Are we entitled to a good day and sweet dreams at night? No. The Bible doesn’t promise us we should feel good all the time. Experience also teaches us that a painless life is unattainable. In fact, God promises Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). And to Adam, God says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen. 3:17).
Pain is our birthright. Some things are supposed to hurt. Sometimes we will hurt bad. We’ll fail and feel like failures. We’ll see a loser staring back at us from the mirror. We blow it. We play the fool. We reap what we sow, and it’s brutal. In those moments, it’s easy to fly into a rage; to look to shift the blame onto somebody; to step away from the shame and guilt; to do whatever it takes to avoid the pain.
We can’t prevent the messes. We can’t always win the fight.
There are plenty of people who will step up to help us avoid pain too. Pain, sorrow, worry, and grief are bad. Anything that doesn’t make us feel good is bad. It’s become our cultural ethic. One only has to look at the current opioid epidemic in the United States to see the concrete, real consequences of the mantra: “If it doesn’t make us feel good, it’s bad.”
The opioid epidemic is society’s attempt to escape the pain of messing up, failure, losing, and making bad choices that hurt us again and again. We can’t prevent the messes. We can’t always win the fight. Our bad decisions surpass our good choices by a million miles. So we do what’s necessary to get what we feel we’re entitled to: good days and sweet dreams at night. But, the only way we can get around pain is to drug it into submission.
We can forgive ourselves. We can fight the good fight. We can do what’s necessary to strengthen our mind, body, and emotions. We can post inspirational memes on social media. But, comfort won’t come to stay. All pain can motivate us to do is accept pain. We don’t have a choice. What’s done is done. What’s been said can’t be unsaid: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing...cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”
So, what now? Now, we don’t try to escape the pain. Instead, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5).
We can rejoice in our sufferings by clinging to Christ’s promises. We don’t gobble up the sugar-coated lie that we’re supposed to feel good all the time, just because we’re entitled to feel good. We get up. We brush the dirt off our shoulders, and we get after it, whatever “it” is in the vocations God has laid upon us.
We get after it in our vocations. We’re grateful for our sufferings. We rejoice that God’s love has been poured into our hearts. We keep going forward even when pain bears down on us with the weight of a mountain because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. And His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
And then, when we can’t bear it anymore, and death comes to deliver the final, painful blow, Jesus “will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4)
Pain is our birthright, but Jesus’ resurrection is our irrevocable end.