I heard a little girl age 11 complaining one day to her mother about a pain in her knee. So Mama got down, had a look at the knee, couldn’t see anything wrong. Look, don’t worry about it, she said. It’s probably growing pains, but the 11 year old didn’t like that explanation. Why, she said, Can’t we grow without pain?
Well, I thought, What an excellent question. Why can’t we grow? Why can’t we live without pain?
Actually, unfortunately, in real life, pain is often associated with growth, and the famous saying is no pain, no gain. I think it’s true. Not all pain is physical as emotional mental pain as well suffering. It’s not fun, is it?
We don’t like pain. We don’t like suffering. But when we do, we wonder why it is that it’s come to me. Why am I feeling like this? Why has this burden been placed upon my shoulders? Most of our learning, you know, in our development, comes not from the good times where everything is going smoothly, but actually from the difficult times.
Have you found that to be true when everything is going smoothly? We don’t think a lot about change. I mean, why would we? But during the bad times, we struggle and we might feel unhappy, and that is actually the time when real change happens.
There’s a challenge to us. We’ve got a choice. We can either feel sorry for ourselves or we can stop and say, okay, this has happened. I’m in pain. What can I do about this as we get older? We think the people who are older than us are very wise. One man was asked, where do you get all your good judgement from? And this is what he said. “Good judgement comes from bad experience.” What? What is that all about?
I think what he meant was that we learn best in the tough times, and that’s life. Isn’t it a bit like the donkey who fell into a pit in this poor old animal. He cried and whined for hours, and the owner was trying to work out what to do. And finally he said, “well, nothing can be done. I’m sorry. Old donkey accidents happen. I’ll just bury the old donkey right there in the well.” And so he got a shovel and started filling in the pit, and this donkey kept up his whaling crying. But after a while, an hour went by. He was furiously shoveling in the dirt. The farmer stopped, and to his utter amazement, he saw his old donkey jump out of the pit and trot away the old well, the animal hit on a plan. As each spade full of dirt hit his back, this donkey would shake it off and take a step on the growing mound of dirt and you guessed it. Eventually, this mound of dirt grew higher and higher. He could actually jump out of the pit.
Well, life’s a lot like that. If life is going to shovel dirt on you, including pain, well, the trick is to shake it off and take a step out.
I’m not saying that pain is easy to shake off, and I know people who are in constant physical pain, and I feel for them. But I’m referring to a more general definition of pain that comes in living and that definition of no pain no gain. I like C. S. Lewis, and he’s the author of the Narnia Chronicles. And he said, once in one of his books –
we can ignore pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to for God whispers to us in our pleasures, he speaks to us in our conscience, with shouts in our pain. It’s his megaphone. That’s what C. S. Lewis said. It’s his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Now. I think that’s that’s an older thought, but it’s a really good one. C. S. Lewis. He was speaking from personal experience. He married Joy Gresham later in life, only to see his beloved wife die a slow death due to cancer. So he was aware very acutely of what suffering was about. He wrote the book called ‘A Grief Observed’.
So the question is, and I want to take this further again tomorrow morning. Is God saying something to you in your pain? Just think about it. Maybe today everything your life, everything is out of control and you’ve got a sense that you don’t know where you’re going, and you find yourself asking the question. Where is God in this?
Um and I’m not talking about a broken arm or something broken there. It’s more than that. We can be aware when things are going right and when things are not going right. But we know that God is there. We could be wrestling with the right thing. But God speaks to us. We have a conscience, and God can be there in our moment of pain.
Thank you, Lord, that you don’t leave us to battle through these questions alone. You’re with us today, and we thank you that you’re with us in our pain. Amen.