Liz and I rarely turn off movies before they are over, but a few days ago we did. We try to avoid them, but sometimes we stumble onto movies that are so lacking in depth, so lacking in plot, and so lacking in character development, that they rely almost completely on sick and shocking humor and violence. They are the kind of movies that immature guys sit around and watch while they drink cheap alcohol, make fart jokes, and punch each other. In sum, not the way a three-years-married Christian couple wants to spend their evening.
It may sound weird, but I think God actually led us to the movie. I had prayed that day for some inspiration as I was thinking about writing this post. I wanted to write a post about the necessity of pain in the world, but all I could think to start with was “since the time of the Greek philosophers “the problem of evil”…” which sounds good for an academic essay but doesn’t quite catch the attention span of people coming from watching cute animal videos on Facebook.
So as I was watching this cheap movie– and feeling increasingly like vomiting while doing so– I realized at least one reason why these movies are so terrible. It is because the movies normally revolve around some pagan view of heaven. The heaven in these movies isn’t the Bible’s view of heaven: a place where followers of Christ will have resurrected bodies, will do all things perfectly and without sin, will know God’s love perfectly, and will worship him for all the beauty that he radiates into eternity. The heaven promoted by these movies is simply an escape from responsibility; an escape from conflict. In a way, they are connected to the old philosophical conundrum known as “the problem of evil” which posits that there cannot be a God who is all-powerful and all-good if he allows pain and suffering in this world. This “problem” comes from a mindset that believes there is nothing redemptive about pain (which is why these movies lack so much in real conflict and tension). God wouldn’t allow something that does absolutely no good for the universe would he?
Maybe not, but the point is that pain does have redemptive qualities. It would take an entire book to fully draw out all the ways in which that sentence is true, but I want to tackle just one here: the presence of pain is an indicator that something is wrong.
The Girl Who Couldn’t Feel Pain
I remember seeing a news clip on TV years ago that really stuck with me. It was about a girl who had a neurological condition that affected her so that she couldn’t feel pain. I remember thinking at first how awesome that would be, and then quickly realizing that, far from being awesome, it was actually deadly. Why? Because the presence of pain is an indicator that something is wrong. If you don’t know you are hungry, you won’t eat. If you don’t know you are bleeding, you won’t bandage the wound. If you don’t know you are sick, you won’t look for a doctor.
Now, on a massive, universal scale, think about this. The world is broken. We are broken. The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and are headed for the judgment of God (Rev. 20:11-15). When do we most realize that we are broken? When we feel pain.
In fact, most people give their lives to Jesus when something happens that makes them realize they are not invincible and that life is short. That is why the writer of Ecclesiastes said that it is better to spend time at a funeral than a party– because we need to be reminded of our finality (Ecc. 7:2).
Here is the answer to how an all-powerful and all-good God could allow pain and suffering: because he wants us to know our need for him. Because without pain we would be fine to stay sick. Because the presence of pain is an indicator that something is wrong. If you don’t know you are hungry, you won’t eat. If you don’t know you are bleeding, you won’t bandage the wound. If you don’t know you are sick, you won’t look for a doctor. If you don’t know you are sinful, you won’t look for a savior.
Don’t let your pain be wasted. Let your pain be the very thing that takes you to the source of all joy–Jesus Christ. For followers of Jesus, the pain on this earth is as bad as it gets (Rom. 8:18). One day, we will live forever with God our Father who will “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:4-5).