Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where does the pain go?

Pain is sometimes a very lonely thing. We've all encountered the fresh pain that comes from clumsy comforters who say things like "It could be worse!"and "Look at the bright side!" as they hastily retreat from our presence. Then there are the "rescuers", just as damaging in their own way. They have such a hatred of pain that they compulsively try to "do something" to erase it.
Sometimes it's possible to fix things, just as sometimes we need to 'buck up' etc. But sometimes we are simply in terrible pain and no one can "fix" it. In periods like these when the problems are not yet soluble "seeing the bright side" is more anesthetic than curative and "fixing the problem" would require either a time machine or full-blown psychosis. So where can we put our pain to keep it from overwhelming us?

In Fr. Lev Gilet's book "In Thy Presence" he writes about God's entry into every intimate detail of our condition in the Incarnation, especially all our sufferings. He mentions the story of the three Hebrew children who survived the fiery furnace they were thrown into when they would not commit idolatry. There appears a fourth figure, a "Son of Man" who is with them in the furnace. He does not take them out of the furnace, nor does He turn off the heat. Until reading this I always thought of it as God keeping them from experiencing the heat by simple fiat. After all, we believe that "When God wills the order of nature is overruled." But what if God did not apply invisible asbestos to them? What if they experienced the suffering and He suffered with them and their intimacy with Him preserved them in the suffering?

What if the One Who "changed the fiery flames into dew" did so by taking on the suffering of His servants, entering into their pain rather than erasing it? Don't we see this in Lazarus' death where Christ sorrows with Lazarus' family? Jesus says to His disciples that part of the reason for Lazarus' death is that they might believe. John spends a good deal of time recording the grief of Lazarus' family and friends as well as Jesus' reaction to all this pain. He suffers with them and then resurrects Lazarus. What are the disciples learning to believe? Not only that Jesus has power to resurrect but that he is willing to taste of death, His own, but also that of His loved ones.

By the time Gethsemane arrives, He has already drunk deeply from the cup of human suffering. And in that place of dreadful glory what is revealed to us? His immediate knowledge of suffering alone. After entreating His followers to stay, to watch and to pray with Him, He is abandoned by all.

What if the answer to our suffering is His suffering with us? What if the answer to my question is "Straight into the Heart of our Maker?"...


Georgia S. said...

In all their affliction,
He was afflicted,
And the angel
Of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity,
He redeement them,
And He bare them,
And carried them
All the days of old.

Isaiah 63:9

God's peace and all the blessings of Jerusalem be with you.

Georgia S. said...

Oh, I am sorry for the typo. I should have double-checked...the word is 'redeemed' if you can change it.

Bless you!