Sunday, November 13, 2016

pain is real... but joy is bigger

Lewis paints a vivid picture of the relationship between suffering and joy today in A Year with C.S. Lewis.

Notice that Lewis does NOT say that pain is an illusion. He doesn't say we're just imagining it, or that we just need to ignore it. He admits that it's real, and that it hurts. Suffering isn't fun. And we all suffer from time to time. We all face pain.

So what do we do with it? Well, one thing we can do is to give it to God. He can unite our suffering with His in a very powerful, transforming way. I can't tell you all of the good that this does, because there is a mystery element to it, meaning that we CAN'T know all of the good involved. It's beyond us. But I DO know a couple things that it does.

It keeps us from becoming bitter. Pain will do one of two things in your life: it will make you bitter, or it will make you better. If you allow pain to do its good work in you, you will become a better, deeper, richer, more loving and patient person. If you resist it and get angry about it and blame people or God for it... then you will become bitter. You can avoid this by giving your pain up to God and asking Him to unite it with His suffering.

Second, it frees us from sin. The Bible says "He who suffers in the body is through with sin." I wish it were as easy as that sounds on first reading. Then we could just cut our finger, feel the pain, and never sin again. But sin is stubborn, and sometimes it takes a strong dose of suffering to drive it out. I know that my sin was slow in going... and likes to return whenever it can. But suffering helps me keep it away. When we suffer, we learn what's important. And it helps us to say no to the things that easily tempt us.

So those two things we can do with our pain. But there is another thing we can do, and that's put it in perspective. When we realize that our pain is temporary, and that it is so much smaller than the joy that we look forward to... it helps us see the bigger picture. Suddenly it isn't as hard to shoulder my cross and follow Him. I see that His yoke is easy and His burden is light... because in comparison to the joy that He has waiting for me at the end of the road, the yoke and the burden and the suffering are as nothing. Like an atom that a bird swallows without even realizing it.

God, thank You for promising us such great joy that our pain will seem like nothing.