One way or another, we all seem to question the reason for our existence on this planet. The problem of pain and suffering easily sets our feelings on fire to do so. Why did he have to die? Why did my parents abandon me at this early age? Why was I born poor? WHY? Our story unfolds like a long chronicle of ceaseless struggle and despair. The Truth is, we all face this reality because none of us lives outside of it—we happen to be the direct recipients of the problem itself!
Mind you, it is not just a theological or philosophical issue but also a personal, more emotional one as well. Just last year on campus, I received bad news from home that one of my cousins had passed away in the hospital after he developed this strange boil in his throat (may his soul rest in peace). When news like this arrives at your doorstep, it is normal for you to search all over for someone who would love and reach out to you. The times are so difficult in those moments that we need some sort of friend to help share the pain with. If we had our own way, we might even want to cast every burden of pain unto the other party’s shoulders so we are relieved greatly of its effect.
If we find some sort of unrest in this world, couldn’t it be that we probably were made for another kind of world? The fact that we even sense the frustration from the incompatibility-issues interests me the most. May I put one illustration in your mind to push it further? We all know of vacuum flasks. A vacuum flask is specially built to keep its content hotter or cooler than the flask’s surrounding. We therefore expect that a warm substance would remain warm in it and a cold substance would remain cold in it (all things being equal). Now, imagine the vacuum flask as a human being. If for some reason, the flask complained of uneasiness after some cold tea was poured into it, it would seem strange because we know that by virtue of its makeup, it should have no problem keeping cold contents on the inside. The complaint obviously raises eyebrows about the integrity of the flask’s makeup because originally, it wouldn’t have had any issues with storing cold substances. The same goes for us too. We have this inward impression that lives should be lived free of these ‘wicked soul reapers’. It gives us a somewhat clear idea that our world (originally) was inhabitable and void of evil. Since we are actually aware of the fact that we experience pain and suffering then we can also infer that something that was once beautiful and faultless has been disturbed—either by us or by someone else or something.
Nevertheless, if you’ve ever been a victim of what I’m discussing right now, you will agree with me that giving intellectual responses to grieving hearts (no matter how brilliant and superb the message is) do not really dress the deep wounds. In moments like these, people want to be loved, to be cared for, and to even be assured of a better life someday (supposing a better life really awaits humanity one day). Dr. Vince Vitale, a senior tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics made a simple but profound statement during a talk at The VERITAS FORUM at Johns Hopkins University back in 2013. Speaking on this same theme, he touched lightly on the story of Lazarus’ death. We read in the Bible that Jesus arrived late to Bethany to learn of the death of Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus. We don’t read anywhere that when the siblings confronted Jesus, He stood up straight ready to give some intellectual talk or anything of that sort. The bible says that Jesus wept. He wept! It was an emotional experience. Suffering and pain caused the God-incarnate to grieve in His heart and cry over the death of His friend. What a pain, pain is!
Imagine you go to the pharmacy to purchase a laxative and the physician rather begins to offer you a well-detailed, professional lecture on CONSTIPATION. I won’t even waste my time to ask what you would do in response to that. At that moment, all you need is the drug to relief that pain. Period! The lecture can be saved for later when the curiosity to know more about that subject arises (minus any searing pain ‘down there’). I’m just trying to say in a polite manner that today I’m here to address the people who are victims of the very issue under discussion and not just wanting to satisfy their intellectual thirst.
I can imagine myself seeking for answers only to be told that I’m nothing special because I’m just a miscarriage of nature. Something somewhere coughed me up into existence some time ago into a purposeless, aimless world. That this ‘thing’ I call pain and suffering is just an illusion. Really? If we were nothing special and had no meaning, how would we, the meaningless entities have known in the first place that we had no meaning? But truth is, we do know deep down that we have meaning and possess some intrinsic worth (even if we wrestle against that thought). If we didn’t, we wouldn’t care about anything at all.
I can confidently say that it is only Jesus who boldly announces the eradication of pain and suffering in the kind of world He’s going to build for those who truly believe and love Him right to the end. He is actually the only hope to the loudest cry of our hearts.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
This kind of truth brings real comfort to the broken heart. First, the truth that reminds us that this world is a fallen world. It is broken and fading away gradually to be replaced by a new one where there will be no reason to cry or mourn. It will be a permanent relief from the struggles of life. Not just temporal but PERMANENT. And also, scripture does not say “…maybe God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. No “if’s” or “buts”. God is as sure as anything You can ever imagine. That is why He said again, “…I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE”, not “…I think I know the way, the truth and the source of Life”. If He could totally stun the laws of nature by laying down His own life and taking it again, why would I for one second waver in this glorious hope when all other alternatives seem to wallow in sheer hopelessness? If we know that this world is gradually fading away, the best we can do is to drench ourselves in God’s grace and divine endurance until all is finally over.
But why wait? Why doesn’t He alleviate the pain now? In fact, how can an all-powerful, all-good God co-exist with evil in the first place? Trust me, I’ve asked myself similar questions before (not once, not twice). I will quickly say that I would love to tackle this question someday (for those of us who are curious just like me) because though we don’t have answers to all of life’s questions, I believe there are still scraps of evidence all round to help the thinker think deeply to find for oneself the ultimate truth regarding life.
In the midst of our adversities and painful trials, we lift our hands up in hope that we may be lifted up from the miry clay. For those of us who really desire real comfort, I say to you that Jesus is more than willing to receive you and to be that Great Comforter in Your Life. His very nature has taught me that LOVE PRECEDES LIFE. For those of us who are already in the Faith, may I please remind you of Apostle Paul’s spirit-filled words:
“…do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36