Thursday, May 03, 2007


C.S. Lewis wrote that pain is God's megaphone - it gets our attention. While being a great admirer of Lewis, I never liked that depiction of pain. God can certainly use pain to get our attention, but it is not the only way He directs our hearts and minds away from this sinful world toward Himself. It might not even be a particularly common use of pain. Pain arises out of the fallenness of the world, and is everywhere in creation. "The whole creation groans and labors with birth pains until now" (Romans 8:22). Pain can often put a great distance between the soul and God, and hence can be a serious obstacle to spiritual growth.

What is interesting about pain is that you can't remember it. You can't recreate pain as a memory in your body (thank the Lord!). Pain is also necessary to keep us healthy. Without it, we would very quickly destroy our bodies, being unaware of burns, broken bones, and other misfortunes. Pain does remind us of our inherent frailty, and hence our dependence on God, but we cannot make too much of it as a spiritual discipline (no hair shirts or self-flagellation please). As Paul writes, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). As I face the final treatments for a second go-round with leukemia, I can dwell on the painful procedures, the side-effects of chemotherapy, and other indignities, but it is far better for me to remember that pain passes, and by God's mercy will one day be erased from all human experience.

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).


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