Thoughts about Pain and Suffering
November 15, 2018
by John Van der Werff, DDS
All of us suffer, to some extent, through our lifetimes. Those of you who know me know I am a quadriplegic, which limits my ability to do things, and have almost constant neuropathic pain. I have personal experience with pain and suffering, and, being an orofacial pain specialist, I also deal with it on a professional level.
Pain is what we experience when something hurts. It can be physical, relational or emotional. Suffering has an additional emotional component to it. In other words, we can have pain without suffering. For example, there can be the pain of getting into shape as an athlete will do, but there is no suffering because the pain has a purpose.
All of us experience pain, but it appears we have a choice to suffer or not. It can turn into good or evil.
Jesus certainly experienced emotional and physical pain, but it is interesting to consider if He did suffer. He knew His pain had a purpose but He also wept.
The problem of evil includes pain and suffering. All belief systems have to deal with the problem of evil. Jesus told us to expect pain and the Old Testament has many writings confronting God about why is it here and why doesn’t He get rid of it.
We will have pain…but will we suffer? We, as Christians, are promised pain, but we are also given a promise of no more pain and suffering for the future.
I like this thought from Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering by Gerald Peterman and Andrew Schmutzer: “We resist pain because we are drawn toward that which brings us comfort and a sense of well-being; Jesus experienced pain so that we would find our ultimate comfort and well-being in God and in doing his will. When people suffer profoundly, their suffering becomes an abyss out of which they must climb. Which path will they choose? Will it be the trail that leads to bitterness and revenge, and brings forth death, or will they follow the way into wisdom and weight that can give birth to forgiveness and reconciliation even in the middle of a continuing struggle for justice?”
People try and avoid pain and suffering by taking drugs, being distracted from it, burying it, saying it is an illusion and even saying we choose it. But there can be benefits to pain and suffering. Suffering can give birth to wisdom rather than retaliation.
I had a relationship with a friend, a relationship that appears to have gone bad. I felt bad about it and there is nothing more I can do since I apologized. I have allowed the Holy Spirit to deal with my suffering, a loss of a relationship, by expressing my feelings to God and allowing God to teach me about myself.
Although I don’t think this is always true, the great evangelist John Wesley was convinced suffering is a gift from God that authenticates one’s Christian walk.
Paul’s suffering produced deep sympathy for the weak and intense indignation against injustice.
Consider what Jesus did, as it’s quoted in Between Pain and Grace: “Jesus took our pain in order to give us the greatest of all privileges—becoming the children of God—and to finally settle the score with God for violating his law. Jesus reprocessed his suffering into grace even in the midst of injustice.”
I ask you to consider allowing the Holy Spirit to expose and take your pain. Don’t be so quick to get rid of it. Learn from it. It can lead to growth, maturity, being refined, turning to God and developing character.