My favorite thing to do at this time of year is to look back. Sometimes the big picture gets lost in all of the day to day hassles and happenings. Taking time to reflect adds valuable perspective. This year I have had difficulty doing so. 2017 has brought so much pain. Not to myself but to those who are so close to me that it feels like my own pain. There have been victories, joys, and new beginnings as well, but pain has been the backdrop to every recent scene of my life.
As I reflect, I ask myself the question that has haunted every man since Adam. Why does pain exist? With love comes loss, with riches comes sacrifice, with joy comes disappointment. What is the meaning of it all?
The more pain I see, the more grateful I am for the Word of God. I have read so much about pain in the Bible. God’s response to pain is so intricate, so multifaceted. It seems that every time I think I’ve grasped the answer to pain, another facet presents itself– something else to ponder.Recently another piece of the puzzle slipped into place for me.
If I had to define pain, I would call it the frustration of desire. We want wellness and get sickness. We want peace and get turmoil. We want love and get loneliness. Wellness, peace, and love are all good things. It seems that we are meant to have them, and yet we are denied them. And the result is pain.
When I try to imagine a time when nothing good was denied human beings, I see the wealth of Eden at mankind’s fingertips. I see every green tree and every delicious fruit as ours for the taking. But could we live in that world? Where everything was free and we had want for nothing?
The problem I see is that not all goods are equal. Many things are good but some are better than others. How can we recognize the better things? I believe one has to learn to value the better things. What better teacher than pain? When we are denied certain goods, we see which we can let go of and which to fight for. In this world, we must learn the hard lesson of sacrifice. We must work the ground for a harvest, and our work is painful. But if the harvest is the greater good, is it not worth the pain it costs us?
I say this because I know one good is greater than all the rest. And that is knowing God. We know this because God himself suffered the greatest pain, the death of his son, for us to know him. Is not the joy of knowing God greater than any pain we can endure? Would it not be worth a lifetime of sorrow to stand with Him on that day and say, “I would do it all again for you.”
I will say with Paul, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The more I suffer, the more I come to know him. The more I know him, the more I love him, and that makes me willing to suffer more just to know him more. Because knowing God is the greatest good.