There is not one human being alive who does not, or will not, suffer or be in some sort of pain in life. Our journey on earth is not as perfect or blissfully smooth as television commercials and romantic movies make them out to be. In fact, when you reflect on events throughout history it is amazing what humanity has endured.
I watched a television show recently which had a panel of people talking about how they had each faced a traumatic experience in their lives and how they coped with it. For instance, one person had survived a shocking car accident, another was a refugee who had witnessed murders and was terribly abused, and another person was the sole survivor of a boating accident while their entire family had drowned. Looking at each person on the surface you could not perceive their pain and the scars they carried. It made me think deeply about how we should not be quick to judge a person, as we do not know what heavy crosses they have had to carry.
One person on the panel said that they used to believe in God and attended church every Sunday, however after their traumatic experience they no longer believed in Him and questioned how He could have allowed such loss and tragedy in their lives. Such hurt and anger towards God is honest, raw, and understandable. It is a common question that many people ask – even lifelong Christians – how could God allow evil, pain, or innocent lives to be taken?
I believe that we must remember that God is not the source of this evil and pain in the world. Evil and pain is from Satan. We may still question why the all-powerful and superior God allows this to happen anyway, but He permits free will. If something unfortunate happens to us at the hands of another person, we must reflect on the choices which that perpetrator has made and where it comes from – God or Satan? This is also not to say that a person chooses to have a disease because they are evil, but we live in a flawed world where bad things happen to us even if we are innocent. Sound familiar? Jesus was an innocent lamb, and look at what happened to Him.
We should also remember that good can come out of any bad situation. We can use a difficult time to grow in our spiritual maturity, resilience, character, and compassion for others. We may use our time of suffering to grow closer to the Lord and then help others in some way. Why bother? Because He understands. Even God’s own Son – completely spotless, without blemish, the very incarnation of Love – was allowed to be killed to save us from eternal death.
When I went through a difficult experience years ago there was a lot of spiritual and mental anguish. There was one moment when I too asked: “God, what are You doing? Why would You allow this to happen?” I did not give up my faith in Him nor stopped attending church, but I felt confused, angry, and very alone. It was like giving and receiving the silent treatment after a serious falling out with someone.
Everyone copes differently with pain and suffering, but what helped me was to go on living moment by moment and day by day, allowing time for the anger to be released by talking to others, reading helpful books, and most importantly to continue praying. Often I did not pray in a formal way at all, but would fall into an intense silence and could only look at the crucifix on my wall, or hold my rosary in a tight-fisted hand – this is also prayer, whether we realise it or not. Now when I look back on that time I am thankful because it made me a stronger person and better able to cope with other challenges that came my way.
I recently heard from someone whose relative was ill in hospital. Their relative had found instant relief when they offered up their pain to Jesus, in connection with His suffering on the cross. Together they had marvelled at how edifying, comforting, and quick the response was.
I decided to do likewise in moments of pain, and it was not long before I had the ‘opportunity’ to put this into practice. Lying in bed one night I felt a sharp pain that prevented me from moving. I worried that perhaps I was having a heart attack and asked Jesus to help me, to take away my pain and unite it with His own suffering upon the cross – or words to that effect. The relief was so swift that I was afraid to believe it. I inhaled slowly and was able to move normally again, getting out of bed to check that all was well, and so it was.
But a word of caution here. This is not to say or advocate that anyone who is actually experiencing a heart attack or some medical/other emergency should pray and wait to see if this works for them or not. It is crucial to pray, but one must also act quickly to obtain help if it is needed. God also works through medical and emergency services professionals.
The point is that when we are in pain or suffering of any form, we must turn to Christ who persevered through the deepest torments of being scourged, bashed, spat upon, mocked, tortured, and then bore a prolonged death upon the cross for us. When we unite our anguish with His, something good does, or will, happen. Our pain may be instantly eased or not, but by allowing ourselves to blend our misery with His, we know that we are never alone in our experience.
Your pain to Him means that you must hand it over to the One who knows and suffered the ultimate pain.
Your pain to Him is precious because He went through it first.
Your pain to Him needs to be expressed directly to Him through ongoing prayer.
Your pain to Him is like balm, soothing His own agony which continues today because of sin in the world.
Your pain to Him is not useless and meaningless – you may not see it, but He will take it and use it for some good.