We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities, and everyone who has
watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they
were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being
attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in
our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
I heard Professor Bruce Waltke describe a Christian's response to pain this way: We
once rescued a wren from the claws of our cat. Thought its wing was broken, the frightened
bird struggled to escape my loving hands. Contrast this with my daughter's recent trip to
the doctor. Her strep throat meant a shot was necessary. Frightened, she cried, "No,
Daddy. No, Daddy, No, Daddy." But all the while she gripped me tightly around the
neck. Pain ought to make us more like a sick child than a hurt bird.
Though thou with clouds of anger do disguise
Thy face; yet through that mask I know those eyes,
Which, though they turn away sometimes,
They never will despise.
John Donne, "A Hymn to Christ".
Everything difficult indicates something more than our theory of life yet embraces.
Dr. Paul W. Brand, the noted leprosy expert who was chief of the rehabilitation branch of the Leprosarium in
Carville, Lousiana, had a frightening experience one night when he thought he had
contracted leprosy. Dr. Brand arrived in London one night after an exhausting
transatlantic ocean trip and long train ride from the English coast. He was getting ready for bed, had taken off his
shoes, and as he pulled off a sock, discovered there was no feeling in his heel. To most anyone else this discovery would
have meant very little, a momentary numbness. But Dr. Brand was world famous for his
restorative surgery on lepers in India. He had convinced himself and his staff at the
leprosarium that there was no danger of infection from leprosy after it reached a certain
stage. The numbness in his heel terrified him.
In her biography of Dr. Brand, Ten Fingers for God, Dorothy Clarke Wilson says, "He rose mechanically, found a pin, sat down again,
and pricked the small area below his ankle. He felt no pain. He thrust the pin deeper, until a speck of blood showed. Still
he felt nothing...He supposed, like other workers with leprosy, he had always half expected it...In the beginning probably not a
day had gone by without the automatic searching of his body for the telltale patch, the numbed area of skin." All that night the
great orthopedic surgeon tried to imagine his new life as a leper, an outcast, his medical staff's confidence in their
immunity shattered by his disaster. And the forced separation from his family. As night receded, he yielded to hope and in the
morning, with clinical objectivity, "with steady fingers he bared the skin below his ankle, jabbed in the point--and yelled."
Blessed was the sensation of pain! He realized that during the long train ride, sitting immobile, he had numbed a nerve. From
then on, whenever Dr. Brand cut his finger, turned an ankle, even when he suffered from "agonizing nausea as his whole body reacted in violent
self-protection from mushroom poisoning, he was to respond with fervent gratitude, 'Thank
God for pain!'"
Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Ten Fingers for God, pp.
Pain is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of
God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
The story is told about the baptism of King Aengus by St. Patrick in the middle of the fifth century. Sometime during the
rite, St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king's foot. After the baptism was
over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king's forgiveness. Why did you suffer
this pain in silence, the Saint wanted to know. The king replied, "I thought it was part of the ritual."