I’ve dealt with pain for most of my life. The pain started when I was thirteen, but it became especially problematic two years later, when I injured my foot and developed a nerve condition which caused excruciating pain. I spent eight months in a boot and on crutches, unable to put any weight on my left foot because of the pain. Eventually, the pain spread until my entire body was afflicted with constant pain similar to what a person with fibromyalgia might experience.
Pain has been my constant companion, reminding me of my existence and suffering almost every step of the way – no pun intended. For a long time, I struggled to see how God could possibly be present in my life or have a plan for my life. However, I also was hesitant to accept that God’s nature could be as such that he would not always be present in my life, and I spent a lot of time searching for answers. As part of my search for answers, I took a tutorial on the Philosophy of Suffering and Death during my junior year. At the end of the class, I wrote a 10 page paper regarding the existence of both God and suffering.
As I wrote the paper, I drew quite a bit from C.S. Lewis’s “The Problem of Pain.” In it, he discusses how suffering, in many ways, can be considered a gift from God. Initially, that sounds completely insane. How could something as terrible as pain ever be a gift? Lewis argues that pain allows us to seek and find our true happiness in God. Pain demands to be felt. Everyone who has had so much as a mild headache knows this to be true. You can try to ignore it, but sooner or later that attempt will inevitably fail.
If everything seems well in our lives, we will never look beyond the physical world for happiness. We will believe that things of this earth are sufficient to keep us happy. But when your world is full of suffering and it seems like happiness does not exist, how long will it take before you look to God? For many people, the answer is never. They cannot find a way wherein the God of Christianity exists but also pain and suffering exist. For equally as many, if not more people, it becomes only a matter of time.
I know quite a few people who have suffered immensely in life, and yet have a strong faith and truly love God, including my mother. Despite her suffering, my mother always manages to find the good things in life and never once has her faith wavered throughout her trials. Despite her suffering, even if given the choice, my mother would not go back to before her suffering started and not suffer. Her experience is not uncommon. Suffering, whether mentally, physically or emotionally is terrible, and some days you aren’t okay at all. But even on the darkest of days, God is still there.
Countless people will testify that their pain and suffering, whatever it may have been, led them to God. Pain allows us to see that we are missing something from our lives, and to seek God as a result. So yes, pain is a gift. Pain is the gift you never asked for and oftentimes wish you could return, but ultimately the gift that would forever change your life.