Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why does God allow pain?

In the beginning of my illness, while the constant pain was still fresh, I agonized over the question “Why would God allow me to be in this much pain?”. Like most Christians, I looked for the meaning in my suffering, through prayer and meditation on God's word. One of the things that came to me in the form of a revelation was this, how you answered this question depended on how you viewed God.

To the atheist, the question is meaningless. Since there is no God, you would have to assume you drew the equivalent of a cosmic “short straw”. There is no one to blame, it is just bad genes, or bad luck. More importantly is the thought that the suffering you are going through is completely meaningless and empty.

To the “spiritual” person the question boils down to either some type of bad karma, or internal impurity. The answer to the pain, and illness would reside somewhere inside yourself. To you god could be many things like nature, spirits, or perhaps an energy source. You would be looking to cleanse yourself spiritually, hoping that this would cure the illness and stop the pain. The ultimate answer to the question would be found in changing it to “what did I do to cause this pain”. The greatest problem with this point of view is not the herbs, meditation, pyramids, or rituals, but rather the absolute absorption in self, driving you ever onward to find the next “answer. This, as most of us in chronic pain know, would be an exercise in futility.

These views to me are ultimately hollow, leaving me still to grasp at some greater meaning to my pain. Although when I think about these two different points of view, I do have to acknowledge though that it might be easier to assume some type of bad luck, or spiritual damage, than to think that a divine being like God has actually allowed, or even caused this affliction!

Coming from the Christian perspective, I am forced though to acknowledge that the source of my pain is God, for nothing comes to us that has not passed first through the Father's hands. This, for me, in the beginning was difficult to embrace, or accept.

I remember my first reaction was to think “well, we live in a fallen world, and the chances of dying are still 100%, so this is just something that I have to live with.”. On the surface this served me quite well because I did not have to face the issue of blame, or the thought that my pain was intentional.. But I questioned how this point of view differed from that of an atheist? Treating God as an uninvolved deity who placed things in motion and stepped back is no different than a universe that created itself. Did God truly not care about me, or my affliction? Was I just placed into this fallen world to fend for myself? Was I viewing my life, and pain in the same hollow meaningless way that the atheist must?

Minutes, days, and months drew my pain into an endless prison of anguish and despair. The pain was no longer fresh, and my easy answers no longer stood up to my prayers, or bible study. I found that I could not escape the fact that God my Father allowed me this torment. How I looked at God changed from uninvolved, to a God who was angry, lacking any compassionate, or mercy.

What had I done to irritate God so much? Was this His punishment for all of the sins that I had committed? My first reaction was to turn away from God. I stopped reading the bible, and my prayers became more difficult. I came up with reasons to miss church on Sundays, leaving me mad, confused, and ultimately hurting on the inside as much as I was on the outside.

This emptiness started me once more down the road of trying to figure out what I had done to make God so mad. What sin tipped the scale? What wrong had I not gone to Him with? Was I not remorseful enough? Did I have the right amount of faith? Was I truly saved???? I was always taught that God loves us all, so why did He hate me so much?

In yet another revelation I realized that I was thinking like a spiritualist. If I could just find that one impurity, in my case sin, or somehow gain more faith, then God would stop being angry with me and my world would once more have harmony. How flawed was this? Didn't Jesus death cover all of my sins, not just the ones I remembered and confessed? I knew that my faith in the forgiveness of my sins through the death of Jesus Christ was complete, and any attempt look at sin as a cause of my illness and pain was wrong! My pain was not some type of cosmic accident, and it was not a result of my sin, so what was I left with?

If my faith was complete, and understanding sufficient, the inescapable conclusion was that my illness passed through God's hands to me! There was a purpose to my suffering, and it had nothing to do with punishing me.

To be continued...

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