical or behavioral, or have loved ones that are in that fight. They are constantly asking the “what if…?” questions: what if my loved one dies? What if there is something I can do to alter the course? What if I had done things differently in the past? In addition to a week that included an abrupt end to a young life, 2 friends had cancer surgery this week. Another young man tried to take his life because he suffers from the “no hope” disease of depression. You know these scenarios. People like this are in your circle too. Or you are the one that is suffering. I’m so sorry. It is excruciating.
There is a book called, Where is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey. It gives perspective. There is a book called, The Holy Bible by God. It gives hope. I just heard an audible sigh from all the intellectuals who haven’t yet concluded that there is a triune God who is both Creator and Savior, but they have to admit something: We all have some degree of apprehension about death. We don’t know how or what level of pain we will encounter when it comes. This causes a level of mental pain as we live in anticipation of this real thing that we will all face. Most of us try to backpedal to avoid death – diets, exercise, medicine, caution, boundaries – as though wanting to cling desperately to life. Even when life is hard. This is evidence of the human propensity to desire eternal life. Our Creator instilled this in us.
Where is God when it Hurts? likens pain in life to that of childbirth. Whenever I read about this particular pain, I always think of the mother’s pain (having actually experienced it). Until reading Yancey’s book, I never thought about the baby’s pain. In a safe, warm environment, its world begins to close in with intense pain. Crushes it, in fact. They are flipped on their head, then squeezed into a dark tunnel, forced through a hole that reminds me that toothpaste cannot be put back in the tube once it is out, into a cold, bright environment where their sensitive nerve endings are exposed to being rinsed and rubbed, their prior chronic hug is exchanged for exposure, their eyes are forced to focus when this wasn’t necessary before, things that sounded muffled are now deafeningly intrusive, and yet…this is life. Let the celebration begin. The pain of birth and the unknown is over.
As we leave this world, we are once again sucked toward the unknown. Most exits come with pain. C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain alludes to the fact that there must be a counter stance of perfection and love for us to notice that pain (and hate) is not an ordinary and right status. Not only that, we humans long for a perfect, loving, mentally and physically pain-free life that God promises to be waiting for those who believe in Him. However, as we age, we trade youth and beauty for that which is not, our bodies give way to our spirits, and we reap what we have fed them. When fed with Christ, we have the spiritual fortitude to break free of the constraints of the body and we will indeed one day be freed from pain.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall
there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
We pass from the relative darkness of this life and go into the light where the pain is exposed and erased, and our eyes focus clearly on what we have only seen “through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known.” I Cor 13:12 Let the celebration continue! Because it began the moment we embraced the grace of Jesus’s sacrifice and the hope of eternal joy with Him.
“In [Paul’s] own opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing
compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe
to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation
cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it
has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole
of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share
in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!”
Romans 8:18-21 J.B. Phillips Translation