Life on this earth can’t help but alternate between dirge and celebration. This side of heaven, that’s just the way it’s going to be.
But if there’s one thing that God has shown me in the last few years, it is that pain is a gift. It’s a warning sign, a signal that something isn’t as it should be. He gave it for our protection—to keep us from doing something that would ultimately hurt us or someone else. And ever since the Fall, He also uses it as a tool to refine us and call us back to Himself. Its very existence makes us long for something bigger, something better. Whether it is merely uncomfortable or excruciating, hurting makes us want life as it’s meant to be. In other words, it makes us long for Him.
The natural response is to run from pain. And that is a good thing to an extent. There’s nothing noble or beneficial or holy about seeking out things that cause pain. At the same time, if we have to courage to face it and learn from it instead of masking it (with activity or food or drink or shopping or exercise) or pretending it isn’t real, it bears both a message and a great gift. In a way that nothing else can, pain shows us that we are meant for more. When we hurt, we intuitively know that something good and natural and right is missing. And the part that is missing is always a piece of who God is and what life with Him was created to be.
I think that’s why I’ve found myself listening to Arcade Fire so much in the past several months. I didn’t understand at first why their music drew me so. But now I see that it’s what they and all the modern poets have in common—they write psalms. They sing prayers and poems and hymns that are simultaneously lamentations and shout of joy. And in that way, they tell the truth because they are telling what life is like.
We carry God’s image and get to see glimpses of Him all around us. He is the source of all joy. But the leftovers of the Fall are still in every one of us. The enemy always means pain for evil. As the evil one told the green lady in CS Lewis’ Perelandra, “I came to teach you death in abundance.” But God wants to use every bit of pain for good. So take heart. Embrace the moments of this day for all that they are. And worship the One who is making you.
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but a the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:17-18).