The Problem of Pain
The title of this lesson, "The Problem of Pain" is taken from a book of this name written by C.S. Lewis (English Christian writer). In it he discusses the nature and effect of pain on the human condition and tries to square the existence of pain with the existence of God. As a Christian apologist (he specialized in books that defended the idea of the existence of God, the deity of Christ) he was very much interested in responding to the argument against belief in God because of the existence of pain.
If God is good and all powerful, why does He allow pain and why doesn't He just stop it?
An all good / powerful God would not allow His creation to suffer and die, therefore there must be no God.
Many people do not believe because of this obstacle to their faith. Many lose faith because of the pain they experience in their lives. Today I'd like to deal with this issue of pain simply by sharing with you some of the things that the Bible has to say about pain.
The Source of Pain.
Sin causes pain, not God - Gen. 2:16-17; Rom. 6:23
From the beginning of time God has warned man about the relationship between sin (disobeying God's will / word / laws) and the pain and death that are a result of it. I think that most people understand and even accept this idea but have trouble dealing with the reasons why innocent people suffer. For Example:
- A person robs a bank, drinks too much, abuses another and then suffers for their actions, we agree and approve that justice in pain are needed here.
- What about babies dying of illness; innocent victims of war and violence; oppressed people because of poverty, race; folks who die in accidents or weather related mishaps; or just old age and illness?
- Why does God allow this, what did they do to deserve these things?
The answer is the same. Whether innocent or guilty the reason for pain and death is sin. Sometimes it is the direct result of your own sin; sometimes it's the indirect result of the cumulative sinfulness of the world that affects us, but sin is always the cause. Here are several example of how sin causes pain:
- A person drinks too much alcohol, beats his wife. He gets arrested, loses his job and family. His health deteriorates and he suffers the affects of alcoholism, loneliness, poverty - pain as a direct result of his sin.
- His family is left without a father, less income, less educational opportunity. Children lack discipline, they are depressed, angry. They grow up with the pain and suffering caused by a dysfunctional home and many times carry that into their own families - pain in this case is an indirect result of someone else's sin. They suffer because of someone else.
- Before the flood there was perfect balance in nature, sin destroyed this through the flood and the consequences continue to affect us to this day.
- Disease, environmental imbalances and disasters, originally stem from the devastating effects on the ecosystem caused by the great flood which itself was caused by sin.
And then there are human character weakness, our disposition to give in to evil, our inability to grasp spiritual things easily - a legacy left to us by Adam who through disobedience permitted sin to enter into the human realm in the 1st place.
I'm saying all of this to say that there is pain because there is sin and we are all affected by it directly or indirectly. Because there is sin and pain doesn't prove that there is no God. It merely proves that God doesn't deal with pain the way we would deal with pain if we were God. If we were God there would be no pain, no suffering, perfect justice. Well, God created a world like this and man ruined it with sin. No, God exists amid the pain and through His word He helps us understand and deal with the pain. Now that we understand this, let's look at a couple of other things that God says about pain.
The Bible and Pain
1. Pain is a certainty
Jesus guaranteed it - John 16:33, Peter tells us not to be surprised - I Pet. 4:12
A lot of peoples' anxiety comes from the worry of experiencing pain. They want to avoid it at all costs, even the tiniest bit of discomfort or inconvenience. They end up suffering constant anxiety instead. If you're human you sin, if you sin you'll experience pain, if you live in this world, pain will find you eventually because of the sin of others. For example, Jesus was perfect but suffered for others' sins.
Jesus and Peter tell us that we can find comfort despite the pain, not that we can avoid the pain altogether!
2. We are called to suffer pain - I Pet. 2:21
This is a tough idea to swallow because we don't normally think that God wants us to suffer. God hates sin and does not enjoy the suffering caused by sin:
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones."
- Psalms 116:15
But he does use suffering for His own purposes. We would simply eliminate suffering, He uses suffering to rebuild what sin has destroyed. For humanists or atheists, the elimination of suffering through various means is the highest and most noble work a person can do. For Christians, the elimination of suffering is also a noble work in order to glorify and honor God. For God, suffering is a tool that He uses to create a higher good. It is one way God uses to promote spiritual development.
We only get something out of our suffering and pain if we see it as a calling from God.
Pain doesn't come from Him but if we allow it, He will use it to do something good in our lives. For example:
- Pain brings about repentance - II Cor. 2:1-9. A brother had suffered the pain of separation from his loved ones in order to get him to abandon sin and be restored - to save his soul. God uses pain to get our attention.
- Pain teaches us how to be more understanding and sympathetic toward other people who are suffering - II Cor. 1:4. Empathy is learned through pain.
- Pain draws people to God - II Cor. 4:15. Paul's suffering with patience and faith caused others to praise God and to trust in Him for their own suffering. How many times are we moved to "keep going" by the suffering of someone else?
- Pain builds character - Rom. 5:3. Over and over again people testify that their suffering has caused them to draw courage, develop patience, appreciate their lives, change their goals.
The Bible teaches us not to see pain simply as an inconvenience or a loss of enjoyment of life but rather as a calling from God to allow Him to transform us using the pain as an agent for change.
- Change in conduct
- Change in attitude toward others
- Change in faith
- Change in character
3. Pain is not eternal
In the book of Job we read about a man who experienced every kind of pain imaginable, Lost his business, children, wife, health, respect, position, friends.
This terrible pain went on for an unspecified amount of time but eventually God restored all that he had lost. We concentrate on Job's suffering so much that we forget that he spent many more years being blessed than being cursed with pain. God says to David in Psalm 50:15 "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you."
Suffering comes and goes, God is always there. He understands our frame, our weakness, our capacity, our endurance. Now, God will not eliminate all suffering because He uses it for His own purpose but
God is Fair & Just
"The Rock, His work is Perfect for all His ways are just"
- Deut. 32:4
Shouldn't accuse God as being unfair because of our pain. Put our hand over our mouths, we're wrong when we do, no matter what the situation, Job found that out. Solomon said that there is a time for everything "a time to weep, and a time to laugh" Ecc. 3:4 We all have seasons of pain, but God promises that they will not be more than we can bear nor will they last forever.
Summary / Invitation
Pain is a fact of life, there is no avoiding it. Everyone suffers for what sins they or others do, however, not all suffer profitably. When we do suffer however it is important that we remember:
- God doesn't send pain, sin does. This will help you not be mad at the one who can truly help you with the pain.
- Pain can be profitable in our lives. If all we want is for the pain to stop, as soon as possible, then all we get is relief. If we see pain as a calling from God it doesn't make the pain any less painful, but the pain will produce more positive things in our lives.
- The pain will pass. Like all things good and bad, this painful episode will one day pass and will be a memory. Keeping this in mind will help keep the entire experience in perspective.
If you are suffering this morning we'd like to minister to you:
- If you are experiencing pain from illness or personal problems - let us pray on your behalf for God's mercy and help.
- If you are suffering from the fear of judgment and condemnation for your sins - let us witness your confession of Jesus and repentance of sins and bury you in the waters of baptism.
- If you are experiencing the guilt of sin and unfaithfulness as a Christian - let us pray for your forgiveness and restoration.
- If you desire to be included in our Church family - let us extend to you the right hand of fellowship.
Whatever your pain, allow us to put balm on your wounds by coming forward as we stand and sing.