Pain. We so often try to live a life avoiding all pain. We don't want to feel bad things. We don't want to see bad things. However, pain is many times a gift of great worth. A warning sign. An opportunity for mercy and compassion. It is the dark night that makes the sun shine all the brighter in the morning. In Jonas' world, they had done everything to eliminate pain, death, disagreement, hate...the list goes on. Yet in so doing, they had actually taken away the ability to feel deeply, to truly know and be known. They took away choice. Freedom was long forgotten. In diminishing all risk, they stripped away the gifts of family, of relationship, of desire and soul-longing. In trying to eliminate sickness and death in their world, they actually eliminated life itself without conscience or regret.
To what extreme will we go to avoid pain? To what extreme will we go to create a perfect society? There have been experiments through the ages at such a world. We remember them as faint hints from the past- Hitler's Nazi Germany the time that probably rings a bell most clearly with us today...but are they truly just hints from the past? Or are we living in a land that has an ebbing undercurrent of eugenics, on the cliff of euthanasia, with a wind of elimination? I just wonder... I also wonder about the times where I choose the "safe" road over the road of risk, yet in the end I find that I missed out on the beauty of the risk, even if pain were a part of the package. I don't want to live in a safe, painless world. That is not attainable in this life- for we know that the perfection and glory of the First Garden was destroyed when the first man and first woman ate the fruit...And we, like Adam and Eve, have continued to eat the fruit of iniquity and pride, bringing brokenness into our world through the ages. But God's gift of grace was maybe the pain in the process of redemption.
As Father and Creator, he disciplined his children and still disciplines us by allowing pain to redirect our hearts to that which is good and true. He does not author pain or death or disease or war or sickness or hate- for He is wholly holy and good. Yet as the Enemy strikes, like the Serpent struck his first lies in the garden, in an attempt to steal, kill, and destroy, our good God protects us with the boundaries of pain to lead us on the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Our Creator drove the man and the woman out of the garden to toil the land and feel the birth pangs and groaning and moaning of creation, which was subjected to its own frustration, in hope of the glory to come.
I have found that pain has led me to greater depths of joy, deeper bonds of relationship, and a more furious longing for Christ than almost anything else in life. Christ's Passion was His suffering- suffering for us that bore our sins and our sickness and our shame. He suffered to set us free. One day the last enemy to be destroyed shall be death, and along with it, all the decay that has become like dust over this world since the banishment from the garden glory. In Edith Schaeffer's book Affliction, she has a powerful chapter called "Cracked Teapots" where she addresses life's pain. A friend recently mailed this to me as a reminder for my soul during a season of cracks and painful crevices. Schaeffer's words struck me, "As we live our lives with a blend of the answers to prayer which bring us sufficient grace and the Lord's strength in our weakness to go on- in the midst of pain, fever, disappointment, crushing shock, grueling work, fatigue that makes us long for escape, fear, storms, earthquake, famine, drought, fire, loss of a variety of kinds, despotism that affects us personally, and persecution- we need to recognize His grace and strength as answers..." In the middle of pain, where do you search for answers? Do you try to ignore the pain, control the pain, or run from the pain? Or do you run to the One who can meet you with healing and hope and hints of eternity in the midst of the pain?
May we not be so quick to try to form a utopia of painlessness and unattainable perfection, but rather labor toward a ministry of reconciliation and redemption that is available daily through our Lord Jesus. I challenge you to sit with an open Bible and meditate on 2 Corinthians 5. There is too much to unpack here, but I promise your heart will be refreshed and you will gain new perspective on pain and glory.
I leave you with this promise from Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 8 verse 23:
"And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us- bodies that will never be sick again and will never die."