With apologies to C. S. Lewis who wrote the quintessential text on The Problem of Pain, here is my brief discussion of the issue of pain. Most of us are “pain avoidant.” We don’t want pain whether it’s physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, financial pain, or parental pain. I think it’s fair to say that we hate pain! Why? Pain gives us discomfort and we want the most comfortable life possible. Yet, is pain all bad? Why did God design us so that we feel pain? Can pain serve a good purpose in our lives? Here are my thoughts.
1. Pain warns us something is wrong.
Pain can be a blessing. When we feel any type of pain it’s telling us something is wrong; something is not working that should be. Like the warning light on the dashboard of your car, pain warns us that something is wrong. Just like that warning light on your car, you need to take pain seriously and not minimize it. So God gave human beings a warning system to let them know when something is wrong—pain. Pain shouts that something is wrong and needs to be fixed . . . now!
2. Pain demands our attention.
When we are in pain, we pay attention. The old saying is that God whispers to us through His Spirit, speaks to us through His Word, but shouts to us through His pain. When we have physical pain our attention is focused on the source of that pain. What’s causing it? What can I do to stop it?
Emotional or relational pain can be more nuanced. It may be that another person is causing the pain and may require action on your part to alleviate the pain. You may have to reprove, rebuke, or confront the painmaker. That’s never easy and requires courage to alleviate the cause of the pain.
Spiritually, when we sin, knowingly or unknowingly, we bring pain to God and ourselves. We wound the relationship with our Lord. Listen to the words of Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” It’s not saying that our sins have caused us to become unsaved. Rather, it’s saying that our sins have caused a breach in our relationship with Him and He doesn’t hear our prayers until that sin breach is closed. How do you close the breach? Honest confession and repentance to turn away from sin.
Financial pain has caused people to leap off building to their deaths! Financial pain can make us realize that we have made money into an idol and it is controlling our lives.
Finally, parental pain is probably one of the worst pains of all. When parents project themselves onto their children and see their children sin or choose to live differently, parents feel as though they’ve failed in their roles as parents. That is especially the case if our children chose to reject the gospel and don’t embrace Jesus Christ. Nothing breaks the heart of a believing parent more than the pain of a wayward child who rejects Jesus.
3. Pain is the destiny of those in hell—Matthew 13:50
“. . . and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Those who are cast into hell experience pain unlike any on earth. It results in teeth-grinding pain; pain so intense and so extended with no relief in sight. Hell’s inhabitants weep over their pain; weep over their missed opportunities to receive the Savior; weep over their loves ones who never heard the gospel and are in hell; weep over the foolish pursuits that occupied their time; weep over their misplaced priorities in life. In addition to physical pain, hell is a place of emotional and spiritual pain.
4. Pain will be no more in heaven—Revelation 21:4
“And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death, there shall no longer be any mourning or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (emphasis mine). What a comforting verse to the saints of God! In the New Jerusalem (heaven), no more tears, no more death, no more mourning losses, no more crying, NO MORE PAIN! Imagine, if you can, a life without pain. For older saints whose bodies are declining, pain is a daily reminder that they are growing older and heaven awaits them. In heaven there will be no more emotional pain over the loss of a child or a parent or a friend. No more weeping at a graveside. No more funeral parlors. No more hospitals. No more drugs. No more surgeries. Heaven is pain free and joy becomes the chief hallmark of our new life.
Pain is a gift from God. A gift nobody wants!