Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Problem of Pain

Human pain can be either a sensation caused by nerves or an experience, be it physical or mental, that one dislikes. This can be feelings such as suffering, anguish, trouble, etc. Lewis writes this chapter with the second definition of pain as the base.

What was good before sin was that obedience was actually an enjoyment. It brought happiness since it delighted in the fact that one was serving Someone who loved and was accepted by that Someone. However, later obedience became something one had to do rather than wanted to do. As a spoiled child who hates obligation and would “kill or die rather than giving in,” obedience becomes merely something that’s in one’s way. In my opinion this is due to the eldest of all sins: pride. I remember that when I was a child, I used to quarrel with my little sister. Even if I had been in the wrong, I could not bear the thought of apologizing. However, once I managed to utter a meek "sorry" all the ill matters would be cast aside, leaving only a smile. Redemption is good, very good. But one fails to see how wonderful it's and how much peace it brings only because a pride that has no sense, and stubbornness that offers no future.

The cure for this, Lewis writes, is a sour medicine named “pain”. It is a remedy that “breaks the child’s will” or pride. The pain of punishment reveals the “masked evil” of error and sin. Since it’s loud and annoying as a siren, it’s impossible to ignore. It flashes bright red and cries “DANGER!” And that’s when one can know that there is evil in the house.

The consequences of pain can be divided in two main results. Either the person rebels and succumbs into a bigger evil or it repents and makes amends with God turning towards religion. If one chooses evil, then one would have missed his chance to go to a place where his fears would have melted like ice in face of spring.

Feeling pain in the heart when something precious breaks is also a way to bring one back to reality. It reminds the fact that one cannot attach itself to materialistic goods since they are not eternal and that God is the only One who can offer true satisfaction. The problem is that people do cling to physical goods until the moment everything is broken and then searches for God. But God should not be the last resort; he should be the first one. What seems to be the “shortcut” is actually the detour.

Then why make good people suffer too? One may ask. I asked myself this question before too. I realize now that it’s actually because they have experienced how much pain hurts that they can be kind and considerate. They know how it feels to be down, that’s why they know how to console, they know how it feels to be alone, and that’s why they can be a good friend.

“I am a great coward.” Lewis says almost by the end and I admit that I am too. I cringe at the sound of pain. I want to crawl into a hole when something that hurts me appears and haunts me. What should I do? I asked myself various times in those moments. I found out there is only one answer: Trust. The Lord says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” He asks strength and courage not because we have it within ourselves, but because He is and will be with us.

I believe that God’s prescription is always precise and fair. God gives certain kinds of pains to those who need it, and the right amount of pain to those who can bear with it. This does not mean all unnecessary pain is caused by God. Lewis says so too by writing “It is men, not God who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.” But then sometimes it becomes confusing to identify what part of life was touched by God’s hand and which was distorted by human hand. In my opinion, pondering about this matter will never bring anyone to anything worthy. It might even bring one to a erroneous judgment. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.” (1 Corinthians 3: 19) All one has to do is to put one’s trust on the Lord and live faithfully. It all comes back to faith.

Thus in the end, tribulation cannot cease. It’s a constant reminder of where one is. If the road to hell is with a “gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”, then the road to heaven is a tiresome slope, one that needs effort, with surprising turns everywhere, with tons of milestones, with millions of signposts. Like a mother’s reproach that shapes a child, our Father’s warning guides his child to paradise.

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