“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
It is platitudes like these that leave most of us wanting. It sounds good. It even, as a Christian, made pain and suffering sound noble. God is trying to get your attention. You! He’s speaking to you, saying something important. But what is it?
Then you search your soul. Have I committed some sin? Nothing I can think of. Must be something obscure. He’s teaching me something. Must be. Yes, that’s it. I’m learning something. I can’t do this…life…on my own. Even then, when you think you’ve discovered it and you’ve made all the necessary adjustments to your lifestyle, you’re still in pain.
So you wrack your brain even more. I’m spending too much time or energy on something unimportant. I’ve been worshiping an idol. I’ve been putting work, money, family, my spouse, my girlfriend/boyfriend or something ahead of God. Life is short. Make it count!
It doesn’t matter the source of the pain. Oh, sure, you want to get at that source to make it stop. But what if you can’t. What if it’s the death of a loved one? Perhaps a child? What if it’s facing starvation? Or incurable disease? Or the barrel of a gun? What if it’s a tornado? Or an earthquake? Or a tsunami? What if it’s depression? What if it’s something so totally beyond your control that you have no hope of ever stopping it or repairing it’s damage?
Well, that’s where those silly little platitudes come in. As long as you can cling to the hope that something good must come of this horrid situation you’ll be fine. God is using his bullhorn to get your attention and teach you some valuable life lesson.
He wanted your attention. Now he’s got it. Now, what were you saying, God? What was it that was so important that you needed to smite us to get our attention? What? No. I didn’t hear it. I’m all ears. Did you guys hear that? Still can’t hear you. Why do you insist on shouting so quietly? If it’s that important, spit it out! Let us hear what you want to say. No? I thought so. There’s no one there.
This post was inspired by Collateral Damage at Finding Truth. This is not intended to blame any god for causing our pain and suffering. It is meant to point out the contradiction in the belief that there is a god who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent who wants to be known. We can do all sorts of dances around the reasons for his silence. Some of us just happen to believe the reason for that is that he most likely doesn’t exist. If he does exist, we’re all ears. We’re still waiting. Meanwhile we’re getting on with our lives.
August 30, 2013 at 6:46 am
I well remember the days. I especially remember the days after a serious and potentially fatal hospitalization hearing from my former friend that I didn’t have Crohn’s disease. I just had “deep-seeded” secret sin in my heart. (I need a vomiting emoticon to insert here.)
Oh, and then there were the ones who told me I must be doing a great work for the Lord for Satan to be attacking me so much.
Here’s what happens to some of us in pain, whether, physical, emotional/mental &/or spiritual (whatever spiritual means for an individual) . . . we are vulnerable, often desperate, and we fall into the mess of trying to sort it all out while screaming the name of Jesus into our pillows while sitting on the toilet and not wanting to wake our babies with our screams. We start to believe these platitudes and when we do we get sicker. 😦
I so appreciate this post D’Ma. The tears are welling up. I’ve been so overwhelmed of late. (((hugs)))
August 30, 2013 at 7:01 am
I also think it’s a distraction from the pain. We get so busy trying to dodge Satan’s fiery darts or figure out what we’ve done to get out of God’s good graces or learn the lesson that we can push the actual pain back. We think we’re doing something about it when we’re really only running around in circles keeping busy.
August 30, 2013 at 9:26 am
Hope things get better soon, Zoe!
August 31, 2013 at 7:05 am
That too D’Ma.
And Nate, thank you.
August 30, 2013 at 7:58 am
Very well said, D’Ma! I think that this type of platitude can help some people sometimes, because often we are our own worse enemies, so that bit of introspective “what am I doing wrong” can be beneficial. But there are so many things, so many challenges and disasters, which occur well beyond the realm of our influence that turn these types of platitudes into self-injuring weapons as we struggle to understand what we’ve done wrong, or beat ourselves up over perceived sins.
August 30, 2013 at 9:30 am
Self-evaluation and introspection are often the key to improvement. Many times our negative circumstances are of our own making. Even when they aren’t we can often find ways to improve our situation with some good ol’ self reflection. But where religion is concerned often it’s just the gateway to a guilt-trip. And often times there’s really nothing to be guilty about. Better than guilt, though, is asking ourselves, “Can I change this? And if so, how?” That gives us a plan of action rather than dwelling on how terrible and lowly and wormy we are. Self-flagellation leads to nowhere fast. While we’re still there it’s very difficult to think rationally about anything. Usually we end up digging ourselves a bigger hole.
August 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm
Well said. But I am not “waiting”. I am just fine. But I imagine you agree.
August 30, 2013 at 10:28 pm
If pain is God shouting, I wish he would quit shouting so damn loud. 🙂
The issues you raise here played a part in my deconversion. For me, as I struggle with pervasive health problems, I find comfort in not having to figure out whether God is punishing me, teaching me, or just torturing me for fun. Through the Internet, I have met numerous fellow sufferers. Their struggles, their love and compassion, give me far more than God ever did. Especially since I found God quite silent when suffering showed up at my doorstep and decided to stay. My conclusion, of course, was that God was silent because he was either using the bathroom, sleeping, or on vacation. (To paraphrase 1 Kings 18) either that or he didn’t exist.