Friday, October 9, 2015

Regarding pain

Pain is the body's physical and emotional nervous system that communicates when something is wrong, when things are not in harmony, when the designed working order has been violated on whatever level.  Like, when you stub your toe, bruise your leg, cut yourself or get shot, there is pain because the harmony of your body has been disrupted or violated.  When you find out you've been lied to, when you're being emotionally abused, when someone calls you a terrible name, there is pain because we were made in the image of love and it is a violation of that design for us to treat and be treated in those ways.

Compassion is essentially the desire to alleviate pain.  But if we were compassionate in the most holy way, in a deep and spiritual way, we wouldn't only - merely - want to alleviate pain.  We'd want to either heal or eradicate what causes the pain signals to go off in the first place.  We'd want to eliminate what's wrong and then there'd BE no pain.  (Of course we know that this world will never be pain-free until Jesus comes back to take us Home and annihilates sin eternally)

Pain is not what's wrong - pain is only the messenger.  Pain always tells the truth about sin, which is why pain always hurts and sometimes feels unbearably overwhelming because of the responsibility that truth brings about how we should view the past and how we should proceed in the future.

Making a choice that causes a human being pain is not necessarily the sin.  It's the choices that make pain possible (either in the causer or recipient of the pain) that contain the sin, because pain is a messenger of when something is wrong - pain is not the wrong thing itself, though it definitely, absolutely hurts.

Take some time to absorb those last 2 sentences...

Often, sins have no pain in the moment (many sins give immediate and intense pleasure)...but they vividly cause pain later.  All the searing sensations of pain are telling us how morally WRONG the event was that occurred, which eventually (or immediately) caused the pain.

Also, pain could just as easily be a reaction convicting us that we are in the wrong when someone tells us the truth, which causes the lies we've embraced to bleed.  There are so many angles to understand pain from.  I think it's safe to reason that where there is pain, sin is not far away, whether we are the ones who have sinned or whether we've been sinned against.

Where there is pain, there is sin.

"It is a mistake to entertain the thought that God is pleased to see His children suffer." (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ)

I believe it's a mistake to entertain such a thought because God is not pleased to see His children experiencing sin.  We know He's not pleased when we sin, and He's still not pleased when we experience the pain sin inevitably causes.  This is because He loves us and He wants us to live holy, uncluttered, cathartic lives of pure joy...!

Pain stands to teach us and shape us for the better if we'll let it.  If we don't let it, then we cause ourselves to become misshapen, constricted and bent.  And I believe it is because pain is always a litmus test for the presence of sin, that we must suffer for Christ and with Christ, because if we're true Christians, we are living and working for Him among the ranks of needy, lost sinners - many of whom don't yet feel a burden to change and might very well rebel against necessary changes, even if it'd mean saving their life eternally.

Pain being unavoidable because you're a Christian can be understood like spending your life working with what you're allergic to, with what is guaranteed to cause reactions.  And to make it clearer, what you're allergic to is also partially allergic to you - people who have adapted to their sin (especially people who love their sin) will not respond ideally to the truth about sin and our need for God's transformation.  And so the allergy metaphor goes both ways.  The presence of sin (especially when you're fighting it with the truth) causes pain to the saved and lost like the allergen causes an allergic reaction.  If we are true Christians, we will always be working directly with sin issues and so there will always be some experience of pain bubbling up in our lives.  To be sure, there are oases of revival, but we will not get a permanent break from sin and all its miserable pain until heaven.

I think that the experience of pain and suffering is a given if we're pursuing God's will, intimacy with Him and sanctification to become more like Him, because those things necessitate fighting sin constantly.  And where there is sin, there is pain.  Where there is pain, there is sin.

If we are to be truth-tellers and lifesavers amidst sin, there will be pain.  Plain and simple.

People who struggle with codependency like me need to stop being afraid of the inevitability of causing pain, we need to stop dreaming that there's somehow a way to do God's work without pain.

But lest you think that I'm all for spiritual masochism and sadism, let me close with this quote from EGW's Ministry of Healing:

“[Paul] made them understand that it cost him pain to give them pain.” (MH 166.5)

Just because we need to stop being afraid of causing pain and become more realistic doesn't mean that we are EVER to become desensitized.

We should become the most sensitive people in the world.

These realizations should make us both stronger AND more sensitive.
This is just one more instance of carrying our cross like Jesus carried His.

Our secular world seems to polarize those two (strength & sensitivity), as though you can't have strength and sensitivity together, because of the opaque way they interpret the two definitions.  But with God all things are possible, and I've already experienced quite intimately that peace and pain can inexplicably coexist together in a human heart, so I am prepared to trust that strength that sustains us against how pain makes us cringe and writhe can coexist with a sensitivity that bleeds when others bleed.  We must remember that following God means we won't always understand, but be we can always trust.

If God were small enough for our minds to always totally comprehend Him, He would not be great enough to always merit our total trust.  He is infinite, we are finite.  We cannot encompass Him, but we can trust that He can encompass us, enable us and empower us for what He asks us to do.

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