Pain and Authenticity
February 13, 2012 3 Comments
Well, about an hour ago I was playing basketball and tore my hamstring. I was on a fast break, and it felt like two very evil and very tiny men were pulling on a rubber band from my knee and my hip, and the thing just snapped. So here I am, laying on my couch with my leg over the side and thinking, “I’m 24! This type of thing should only happen to men twice my age!” But four Advil later, I at least feel good enough to write this little blog.
Pain is a funny thing. America’s Funniest Home Videos are filled with people in pain….but you almost never see them laughing. For some reason we are drawn to making light of it. We’re tempted at every turn to make it sound less humbling, less fear-inducing, less painful than it is.
Case in point: I just called a buddy of mine to ask if he had crutches to spare. He answered, “Hey Kyle! How you doing?” In as chipper a voice as I could muster I said, “Great man! How are you?” A couple of seconds later what I had done just dawned on me. “Wait,” I said, “I’m actually not great, and that’s why I’m calling you.”
There is something inside of us that often (not always) wants to minimize our pain or the pain of others.
But we can’t. Not if we want to be real about who we are, and what is going on in our lives and in our world. If we’re honest, life is sometimes physically, emotionally, or spiritually painful. Sometimes its painful in all those ways at once. And as much as we are tempted to minimize that, as much as we are tempted cover our sadness with a smile or our tears with a carefully hidden tissue, we can’t. Pain catches up. It creeps in. It has a way of making itself felt whether we like it or not.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
And pain is not only immediately recognizable evil, but evil impossible to ignore. We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; And anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. (The Problem of Pain, 91)
If we refuse to recognize the pain, we will always refuse the treatment.
Christians like me have often perfected the art of being glib with our pain. But the Bible, the book we are supposed to follow, will have none of it. No doubt many of us would feel a burden lift if we would occasionally cry out with the Psalmist:
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. (Ps 6:2)
The psalms give us words to speak to God when we’re not sure what to say. They tell us that it’s okay to be real with God about our suffering. After all, he already knows. And if we refuse to recognize the pain, we will always refuse the treatment.
I think, in some ways, tearing my hamstring is a good thing. Now, I’m not being glib about it. It sucks. But it reminds me of my real condition. I am a mortal human being. I am broken inside and out. I need Someone to set things right. I need someone to set me right. I need a Savior.
What I love about my faith, is it never requires me to lie about who I am. It forces me to confront the darkest parts of me, and the darkest parts of my life…to sit in my pain. But I also love that I know Someone, Jesus Christ, who heals my inside brokenness now, and one day will heal my outside brokenness too.