“Pain demands the attention that is crucial to my recovery.”
— Philip Yancey
Several months after the tragic events of 9/11, I found myself in a Barnes & Noble, looking for some type of answers to that horrific event. I remember asking the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? I couldn’t understand how a sovereign God would allow pain and suffering for his children.
If I were God, I would just take all pain away so that my children wouldn’t know any type of suffering. That’s what most parents want to do, right? In my search, I came across a book written by Philip Yancey titled Where is God When it Hurts? In the book, Yancey tells a story about Dr. Brand, who spent his entire working career focused on serving leprosy patients.
The problem facing lepers is that they suffer severe nerve damage. Essentially, they lose all feeling, so they don’t feel the pain of their disease.
Having no pain would be awesome, right? No more stubbed toes. No more painful paper cuts. If you have suffered the excruciating pain of a paper cut, you know what I mean. No pain would be a good thing, right?
If no pain is good, then why did Dr. Brand spend his entire career trying to restore the nerve endings of lepers? Why would he want to create pain for his patients? Leprosy doesn’t kill you, it kills your ability to recognize a problem. When you and I get a cut, we pay attention to the area to protect it from infection. A leper becomes infected. When you and I develop a sore, we favor that area to decrease the chance of further injury. A leper continues to injure the site, because they are unaware of the problem. For lepers, pain is a good thing. Pain makes them aware of an issue.
In a crazy way, I believe that pain is a gift from God, because it tells us there is a problem.
Many times in life we try to get rid of pain as quickly as possible, whether the pain is physical, emotional or spiritual. But, because we often want a quick fix, we miss the opportunity to see our need for God. Pain communicates to us that we are not in control of the situation. And if we find ourselves not in control of that specific situation, what else aren’t we in control of? Hopefully these moments bring us to our knees, not in pain but in humility, humble enough to admit that we can’t make things right on our own, and that we need a Savior to heal us.