Posted by: ritagone | October 7, 2015

Pain and Suffering

British author E.M. Forster once said: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” This has become all too true for me over the last few years, due to migraine headaches.

Pain-and-SufferingNow let me make something perfectly clear from the start of this piece: I understand completely that there are many others who suffer a lot worse maladies than I do. Please do not for one minute misinterpret what I’m saying here. Off the bat I want to say that I recognize those who have constant, everyday pain, with no relief in sight. My heart truly goes out to them, more so because I occasionally suffer from a migraine headache that puts me in bed for at least 24 hours and sometimes longer.

If you are not a migraine sufferer, you will not understand the severity of the pain it produces. There are times when I thwack myself in the head with the palm of my hand in an attempt to relieve the pain I’m experiencing. People suffering from migraines have been known to hit their head against the wall severely just to find some transference of the pain to another location or cause. I get nauseous and often throw up. Nothing – and I’ve tried quite a few things like cold washcloths, hot washcloths, painkillers – relieves the pain until the headache runs its cycle. It is not like any headache you know of, and if you ARE a migraineur, you know whereof I speak.

Don’t expose me to bright light when I’m having a migraine, and don’t speak loudly. In fact, just plain leave me alone. Let me curl up in bed and get into a fetal position, try to fall asleep (which is, for me, literally the only remedy, to sleep, purchase to forget the pain), and wait it out as best I can. Don’t offer me food or drink. I can barely sip water to stay hydrated.

Meanwhile, studying to teach a lesson soon on “Where Is God When You Need Him?,” I’m reading two Philip Yancey books: “Disappointment with God” and “Where Is God When It Hurts?” Both books deal with the problems of pain and suffering and God’s role in both.

It’s far too complicated to share here; it would literally keep you reading for hours and hours. Suffice it to say that, complicated as the subject is, here are the conclusions I’ve reached: the bottom line is that God loves us, He is all-powerful and all-knowing, and for reasons that we can’t even begin to understand with our tiny little pea brains, bad stuff happens in this imperfect world of ours.

So what can/should we do in the face of these realities?

First, don’t beat yourself up because you don’t understand it all. As Philip Yancey points out so well in both books, if we can’t understand so much of the actual world around us, including ourselves and how we “work” in the world (raise your hand if you agree with this lack of understanding or partial lack), how could we possibly begin to grasp the eternal world in which God moves and breathes and has His being?

You know that illustration where the earth is shown as a tiny speck of a planet in the solar system? Makes you feel quite insignificant and minute. Well, apply that to the speck of understanding we have about the things around us compared to the vaster perameters of what we don’t understand, and you’ll begin to grasp the comparison.

Secondly, as clichéd as it might be, there are a few things we must just take on faith. We’re willing to operate on faith for a lot of life, but when it comes to God and spirituality, for some reason we won’t step off the cliff until we have every question answered and every i dotted. The universe of the God of the Bible just doesn’t operate that way; never has and never will. And that in many, many ways is a very good thing.

Thirdly, instead of struggling over the “why’s?” of pain and suffering, Yancey suggests that we move to the better question: “How should I respond given the pain and suffering I have to bear or that I see around me?” Looking forward to how our situation can be used in the lives of others is a palatable way to get past to the other side of what we’re going through.

There are oh so many more points I could make. But this is enough to ponder and chew on in one blog.

Maybe more next week?





  1. The thought I often think of when I am feeling down is: There are many people who would like to experience your worst day. Dottie Dobbert

  2. Yes, more next week please.

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