Life is Pain

Wisdom from one of the greatest films ever made:

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

I’ve quoted this for as long as I can remember, mostly tongue-in-cheek, though this past week (and year, really) the quote’s taken on new significance. There’s a truth there that I think is worth internalizing and not in a cynical, pessimistic, hopeless kind of way. But in a way that allows us to embrace the pain and suffering found in our lives so we can create meaning and purpose in it.

My cousin Stuart was faced with enormous pain—a pain and suffering that I don’t comprehend. I don’t know if I could have done anything to take some of that pain from him, to lighten those burdens he bore, to comfort him when he stood in need of comfort. I don’t know that. I can’t know that. Not yet. That question eats at me and countless others faced with similar loss.

What I do know is that I can be there for those still around me. That I can help them face the pain that is life. That I can remember that life is pain, but that we live that we may have joy. Yes, life is pain. Life is suffering. Life is darkness. Life is bleak. But life is joy. Life is love. Life is delicious.

I think that will always be the case. Some talk of heaven as a place free from pain and suffering. A place of pure, singing joy. Yet, we worship (well I do, anyway) a God who weeps. God, the greatest among us, weeps. Who are we to expect any different?

Life is meant to be beautiful and complex. Filled with experiences beyond our imagination. Why do we need to suffer and feel pain? I don’t know.

Do I think that for some reason I needed to lose two close cousins in the space of six months? No. Did I? Yes. Do I think that this is all part of some master plan God developed for me (and many others impacted by their loss)? Definitely not. Is there something that God wants me to learn that I can only learn through living this devastating grief? I don’t know. Can I learn from this and sanctify this pain and sorrow that I feel? Undoubtedly, if I turn to God.

I’ve felt goodness and love and grace in these times of grief and sorrow—seen the eyes and hand of God in those that love me and others around me. I hope that I can be that hand for others when they are in need. That I can reflect the divine love that I’ve felt that others are so desperately in need of.

I don’t know the pain, the sorrows, the suffering, the grief that all of you carry. If it ever feels too heavy, like a burden that’s too much—know that people care for you. Reach out. Talk to me. Have something set in place, to let others in, to let their love and care wash over you.

This is hard. I tend to keep problems and difficulties to myself (besides sharing them in writing on my blog)—while I was at Church on Sunday I was asked how I was like a million times and how my week had been, how the 4th was, if I did anything fun that weekend, etc. I said I was doing ok, in a lackluster voice, sort of inviting further questioning (which never came) and generally avoided directly answering the other questions because I feel bad lying to people, but I wasn’t going to say how things were really going—“How are you? Do anything fun this weekend?” “I’m doing terribly, actually and no—I was at a funeral for a cousin that unexpectedly and tragically died earlier this week, so it’s been pretty rough.”

Could I have answered that way? Yeah, I could have. But I didn’t. I don’t want to unnecessarily burden others with my problems, especially when they can’t really do anything and have enough of their own worries to deal with. But, I need to be vulnerable and open for others to be able to proffer their love and kindness. How can they help if they don’t know anything’s wrong?

Life is messy. It’s painful and beautiful and filled with suffering and grief and joy and wonder. I don’t know why it is the way it is. I don’t know why we have to face pain and sorrow so severe that it pushes us to and maybe beyond our breaking point.

I believe that we can take that pain and sorrow and grief and suffering and transform it into something beautiful. That we can learn from it. That we can use it to mourn with those that mourn to comfort those that stand in need of comfort to truly love our God with all our heart, might, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Perhaps we feel the pain we do to learn empathy. To withhold judgment on others. To extend a hand of fellowship, a shoulder to lean and cry on, a warm embrace, a plate of cookies, a kind smile, a listening ear. To strive to make others’ burdens light.

I feel broken, but I am not alone. Others are suffering around me. We are all broken, begging to be healed. Sometimes we may be that healing for others. Or at least we commiserate in our brokenness together.

There’s a lot that I don’t know. But I believe in God’s goodness. That God is Love and that Love has the power to transform misery and pain and all manner of suffering into something transcendent. I’ve felt that Love. I have felt it cast out fear and fill me with light and kindness and understanding. I hope to live so that more can feel that Love and see that Light when they feel alone and lost in the cold, bitter darkness that plagues too many of us. Let us all strive to lift those we can and reach out when we stand in need of lifting. Please, let the Love in.

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