Christ, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared, though he were a son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.
Seemingly, from the very beginning of the Bible to its shattering end, pain and suffering is very much the bulk of the matters being discussed.
And so it is with our own lives. We come into the world with a scream, and before we leave it, we have become intimate with the pain that, at times or for longer, sluice our minds, bodies, and souls.
It’s all about sensation, is it not?
As simple a thing as a nerve ending.
And yet, in terms of our relationship with God, pain is the major impetus that causes us to turn our faces away from him. We don’t question our faith at a birthday party or while we dance in the arms of our beloved, do we?
No, but when we suffer a broken heart from being parted from someone we love; or have our minds twisted from shame, fear, or loneliness; or watch as an accursed affliction takes over the normally smooth performance of our body, our voices join in with others, even with those in the Bible, and sing out, “Why?”
We would not be, literally, without our sensations. We could not survive without the reality of pain. And while we are taught everyday to get rid of pain as fast as possible through medical treatments and medication, the act of getting rid of pain is really the suppression of the message our bodies are sending us that something is wrong.
In short, deadening our pain decreases our ability to mobilize a defense against that which is attacking us.
But this does not address the spiritual challenge we are faced with when the pain we are suffering grows to the point that it takes over our clear thinking and easy functioning.
It is through our senses that we not only learn, but we learn to understand life. In a way you could say that we were created to sense, to learn, to know. This purpose of knowing applies to God, also.
We are here to know God in the ways that we cannot were we not in bodies that sense.
People who learn to pray, or to be still, or to be open to the experience of God, are developing those internal senses that no one delineates in a medical text, but are celebrated as real, nonetheless.
We have to sense in order to know God, outwardly and inwardly.
But the issue of pain takes us to a whole different level of experiencing God than we are on when we feel the joy of loving God fill our hearts as we sing an anthem in church. Jesus teaches us the subtle, precious nature of pain as a way of expressing faith. The Bible defines his pain as the means he takes to liberate us from the power of our sins.
Watch me, he tells us. Follow me. I will show you the way.
If we can find the quietness in ourselves when we are in the midst of pain, then we can find the means of giving up our attachments, of reaching out beyond our limitations, and letting go of our fears of abandonment, judgment, and death.
In his book, A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis writes that it takes courage to live through suffering; it takes honesty to observe it.