It seems that the majority of individuals experience a baseline of peace in their lives which is intermittently punctured by tragic loss. I experience a baseline of pain with infrequent spikes of peace and intermittent punctures of tragic loss. This makes the tragic losses that much more difficult to survive. There is not the memory of past peace – nor the hope for future peace – only the possibility of agony retreating to its normative levels.
During the baseline of pain one looks forward and sees only the certain approach of tragic loss. Joy is stolen away as one sits in the midst of the pain knowing only more pain will follow – and that the pain of tomorrow, or if not tomorrow, the day after – will be greater than that which is now.
Hope. It is when we lose all hope that we lose life, or, rather choose to take our own life. I have not lost all hope – but that also does not revoke the pain of tragic loss in the present. There seems to be no balm for tragic loss but time…and there seems to be no balm at all for those who live by a baseline of pain.
Sometimes purpose can provide some sense of relief apart from hope. That is, if I can believe that what I am suffering – whether tragic or baseline – is accomplishing something of worth, then even if I cannot be freed from the suffering, I can experience a painful peace in the knowledge that my life matters. Is there purpose behind our pain? And if there is, is it purpose only for us or for others as well?
I do not mean to reflect or reinforce that disturbing line of thought, “God brought this pain into my life so I could help others who experience this pain.” I find this thought repugnant. It begs the question, “Why didn’t God just not bring pain into others’ experience? Then He would not need to bring pain into your experience so you could help those experiencing pain.”
I like to think – to hope – that there is more to it than that. That God does not cause our suffering but that our suffering is integral to the positive change He is working. That is, that by suffering well I (yet not I, but the Lord) carry forward the Kingdom of God in some manner. Further, that my suffering may not result directly in any assistance to others directly (though I hope it does) but at a holistic/systems level (think chaos theory) every moment of my suffering is part of redemption at a deeper and vaster level than human mind can conceive.
The value of my suffering is not solely in bringing healing and hope to others as they suffer – but in every moment of my suffering – for at the level of chaos (which is not truly chaos) it achieves something, something which moves time forward towards its inevitable conclusion (when God will be all in all).
With this thought I can imbue every second, nay, every millisecond, down to time indivisible by the human mind, with a value and every action – no matter how trivial or limited in duration as advancing and achieving something positive.
Yet at the same time, I recognize that God is greater than me, that He operates through me but above me. My failure cannot derail His plans – He is drawing history to its inevitable conclusion. For if every indivisible element of time carries such weight for the positive, it must also for the negative (and thus sin becomes infinitely more weighty) – but God is greater than our failures and weaves together the indivisible elements of all actions, of all being, of all thought, of all that was, is, or ever will be – in an infinitely complex pattern that will result in the consummation He has designed and which when fully unveiled no mind nor heart will question.
Here, I feel for a few seconds hope and rest and peace and trust. I feel that I can trust God and that things will be okay…but let me not pretend – these seconds will quickly draw to a close and I will spend minutes, hours, days bemoaning my state to the world and to the Lord. My voice rises often in angry dispute with Almighty God – not b/c I believe I have anything to hold up to Him, any right to debate – but out of the sheer agony of suffering which forces air from my lungs and twists my tongue into speech.