The Problem of Pain

CS Lewis wrote a book with the same title many years ago. He had experienced much pain in his life.

30 years ago last week, February 20th 1985, my younger brother died in a road accident. It was nobody’s fault. He was ten years old and didn’t see the danger of turning right across a road on his bicycle. My heart went out then, and still does, to the poor driver who collided with him. He never stood a chance.

Neither did Robin.

Pain came in that day. Many people have such experiences in their lives from both sides. We live in a fallen world, no longer in the shape God desired when He created it and us. Pain, suffering and death came into the world when Adam took the fruit of the forbidden tree. It was then that he accepted sin into his heart. That sin is our birthright as descendants of Adam.

Hurt is rife in the world. There is suffering in this world beyond imagination. My pain pales in comparison to that of mothers who lost many children. It’s different to those suffering with HIV or cancer. War and famine ravage the entire planet and ISIS is murdering innocent people for simply not believing what they believe.

The common factor is pain.

The pain of loss. The search inherent in all of us to try to find what Adam surrendered in a moment. Some look in a bottle. Some use drugs. Some – including me – succumb to depression and attempt suicide or self-harm. All we see is the pain. We lose sight of the big picture.

John 14, 15, and 16 deals with the issues all believers will face in their lives. Jesus begins by saying “let not your heart be troubled.” It seems impossible. Like we have control over our emotions.

That’s exactly what Jesus was saying.

Our emotions are like an unbroken horse. Wild and powerful, but they can be controlled and used to build strength in our lives – even those caused by pain.

It took many years before I could face that pain, the wound inflicted in my heart by Robin’s death. It was so senseless. The lies poured in as accusations: “you should have been with him,” “your last words in this life were spoken in anger” and many others haunted me for years until I began to hand them to God.

I became a Christian in November of 1985, a few months after Robin died. I didn’t fully understand the change in me as the church I was a part of didn’t teach about conversion. It was a conservative Anglican church in my hometown – not that there’s anything wrong with that. I stayed there as a Server assisting in conducting services and even helping lead some of the youth services for many years until I moved away as life changed.

But the pain stayed with me.

Bad things happen to good people. Innocents are abused, raped, and murdered so often in my current home of South Africa, that it barely receives a mention on the news unless it’s a high profile case like Shrien Dewani or Oscar Pistorius. But the thousands of good people who die each year in gang related incidents, caught in the crossfire that claims no other lives, largely go unreported locally, never mind internationally.

Pain. Suffering. Yoda would call it the path to the “dark side.”

I’ll be honest. I’m human. I get angry. One gift God has given me is a heart for the broken. Many of my acquaintances have suffered pain because of abuse, rape, or murder. It seems they are “sent” to me as they simply start pouring out their hearts the first time we meet – to the point I’m considering taking a course to register as a counselor. Usually all I can do is pray. A lost home through eviction, his child raped by the school-bus driver – the list seems endless.

It is.

I’m not alone in this gift. My wife – thankfully as a doctor has training to some extent to handle the stresses – also attracts broken people. God uses her to bring healing into their hearts. As Jesus promised, He binds up the brokenhearted. We certainly can’t do it ourselves. We were not designed for the world in its current state, but for paradise. When God created Man it was for a sinless and deathless existence. Not this mess we live and die in.

So pain is real. And we have to deal with it.

Compassion is a gift. We are Christ’s hands and mouth on this earth for a few short years. Some He gives much responsibility to because of their faithfulness in small things. Some simply scrape by, a constant struggle with their own demons. Some are somewhere in the middle. Most actually.

I’m not perfect. I still see counselors for depression regularly. The wound is deep, but it is healing.

Be wise in your choices when you are in pain. My anger makes me fragile and drives me away from God because of what I do with it. When I heard a friend’s child had been raped my first instinct was to hunt the perpetrator. Make him pay.

I still struggle with that, despite the police and courts being involved.

I’m human.

The first step towards defeating the pain we all feel is to forgive the one who caused it – even (or maybe especially) ourselves.

Where God takes us for step 2 is a very personal journey and becomes our testimony, a gift to help us bring peace to others hurting.

My brother’s death became a catalyst for my accepting Christ. Things work together for good when we love God and seek Him. Even in my pre-converted state a part of that was present in me.

My step 2 is my story, and too long for a single article, possibly for a single book.

Yours, like mine, begins with forgiveness.

Forgive and begin healing. Today.

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Suggested Reading:

The Problem of Pain

by C.S. Lewis

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis, one of the most renowned Christian authors and thinkers, examines a universally applicable question within the human condition: “If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain?” With his signature wealth of compassion and insight, C.S. Lewis offers answers to these crucial questions and shares his hope and wisdom to help heal a world hungering for a true understanding of human nature. BUY NOW.