Sunday, 11 June 2017

Staying Sane Through the Pain

Pain is a huge problem.  I have a tendency to deal with pain logically (my article "Bright Bulb,"for example).  I can explain away pain, and so that helps me work through it.  However, pain is just more than an intellectual concept to be grappled with.  It’s a real, tangible force, and it hurts.

It really hurts.

Every day, I am faced with an onslaught of examples of pain.  Sometimes it is small as a minor sickness.  Many times it’s the overflow of the brokenness that comes from broken relationships.  Often it’s a report on the news of one more murder, or terrorist attack, or masses of people struggling just to survive.

The world is a mess, and I haven’t gotten to the worst part yet.  When a person accepts the truth, one understands that God is real, and that He could have prevented all this.  Not only that, but He created Hell for the people who choose not to follow him.  Academically, I get it.  However, that doesn’t make the pain involved any less real.

Hell means that people that I’ve spent my life building relationships with and caring about will be suffering eternity in absolute torture.  I even weep for the people that I’ve never met, I weep for the most violent and evil people on earth, because that’s how bad Hell is.

Pain is more than just an intellectual concept, and so this is my attempt to deal with it on an emotional level.  How do we go on living, both accepting the truth, and the pain that is included in the truth?

First, let me state how not to deal with pain.  Don’t deal with pain by ignoring it.  It’s true that it’s healthier to focus on the positive things in life, but that doesn’t mean that we should pretend that it doesn’t exist.  That doesn’t mean escaping into our own world that we make up for ourselves in our heads, medicating ourselves with whatever distractions we can find.  Doing that is living a lie.

The easiest way for me to describe why it’s wrong to ignore pain is to look at a simple, physical example of it.  When a person hurts themselves, the best thing to do in order to not feel any more pain is to deal with it.  Bandage the wound, run your burn under cold water, give your body the rest that it needs to recover from the sickness.  If you don’t take the steps needed to get better, often the pain will get worse, and lead you to death.

We need to deal with the pain.  How?  How can we get over the fact when the truth is so hard to ignore?

There are ways to deal with it.

One of the ways we can deal with pain is to realize that there is a solution.  If you have the ability to complain about the pain, you have the ability to find the answer to it.  If you have ability to scream out God “why are you doing this to me, to us?”  You have the ability to cry out to Him to save you from the worst of the pain.  God promises eternity in paradise for those who choose to follow Him.

The emotional objection this is a legitimate one:  why should we wish to spend any degree of time who let all this bad stuff happen to us to begin with?  I’ve answered this question many times on a strictly logical level, but let me address it a different way this time.

If you are able to feel the emotion of hate towards Him, please try to allow yourself to feel the emotion of love that He has for you.  He loves you.  He built the world in such a way to show us that He is the ultimate answer to our pain.  You may not want to spend eternity with him with what you currently are feeling, but He wants to spend it with you.  We have a tendency to not get just how big of a deal that is.  We offend him with our actions.  We offend him every time we turn to anything other than him to give ourselves a happiness less than the joy that He offers.  We offend him so much and He still loves us.

The reason you will want to spend eternity with God is because He offers a deeper love filled and satisfying relationship and experience than you can find anywhere else.  He knows your thoughts, he truly gets you, and he wants to give you the most amount of happiness that you can get, and that’s why he’s prepared a place for you in Heaven.

Once you accepted that God loves you, that doesn’t change the fact that others around you are turning away from God’s love and ending up in Hell.  The pain hasn’t gone away yet.  That is because there’s still a problem to be dealt with.

Christians, I want you to ask yourselves, how much does the way that you live reflect the truth of the pain?  How much effort are you putting into loving others, reaching out to them, and showing them the truth?  Remember, the truth is that God, Heaven, and Hell, all exist.  Your actions should reflect that.  You’re not just trying to save sinners from Hell.  You are trying to usher in people who God loves, everyone, into His family where He is waiting with open arms.

Accepting the truth of the pain means not being satisfied with allowing people to live and pain and to bring more upon themselves.  It means not being okay with the fact that not everyone believes in God and are turning to Jesus.  Living in the light of the truth of the pain means doing your best to try to help in whatever way you can.

The title of this post is “staying sane through the pain,” so where does the sanity come in?  Acknowledging the truth of the pain seems to create more desperation than sanity, at least for me.

I find that it’s most helpful to understand that even though it’s our responsibility to obey God, to love others and help them see His glory, their destination in eternity is not our load to bear.  Ultimately, God made our souls, Heaven, Hell, and the criteria to get into either place, so the load falls onto His shoulders.  Only God is big enough to bear a burden that massive.  So let Him bear it!  Do what you can, and leave the rest to Him!

Philippians 4:6 (NIV) – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

God doesn’t say not to be anxious because nothing matters, because we can just ignore the pain.  Rather, we aren’t to be anxious because as long as we are doing our best to live in obedience to God, we will do nothing but harm ourselves by worrying about things that are out of our control.

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

We stay sane by accepting God’s love for us, by doing what we can to solve the problem, and by trusting him to take care of the things that we can do nothing about.

The pain won’t go away as long as we are living on this Earth.  But Revelation 21:4 says that for those of us who follow Him, He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and that there will be no more death or crying or pain.   I’m personally looking forward to that day, that day when any negative feeling that I may have, any reservation I have against God, is completely taken away and all that I am left with is pure, perfect joy, happiness, and satisfaction.