The Purpose Of Pain

Blog 2151 – 08.16.2021

The Purpose Of Pain

The reason that many give for not believing in a benevolent Universe, or loving God, is that pain and suffering exist in the world. Why? they ask or How? could a loving God allow His or Her children to suffer so? I will not attempt as Lincoln’s letter to the grieving mother who had given five sons on the altar of liberty in the American Civil War said “attempt to beguile you from your suffering.”

I am one who would prefer to always speak only encouraging and uplifting words, but there is the “problem of pain” as C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist, named one of his books defending Christianity. Christian Scientists, the religious sect, not real scientists who yet consider themselves Christians, teach that pain and sickness are not real, but only illusions brought on by our lack of faith.

I am sorry, but that is a very hard pill to swallow in the face of all the facts. A dear friend of mine does not believe in germ theory and a large portion of this country does not believe the Covid 19 virus is real, but rather an elaborate hoax. There are a lot of people sick and many have died and these irrefutable statistics tell a different story. Most of those getting sick and dying now from the Delta variant of the virus are doing so, 97 percent of them, for failing to be vaccinated. Faith is always risky business especially if it is founded on and grounded in magical thinking. Like one leader said early on in the pandemic, “One day the virus will just disappear.” How many precious lives will disappear before it does?

But, what if anything is the purpose of pain? I wrote a poem called “The Purpose of Pain” when I was a sixteen year old boy suffering the debilitating pain that many sixteen year olds experience:

The Purpose Of Pain

The purpose of pain, as I see it,

All toll of one heart torn

Is to make the heart so tender

Each dying rose to morn.

It is still true over fifty years later that one purpose of pain is to make us sensitive to the pain of others. The hardest words to say and even harder to hear are: “I am so sorry for your loss.”

In one of my all time favorite movies, “An Unfinished Life” with Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman plays a Cowboy named Mitch who has been mauled by a bear and lives in almost constant pain bearable only due to regular shots of Morphine. His friend and lifelong workmate, Einar, played by Robert Redford, asks him, “How is the pain?” and he answers, “It gets my full attention.”

That is the true purpose of pain, to get our full attention. I recall a saying that I heard as a young man that made some sense to me. It goes: “Sometimes, God has to lay us on our back to get us to look up.” Instead of seeing God, the Universe, as a monster inflicting pain without prejudice or purpose is it not more likely that the Universe is merely trying to get our attention to show us something?

Are we paying attention?

Your friend and fellow traveler,

David White

Days In The Sun

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