Pain: It’s something I’ve noticed a lot of lately. It’s come in all forms and features, too. Here’s what I’ve witnessed: two funerals within the same month for family of one of my closest friends; Pastor Fofana’s back injury; my husband accidentally slicing open his hand; a country falling further away from God’s truth; etc. I have been a believer for the entirety of my life, and still seeing this much pain can drive me to the same question that millions ask every day: If God is good, why is there pain?
Through this season of pain that I’ve been seeing, I have come to see that God never intended for there to be pain. He created a perfect world with pure, selfless love for God, mankind, and the world. It wasn’t until sin crawled in on its belly with an apple for Eve’s eye that this perfect, pain-free world was consumed. God’s love for us, however, was not found among the wreckage. Rather, some 4,000 years later, it was found on a cross, nailed up by our brokenness only to burst forth from an empty tomb.
Being active in scripture has also shown me that this pain is not eternal. As we have been studying Revelation as a church, and as I have been studying Hebrews on my own, I have been rejoicing in the victory of Christ for our eternal lives. He promises us in Revelation 21:4 that there will be no more suffering or pain. That pure, perfect world will be restored.
But what is pain now to God? Our human minds see suffering as a lack of love from God, but quite the opposite is true, so long as we regard His perfect love instead of our cheap, fleeting love. C.S. Lewis addresses this better than I do in his book The Problem of Pain:
The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word “love”, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest “well pleased”.
What does this mean for us? It means that in our broken world, the price of sin is death. Everyone dies. Everyone gets hurt. No one is exempt from the suffering of this earth. The gift that God gives us, though, is His eternal love and eternal life.
This also means that God takes our imperfect world and uses it for His glory. I mentioned that my husband accidentally sliced his hand the other day. While we were contemplating stitches, we learned of a plastic surgeon a few doors down. Through a horrible slice in his hand, God said, “Hmm. Let’s build community through this,” and introduced my husband to a new neighbor.
God provided the exact right solution at the exact right moment! He takes our brokenness and says, “let’s make this beautiful.” Think of a potter with a spoiled piece of clay. God is that potter, and He does something about the spoiled state. Jeremiah 18:3-4 makes this illustration,
I went to the potter’s house, and he was working there at his wheel. Whenever a clay pot he was working on was ruined, he would rework it into a new clay pot the way he wanted to make it.”
Pain was not intended for us, but as we suffer, which is bound to happen, remember to do this: embrace God. It is not in the moments of pain that He abandons us. Instead, these are the moments He wraps us in His loving arms and shows us that we are His own.