On Pain and Loving God
(original piece here)
Pain is never a joyful experience. It hurts, it forces us to feel more fiercely the world around us and the emotions that envelop our hearts.
It is a stormy sea into which a sailboat has been cast unwillingly. The boat is battered, beaten, bruised. It is wrecked on rocks and drowning beneath the waves, the winds, the rains. There is no way that this boat ought to survive.
Affliction is a pain that envelops the soul, it is invisible and painful beyond imagination. It is depression, anxiety, crippling fear. It is the mind turning against itself.
And you see, you can never fully express this pain with words because they never do it justice. Feelings and emotions can never be captured by mere language. Because when you try, it never sounds like pain but instead as beautiful music.
“What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music…. And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.” -Søren Kierkegaard
Affliction murders language. When the shattered pieces of words try to reform, they create trite and pretty songs that do not convey pain but instead tickle the ear. We like beautiful things, but despise brokenness.
But this poetry is not true beauty. True beauty is the affliction Christ endured in the crucifixion. It is a tearing apart, it is completely shattered, to remake a truly magnificent and beautiful song because it…
“…echoes perpetually across the universe in the midst of the silence, like two notes, separate yet melting into one, like pure and heart-rending harmony. This is the Word of God. The whole creation is nothing but its vibration. When human music in its greatest purity pierces our soul, this is what we hear through it.” -Simone Weil
At our lowest, we see how broken the world is, how broken we are, how shattered we have become. But, we also see the glorious power and love of God in our pain.
There is no seeing just how beautiful something is until you realize just how ugly it is. There is no ability to grasp the meaning of beauty without knowing that the shattered pieces of brokenness are proof that affliction can try to destroy, but there will always be something that remains.
God created this world. He created the beautiful things of nature, the evergreen trees we see everywhere this time of year, the awe-inspiring sunsets, the vast oceans and powerful rivers.
His majesty is seen in the things he has created; birds, flowers, light. He is evidenced in this world, because he is the true ruler of it.
But the world seems so broken sometimes, so painful, so harsh, so pointless. It seems as though there is no reason to keep trying so hard to simply suffer more. Suddenly it appears logical to remove all expectations of joy from our lives so that if it ever appears, it will appear stronger and brighter than before.
What we must remember is that joy and pain are not mutually exclusive, they do not cancel each other out. To feel pain does not mean that you will never experience joy. Pain and affliction teach us to feel the joy even deeper, to appreciate it greater, to see it brighter. In the midst of darkness even the brief flicker of a match is powerful.
Pain and affliction shatter us, but those pieces still remain. Something always remains.
The sea of pain and affliction is beautiful because its depth is made insignificant by the love of God. A storm raging over it is nothing but a sprinkle in comparison to what Christ poured out on the cross.
So even though this world seems hurtful, even though sometimes it seems like the brokenness left behind by depression, addiction, death, war, famine, oppression, and illness seems utterly distant from the joy of the Advent season, it is not.
That is the kind of world Christ entered into. An inglorious entrance into an inglorious world. A painful entrance into a world filled with pain. A desperate entrance into a world desperate for redemption from the pain and affliction we are crushed beneath. He became immersed in our broken, desperate, and bleak existence, and brought hope. He put himself in the midst of our brokenness and remade it. He is the light of our dark world.
Christ came into the world in a way no one expected, but he came nonetheless.
Christ brought redemption to the world in a way no one expected, but he brought redemption nonetheless.
And so we must hold fast to the hope that even though Christ heals us in ways no one expects, he heals us nonetheless.
“The Love of God and Affliction” and other writings by Simone Weil in Waiting for God
“This is My Father’s World” by Maltbie D. Babcock
Read as a part of Manhattan Christian College’s Healing Chapel Service on 12/8/2016.