Love is a dangerous thing; real love, even more dangerous, because real love opens the door to a grand world of pain. This week, Harmon Squires, the Project Director this year, led a discussion on Pain and Joy, which is usually a very difficult talk for all of us students here at Project. The more that I talk with students and ask them questions about their lives, the more I understand one simple truth: pain is everywhere.
Pain is when your parents decide to separate you are only 10 years old, and when your little sister dies. Pain is when you get molested as a child, and when your dad abuses your mom. Pain is when you have never even met your dad, when you have no friends. Pain is when you think you are worthless, and when you can’t stand the sight of your own face in the mirror. Pain is when your boyfriend breaks your heart, and when you have a baby, and the father is not in the picture. Pain is when your mom has cancer, and when you have OCD. Pain is when you have a miscarriage, and when you try to commit suicide because life is just not worth living.
Pain is real, and pain is hard.
How can a college student possibly cope with such difficult pain in the midst of such difficult life transition? It seems almost impossible. However, the good news is that it is not impossible.
I think of the overwhelming joy that I have in Christ. How can I have such joy with such horrific pain? The answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” Psalm 56:8
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
We do not have a father that cannot feel our pain or that does not see our anguish. We were stuck in the pit of misery and hatred, but God did not let us wallow and die, but he took on flesh, came down to the lowest places (Ephesians 4:9), took hold of us in his arms (Mark 10:16), died for our sins so that we may be alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), reconciled us with God (Ephesians 2:16), and ascended into heaven to free the captives (Ephesians 4:8).
Because of this Good News, we are able to be free from our pain and suffering because of the pain and suffering that Jesus endured for us on the cross. This is all that we need. Pain doesn't just disappear then, we still experience pain because this world is not our home (Hebrews 13:14), therefore let us follow the words of Hebrews 12:2, and lift our eyes to Jesus and rest in his unfailing love.
As a Believer, when pain comes our way, it is different. On this earth, God does not necessarily take away our pain, but He promises to meet us in our pain. God promises us that He will comfort us in all our troubles because our comfort abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-8). God’s goodness outweighs our pain. God’s glory shines brighter than the darkness of our troubled hearts. Because of that, we can take joy when we go through suffering because Jesus made it possible for us sinners to be with Him in paradise where no one will take away your joy (John 16:22).
We, as Believers, also have the gift of a Community of Christ. When I feel defeated, I am able to turn to the people that God has provided to me in order that they may point to Christ when all seems hopeless. This is a simple but powerful gift.
“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).