2 Facts About Pain

#1 Our capacity for pain is greater than our capacity for joy. Does an experience of great joy prolong its sway through the long months? No. But an experience of great pain never seems to exhaust itself–it may continue for years.  That means our capacity for pain is deeper than our capacity for joy. So the undertone of life is one of sorrow. So our nature is in unison with the message of the cross.

#2 Pain is at the root of life and growth. It is through suffering that we are born. It is through suffering that we are fed. It is through blood that we are free. It is through pain–infinite and unutterable–that you and I are ransomed and redeemed.

Praying With Confidence

Hebrews 4:16,

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

God delights in our asking because we are His children.  It draws us to Him in the dependency of the parent-child relationship.

It’s an insult to God NOT to come asking.

St. Theresa of Avila once declared, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.”

Why Are We More Sensitive to Pain and Suffering than People 200 years ago?

The problem of pain and suffering is a modern one.  In antiquity there is no discussion of this.  Even Job only deals with why do the righteous suffer?  Why are we more sensitive to pain than humans were 200 years ago?

Two reasons:

  1. Our sensitivity to pain springs partly from our new power to escape it. We tend to accept the inevitable.  We used to think pain was inevitable but thanks to medical science, we look on pain quite differently.
  2. The re-discovery that Jesus was fully man in modern theology.  See, Christ was sensitive to pain.  It was His passion to cure it when He met it.  For Him, it was a terrible reality.

Optimism and Resilience

Optimism and resilience in the face of adversity is the greatest long-term predictor of success for individuals and organizations.  Most of what people describe as failure in their lives is a function of withholding commitment.  Optimists perform better at work, school, and athletics.

Ronald Reagan was an optimist and followed the pessimist Carter.  The same could be said of Clinton following Bush.  Bush was so morose while Clinton exhibited enthusiasm for the future.  Churches with optimists outgive and show more faith than ones full of pessimists.

I definitely lean toward optimism though I have my low moments.  It’s much easier to be an optimist as a Christian because we know He loves us in all circumstances and that one day Heaven will be our destination.

In the face of misfortune or bad news pessimists focus on the negative and then take it personally (“It’s all my fault!”), assume it’s permanent (“It will never change!”) and consider its influence pervasive (“It will totally ruin my life!”).

Are you an optimist or pessimist?  Why?

3 False Views of Suffering

The issue of suffering befuddles people of faith and those of unbelief alike.  Before we can articulate the reasons FOR suffering we have to make sure to clear our minds of erroneous reasons and beliefs.  These erroneous reasons are dangerous because there are hints of truth in their foundations but are ultimately perversions of the truth.

REJECT 1) All suffering comes from God.

The element of truth is tha tGod has created a world where sing and suffering are possibilities.  But God is not the direct and immediate cause of everything that happens.

REJECT 2) All suffering is due to sin.

The element of truth is that all sin undoubtedly produces suffering in one form or another.  In fact it produces most of it.  But not ALL is due to sin, as if a man’s troubles were necessarily punishments.  Good people who face trouble should not assume that it is due to some special sin in their lives. Job clearly demonstrated that this is false.

REJECT 3) All suffering is an illusion.

The element of truth here is that many of our pains and troubles are cursory and more imagined than real. But clearly most pain and trouble is real.  Was Jesus just acting during the Passion? Were the cries of Jews in the Holocaust chambers merely imagined? Will you say to a mother who lost a child, “Your suffering is in mind only?”

While these don’t answer the mystery of suffering it does clear the path from erroneous explanations.