Degrees of Pain and Suffering

by Max Andrews

When I was in Chiapas, Mexico working in missions, my biggest wake up call was a realization of how materialistic I was (and still am). When I witness how little others had and how much I have, it gave a perspective that I knew was there, but it took an experience for me to understand.  I thought about this concept with pain and suffering.  There are times when I feel a mental/spiritual anguish and pain and I feel that my mind and soul suffers.  I then applied the same perspective about my materialistic revelation to my state of pain and suffering.  I soon realized that perspective is warranted only to a degree.

Allow me to illustrate.  If I get a paper cut, it hurts.  I may have to put a band-aid on it or apply pressure for the bleeding to stop, but no big deal, it’s over in a minute.  Now, the next day I get shot in the leg with a 10 gauge shotgun.  I feel justified in believing that being shot in the leg with a shotgun will hurt.  It will take much longer to stop the bleeding (if it stops) and I will need more than a band-aid (hopefully my leg won’t have to be amputated).  Now, just because I got shot with a shotgun, which caused more physical pain than the paper cut on the previous day, does that then mean the paper cut didn’t hurt?  I hardly think so.  There’s nothing that an increase of experiential data [pain] can do to invalidate a lesser amount/degree of experiential data.  It would be just as invalid to evaluate the experiences from person to person.  Because my friend experiences pains that indicate more pain than I have experiences, am I justified in dismissing my pain and suffering? No, it is still there.

My point is that though there are different degrees of pain and suffering, don’t simply dismiss your pain and suffering as invalid or as an unwarranted experience.  Yes, there is a perspective that must be accounted for, that is, there are others who have fewer materials than many of us.  Yes, it is the case that my pain and suffering is different from others and is minimal compared to others, but, it is still there.

Suffering, though filled with tension and unpleasant experiences, is a beautiful aspect of life.  I believe God calls us to endure through pain and suffering, not to try to get rid of it altogether.  We need to rely on God through every type of pain and suffering.  For us to deny our experiences would be irrational and, I believe, detrimental to the Christian’s relationship with God.  For the non-Christian, life is simply absurd.


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