whoops! I mean – how can we think about the painful part(s) of our lives with hope? I have to change the question from the title of this post to this form because the philosophical question of the point of pain is way, way waaaaayyyy beyond the rope that marks the boundary of my swimming skills in the pool of philosophical questions. Brilliant people continue to struggle to provide a solid answer to that question.
What follows is my simple (K.I.S.S.) – “don’t know if it will help you – but it sure helps me” personal opinion.
I forget it pretty frequently – that the most (seemingly) painful works God accomplishes in my life are precisely the ones that I rely on most – taught me the most about God, taught me the most about accepting Him, others, me … but when I remember that the very things in my life right now that kind of drive me crazy … my lack of wealth, failed relationships, crazy family, etc. … that these are all the tools currently in God’s hands to remove the dross from my soul and make me more like Christ – in fact – I really believe – that ironically God uses these little pains in my life to remove the bigger Pains … the ones that really cause me problems.
I very very firmly believe in the reality of Heaven. I believe that this life is a rash, a whole season of my existence (and all Christians’) which compared to heaven is nothing but mentally ill, spiritually perverse, cancer-ridden, poverty-stricken … This is our hell-hole. And – the big prize at the bottom of our box of Christian Cracker-Jack is that God refuses to let this sin ridden world’s 125-ish +/- years of horror be meaningless to us. That’s His gift of Love to us – He recycles it – and uses our suffering to reveal Himself – something poets, philosophers, sages and mystics through the ages have longed for – so we can enter our Real Lives – our Next Lives – equipped, informed, and in His presence – and finally – for His sake, for our sakes – experience the Lives He’d have given us in absence of Sin.
So – I don’t care as much that this life isn’t gold-dipped unicorns and rainbows … I’ll love poverty, my family and all the rest – because they reveal the Divine to me. In the next Life – the one that will last – the one that matters – all of those things will be revealed in their perfected form. I joke that in Heaven God will set me to the task of telling Bible stories to the polar bears living in the mandarin orange groves of Denali Alaska – the joke is – that I’d even have 0.00000001% of my heavenly existence figured out. But I’m dead serious … my role before my King in the next Life will be a thing of beauty and awe to behold – and will probably be something of a private irony/joke between God and I – that only my life of obedient submission to the trials of this life will make sense of.
I think there’s a hesitation among western Christians to talk about eternity in this way – because it seems like copping out – like the old mental-tricks that some in the distant past used to disenfranchise the poor … but all prior abuses aside – the purpose of this life IS to be God’s hands-and-feet as long as we’re here – and allowing that service to perfect us for His, our and the world’s sakes. Focusing on this aspect of our suffering makes it all so much more glorious, meaningful and hopeful.