The Pilgrimage of Pain

by Oletta Branstiter


Author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis examined the unavoidable dilemma of suffering in his book, “The Problem of Pain”, published in 1940. In this thoughtful study, Lewis reveals that:

Humans have the capability to anticipate and philosophize pain.

Pain shatters the illusion that we have all we need.

Pain is a means to an end.

Pain reminds us that this world is not enough.

Pain is a foreshadow of hell to avoid.

Pain is a condition experienced by most people at some time in their lives, and a subject worth examining for any redeemable qualities.

Those who experience chronic and/or acute mental, emotional, or physical pain are intimately familiar with the progression of this dilemma.

Pain begins as an intrusion and distraction from our own plans for our lives.

Pain is a challenger, a wrestling opponent who wants to pin us down when we’re just trying to go about our lives.

Pain is the enemy that we must fight, perhaps every day, every moment, and for some, for a lifetime.

But if we contemplate pain as a spiritual dilemma, we may accept it as a challenge for personal transformation in ways we do not choose and would not anticipate.

When faced with debilitating, long-term pain, we have many choices of the will.

Will we become paralyzed within certain stages of grief?

Will seeking a cure become long-term denial as we expend all of our resources on possible medical miracles?

How long will we bargain with the Universe, desperately bartering for any coin of the realm that would purchase our relief?

Will we become like the hateful, spiritually stunted, cranky sufferer, whose anger consumes him?

Some may move on more quickly to acceptance, acknowledging the sacrifice of suffering, and offering it to something or someone greater than their own will.

This is the moment when Pain ceases to be the mortal enemy. Suffering becomes a Companion on life’s pilgrimage. The constant distraction, challenge, dilemma morphs into the thorn mentioned by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7, serving a higher purpose.

All pain sufferers, like Job, are constantly reminded of the harder questions of life: What is my purpose? Why does an omnipotent Creator allow suffering in this life? Is Heaven real? And our asking becomes acts of worship, defining our lives of sacrifice and communion with a suffering Redeemer.

We may name our traveling companion Perseverance, Will, Patience, even Love. 

Consider the lyrics ofBy My Side, from the musical Godspell, as a disciple beseeches the Savior, revealing the name she has given her pain:

Where are you going?

Where are you going?

Can you take me with you?

For my hand is cold

And needs warmth

Where are you going?

 

Far beyond where the horizon lies

Where the horizon lies

And the land sinks into mellow blueness

Oh please, take me with you

 

Let me skip the road with you

I can dare myself

I can dare myself

I’ll put a pebble in my shoe

And watch me walk (watch me walk)

I can walk and walk!

(I can walk!)

 

I shall call the pebble Dare

I shall call the pebble Dare

We will talk, we will talk together

We will talk (chorus) about walking

Dare shall be carried

And when we both have had enough

I will take him from my shoe, singing:

“Meet your new road!”

Then I’ll take your hand

Finally glad

Finally glad

That you are here

By my side

 

By my side

By my side

By my side

 

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