Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Problem Of Pain

There's one thing that I've noticed about being a father that is simply horrible. It's that I have to watch my child suffer pain. I can think of no worse feeling that I have ever experienced. I hope I never experience anything worse. I've written here before that I would gladly suffer anything to keep my son from pain.

Some of that pain has to happen to him. When we take him for shots, I know intellectually that he is suffering a small amount of pain to avoid greater pain later on down the road. What's a shot compared to the horror of polio? I know this in my own mind, but I can't help but want to strangle the person who is giving him shots. How dare they harm my child?

I can see it in his eyes. He has no understanding of why this is happening to him. All he knows is that he's in pain, it's horrible, and he wants it to stop. The look in his eyes is heartbreaking, because he blames us for causing this pain. We, his parents, who are supposed to protect him at all costs. And we've let him down. He doesn't know that it's for his own good. He doesn't know that it's going to make him better and stronger down the road. All he knows is that it hurts, and we are responsible for it.

It's the same when he bonks his little head, or any of the other myriad disasters that befall little ones. They take their first steps, and they fall. They accidentally grab something hot, and they get burned. Each and every little agony that happens makes them a bit stronger. They learn from it. I realize now as a parent I can't keep him from suffering the little things that life is going to hit him with. I also realize it's a bad idea to shield him from the everyday hurts of life. He can't become a strong person without pain. He can't learn to function in this world without pain. This is how we learn.

Basically, it sucks.

In a conversation with some friends the other day, the age-old question arose once again: if God loves us so much, why do we have to suffer? I can see that question in my son's eyes each time he's hurt. Why me? Why do I have to suffer this?

That's a very valid question, that actually puts the entire existence of God into some doubt. I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind from time to time. Why in world do we suffer, if there's a God up there that can prevent it all from happening to us, if he cared to? Why doesn't he stop this? The hurt human cries out to God in these moments. Why did I have to suffer through the death of a parent, the car crash that paralyzed me, the burning down of my house, losing my job, the war that destroyed my village, the death of my spouse, the cancer, etc. The list goes on and on. Every single one of us has asked that question. And more than a few of us have decided that there can be no God, since if he existed he would not allow his loved ones to suffer so much. After all, what sort of loving Father could allow any harm at all to befall his children? The answer: one that loves them so much that he understands they have to make some pretty horrible mistakes in order to figure things out.

I think God has, in some ways, the same perspective that I have on the pain that my child has to go through. He knows why we're suffering this stuff. We have no idea. Is it possible that some of the evil that befalls us in this world is because we have a lesson to learn? That he's trying to put us where he wants us, in the frame of mind that he wants us in? Is whatever evil we're suffering the spiritual equivalent of a hot pan? We shouldn't have touched it in the first place. But we're damn sure not going to touch it again on purpose, are we?? Does he let us fall, only to learn some sort of lesson from it?

This is certainly a possibility. We can't even come close to fathoming the mind of a being that is mighty enough to create the universe. Our arrogance and pride allow us to think that we can get into his motivations, and get inside his head. We put things in our own framework, thinking that our experience and knowledge are the pinnacle of independent and rational thought in the universe.

If a being is capable of organizing molecules into something as complex as a human being, and capable of organizing a planet to support the life of a human, I know I'm not on the same level of thought. That's pretty humbling. I can't understand at this point anything that he's letting me suffer, any more than my son understands at this point why he's getting a painful shot. One day, he will. But he hasn't matured enough in his understanding of the world to figure that one out yet.

I would have never reached this conclusion without being a parent. Only after reaching this level am I able to even postulate this sort of hypothesis.

That's simply my view on the situation. It's a partial explanation. Nor do I think it's the entire explanation. However, it does explain quite a bit of the suffering that we go through. C.S. Lewis offers more (and much better written, I might add) explanations in his book, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN.

"I'm Moving Through Some Changes..."

Anybody recognize that song??

There haven't been many posts lately, and for that I apologize. However, when life starts to hit you with weird transitions, it makes it somewhat hard to write. That's sad, because these are the times where I really need to write the most, just to unload and make sense of all the stuff running thorugh my head.

The posts will dry up even further, I'm afraid. At least for awhile. Changes are taking place, and we'll have to see where it all goes from here.

So check back from time to time, I'll post as I can, when I can. Otherwise, it's been a pleasure.