I've been thinking about pain a lot lately. We experience a lot of it in life. The most pain I have ever experienced was in high school when I blew out my ACL and meniscus. I'm pretty sure that pain trumps pretty much everything.
Pain is not, of course, simply limited to physical pain. Often, the pain that hurts the most is pain of the soul. When we make mistakes, violate social norms and expectations, or commit what our faith deems to be a sin, we feel pain. That pain stems from various sources -- being ostracized, physical punishment, guilt, remorse, or disappointment.
The most difficult pain is the pain that comes as others experience pain that you can neither stop nor ease. I can think of at least three experiences like this from my time as a missionary. Those times were devastating experiences.
These thinkings stem from my emotional preparation for Romania. I feel like that's where most of my posts as of late have stemmed from. My kids have experienced much in their short lives. A lot of that has been pain -- physical, emotional, psychological. They have much to teach me about pain. The pain of my blown out knee pales in comparison to the things these children know. C.S. Lewis wrote, "We have a choice to make when we see extreme suffering. We can let it eat away at us and we can curse God. Or, we can choose to let it break our hearts and enlarge them."
That really is the key to understanding why there is evil, suffering, and sadness in the world. The purpose of pain is to teach, humble, and chastise. It never lasts forever. In a New Testament class I took, we studied the Book of Revelation -- a tricky subject in and of itself. My teacher was quick to point out the importance of numbers. When the Lord says that the afflictions shall be 10 days, what he is saying is that the afflictions, tribulations, and sufferings will be for an imperfect amount of time. In other words, their bounds are set. The things we experience in life -- the bad, ugly, horrible, miserable things -- have an end.
As William Goldman writes in The Princess Bride, "Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something."