The Importance Of Pain

It is easy to imagine a painless existence and wonder why God didn’t make a world like that. Why does the animal kingdom mostly sustain itself by the pain and suffering of death? Why does the human nervous system register pain and thereby cause severe anguish from injury, disease and dysfunction? Further, why does God allow us to suffer psychological pain such as heartbreak, shame, loneliness, ridicule, etc.?

Pain exists on many levels, and it is by definition traumatic. In its more severe forms it can cause us to cast aspersions upon God and falsely accuse Him of incompetence, indifference or, worse, malevolence.

We must tread carefully here. Job’s experience with intense physical and psychological pain (grief, material loss, disease, spousal ridicule, social ostracism, false accusation) led him to challenge God’s management of his life: “My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands?’” (Job 10:1-3; cf. 9:14-24; 16:6-14).

Now that’s a heart that’s hurting and suggests another line we dare not cross. When God finally responded to Job, He asked him a series of questions about the natural world that were beyond Job’s understanding (Job 38-41). We simply do not have the brain capacity to assess our world and then advise God on a better option. The thought of that is actually quite comical, isn’t it? We can’t figure out how one virus really works, how to combat it or where it came from, but we think we can improve on the universe?

So due to the limits of space and my own ignorance, I’ll only offer one suggestion on the importance of pain, and I’ll do it in the words of the late Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias: “Through the process of suffering, you realize how finite you are and how desperately you need the very presence of God to carry you through.” Zacharias died last week having suffered many years from debilitating back pain and the spinal cancer that eventually took his life.

We come into existence in an infantile state not knowing ourselves or our Creator. Maturation is a process of learning what reality is – about God, ourselves, others, our purpose, our destiny. There are at least two monkey wrenches in this endeavor: an adversary, Satan, who distorts reality, and our own ego that believes his lie that we have more rights and power than God actually gave us. This sets up a constant struggle between ourselves and God. We think we are smarter and stronger than He is and therefore do not need Him.

Enter pain and suffering. These are intended by God to be powerful antidotes to pride. If we weren’t so headstrong, pain wouldn’t have to hurt so much. But we are, and it does, and we must learn to thank God for it because unrestrained arrogance has immense capacity for evil. Pain is not due to a flaw in the system; rather, it is a graphic reminder that we must rely on the One who “is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The only world without pain is the one in which men perfectly love God. That world is called heaven.