Pain in three parts: part 3 (unfinished)

This is the third of three parts where we're discussing a framework for understanding life and its challenges in terms of God’s will and the choices we make. This understanding is based upon three premises:

  1. There must be a God who is perfect.

  2. Because God, who created us and our world, is perfect and didn't/doesn't need us, His act of creation, including creating us, demonstrates His love for us.

  3. Pain and difficulty are both God's gift, and the result of man's choice. They are a reminder that although we live in a broken world that can trace it's brokenness to our rejection of God’s plan for us, His love is revealed to us through an existence where our decisions and actions proceed from free will, the consequences of which allow us to experience the opportunity for His reconciliation and grace.


Part 3: PAIN IS A GIFT



because the God of the Bible upholds the value of love first and foremost (Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 5:8, 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4:7-8), and because love cannot exist apart from free-will (can your computer really love you?), and because free-will cannot exist apart from the genuine option to do good or to do evil, the ability to do evil was necessary to grant to humanity (and angels) so that the option of genuine love could be possible. Thus, a perfect God, desiring nothing less than the love of His creation, created them in such a way that they had the genuine capacity to choose to love and accept Him or to choose to hate and reject Him. So, in this view, God Himself did not create sin, He only created the capacity for sin. God here takes on a passive involvement rather than an active involvement in the existence of sin or imperfection. He is simply "letting" it happen rather than actually "making" it happen.


BROKENNESS

That our world is broken needs little discussion; hardship, pain and injustice abound. Understanding how those ills came to be, and are allowed to continue in a world created and ruled by a just, loving and forgiving God is, I believe, the very basis for my Christian faith.

So, how does this framework fit into how I live my life day to day. Faith and reconciliation

, trust and love have made a huge difference over the years, but so has my choice to focus on gratitude.

To those who know me, It may sound weird, but I’m grateful for my health. Despite

I am thankful for being generally healthy. I know a lot of 50-year olds that are in way worse shape than me. I still get to work every day, and at least when it’s warm outside, I can run. Most days require lots of effort to overcome pain and brain fog, while most nights find me employing a mix of ibuprofen, ice, heat and liquor (I like beer and bourbon) to recover by morning, but at least I get to experience a full life.

Aristotle defined a worthwhile, virtuous life in terms of having the right disposition toward pain and pleasure and making rational, deliberate choices to become the best possible version of ourselves. He also recognized our highest ideal,

In that light, while pain typically signals something we ought to avoid, it could be in our interest to endure despite the pain for the benefit of moral, ethical or virtuous growth.

Still, doing so requires both a choice to struggle through the pain and some action that enables one to endure. Neither the choice nor the action alone is sufficient, for a choice without action is futile and action without choice quickly becomes impotent. That’s why my prescription for good health includes a recognition of pain as an emotional and cognitive trigger, an intentional decision to endure, and finally a plan that enables me to take physical action each day.

FREE WILL

To my understanding, God offered man an existence free of want and worry if only he would place his trust entirely in Him. Instead, man chose to reject God's gift, relying instead on his own subject-to-failure intellect and decisions.


if real love, then free-will to do good or evil.

The fact that God allowed man to choose his fate created the condition in which we currently live; one where we experience the pain of separation but also have the opportunity for reconciliation. Both are a function of free will that was God's original gift to man.

Our choices, both at the beginning of time and in our everyday lives today, creates a separation from God and the perfect, painless world he created for us. Like a physical vacuum that is both the absence of matter and a pressure differential seeking equilibrium, man's original sin created a "goodness vacuum" of pain and separation, . The presence of sin in our world creates both the need for man’s redemption, and the opportunity for, God’s grace and forgiveness.

the contrast

Just as the absence of good creates an opportunity for

there cannot be good in the world without some bad against which it can be contrasted, having physical, moral and spiritual growth in a world without obstacles is impossible.

So, how does this framework fit into how I live my life day to day. Faith and reconciliation

, trust and love have made a huge difference over the years, but so has my choice to focus on gratitude.

To those who know me, It may sound weird, but I’m grateful for my health. Despite

I am thankful for being generally healthy. I know a lot of 50-year olds that are in way worse shape than me. I still get to work every day, and at least when it’s warm outside, I can run. Most days require lots of effort to overcome pain and brain fog, while most nights find me employing a mix of ibuprofen, ice, heat and liquor (I like beer and bourbon) to recover by morning, but at least I get to experience a full life.

Aristotle defined a worthwhile, virtuous life in terms of having the right disposition toward pain and pleasure and making rational, deliberate choices to become the best possible version of ourselves. He also recognized our highest ideal, In that light, while pain typically signals something we ought to avoid, it could be in our interest to endure despite the pain for the benefit of moral, ethical or virtuous growth. Still, doing so requires both a choice to struggle through the pain and some action that enables one to endure. Neither the choice nor the action alone is sufficient, for a choice without action is futile and action without choice quickly becomes impotent. That’s why my prescription for good health includes a recognition of pain as an emotional and cognitive trigger, an intentional decision to endure, and finally a plan that enables me to take physical action each day.

Kelly McGonigal, PhD is a super smart psychologist, speaker and best-selling author whose opinion is guided by tons of research. Her 2013 Ted Talk, which is in the top 20 of all time, suggests that stress, which most people see as exclusively negative, instead should be viewed as a signal for us to reach out to others, to seek connection and support. She says, “I believe that it is possible to experience hope, joy, and meaning, even when things are difficult. And I believe that the best way to do this is to connect—with one another, and with something bigger than ourselves.” Her latest book, The Joy of Movement, explores how physical exercise can be a powerful antidote to loneliness, anxiety and depression. I point to Kelly, not only because her work is well-grounded, but because it supports my long-held belief that struggling against adversity gives power to the soul, requires physical movement, and can’t be done alone.

That’s why, more than anything else, I’m grateful for my family; my wife and five kids have given me both a reason to fight and strength for the struggle. They are at the top of my reasons for getting up and working hard every day. So, as we begin the new year, I am reminding myself to be grateful, not just for the love of my family and good that my life holds, but also for the pain and difficulty that I experience which reminds me consistently of both the distance between me and my God, and the choice for reconciliation that God's gift of free will and everlasting grace make possible.