How do we deal with pain and suffering? Is this question already an oversimplification of the issue? Consider with me for a moment the following categories of pain.
"Acts of God"
Natural Disasters - This type of pain is triggered by loss experienced during floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or other natural phenomenon.
Passive Operational Failure -This type of pain comes from loss experienced during unavoidable equipment accidents. (e.g. flawed farm machinery)
Erratic Animal Behavior - This type of pain comes from loss experienced when animals, wild or otherwise, attack.
"Acts of Man"
Amoral Human Error -This type of pain comes from loss experienced due to simple human mistakes.
Immoral Human Error -This type of pain comes from loss experienced when we are intentionally wronged by other human beings.
Cause and Effect - This pain is caused by loss experienced during the natural journey of life, such as moving away from friends and family, growing older, or touching a hot stove.
I have to sigh when I glance back at the categories of pain above. Have I even scratched the surface? If we pause and look around, it's everywhere. Pain. To quote Ravi Zacharias, "For many, despair is not a moment, it is a way of life." So often we blurt out an answer for pain, without really considering the depth of the pain experienced. What about the sadness that haunts us as we fall asleep at night? What about that pain which hits us at the most unexpected moments? What about the dormant feelings of guilt we hold inside? What about those times we feel so lonely, despite being surrounded by friends and loved ones? What about our feelings of insecurities that constantly threaten to destroy our confidence?
Where does all of this come from? Why are emotions so powerful? How do we cope with these internal frailties? Is some stupid Dewey Decimal Classification System of pain supposed to be of some comfort? How do I keep functioning when I feel powerless to keep moving forward? How am I supposed to help my own family when it was an accomplishment for me to just get out of bed and take a shower? How long do I have to keep this smile plastered on my face when, inwardly, I'm hurting? How long do I have to bury these emotions deep into my consciousness?
How do we cope with these, and a whole other flurry of questions? What's more, how do we deal with the pain in the above categories? At one point, while Job's "friends" were offering him round after round of "advice", Job finally responded and said,
"Have pity on me, my friends, have pity on me, for the hand of God has struck me. Why do you pursue me like God does? Will you never be satiated with my flesh?" (Job 19:21-22)
In other words, Job is saying, "Don't you even feel sorry for me? Why do you keep judging me, isn't that God's job? Aren't you satisfied that my life is in ruins? Show me some mercy!"
While I do believe that God has provided some reasons for our suffering (to mature us [James 1:2-4]; so that we may help others [2 Cor. 1:2-5]; to show His glory [John 9:3]; to chasten us [Heb. 13:6ff]), too often we forget to simply show our friends, as Job said, pity. Having "all the answers" doesn't always ease pain and suffering. Christ, who knew His purpose for coming to the earth (Luke 19:10; Matthew 16:21), still cried in the garden before His death. Pain is real, and needs time to run it's course. We must seek to show compassion and mercy, and not just bombard someone who is struggling with what we think they need to hear.