When I first started playing guitar, there was pain. My fingertips were soft and unaccustomed to the metal strings digging into my flesh. I couldn’t play for more than ten minutes at a time before needing to take a break. Eventually, the callouses developed and I could play beautiful music.
When I leave for a new place, I have to say goodbye to friends and family. Something tears inside of me and I find that I can’t even process what it means to leave until I am somewhere else and they are not at my side. But in leaving the familiar, I build my home in a new place and gain something beautiful that could never have been attained had I not left.
I do not yet understand why pain must be woven into the fabric of our lives before we can attain glory. But it seems that anything worth having does not come cheap. There is effort involved, struggle and sorrow. I don’t understand, not yet. But I am fascinated by the story of Jesus.
In the book of Colossians, Paul describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God.” Jesus came to make known what we could not see and be Immanuel, God with us. If He had not come into the world, I think I would always view God as a God who is distant. Wise and powerful, perhaps even loving, but always distant and removed.
Jesus showed us that is not the case. He came down into our messiness, into our grief and sorrow. He experienced our pain. I can’t even begin to say how significant that is for me. The above examples of pain are trivial. Often times there is no clear answer or means of redemption. Sometimes we are still left waiting.
It is in this waiting period that I believe we can come to know God in a different way than before. It is excruciatingly difficult to reconcile God’s love for us with the pain in the world. We wonder why He doesn’t demonstrate His love for us by taking our pain away. But in a twist that is made possible only in an upside-down Kingdom, He shows His love for us in a different way: instead of taking away our pain, He shares it, taking it upon Himself.
Many today might reject God on the grounds of pain and suffering in the world. I cannot pretend to have an answer to justify the existence of torment and trouble, of sickness and sorrow. It doesn’t make sense to me either. But I take comfort in two things. One is that our indignation at pain suggests that life was not always this way, and that perhaps it isn’t meant to be like it is now. Two is that no matter what happens in the world, I cannot reject God on the grounds of the existence of pain and suffering. It might be easy to do so, except for the fact that He knows loneliness. He knows grief. He knows betrayal, physical anguish, and even death.
He shares in our humanity and offers us immortality.