There is dangerous traffic on life’s highway and much that can harm us, leaving us by the side of the road broken, bleeding and hurting. We are all casualties in something, whether broken relationships, abuse in our childhood, parental failures, personal sins or tragic happenings.
Pain caused by other people
God has made us dependent on other people. We need companionship, acceptance, approval, recognition and many other things that God provides through relationships with people. Whenever these needs are violated in some way, we can suffer great personal pain.
Bad relationships in marriage and the family can result in the most severe forms of emotional damage. Pain caused in childhood by bad parenting can leave behind a lifetime of misery. Divorce is notoriously painful, no matter what circumstances surround it.
There are so many people who suffer the pain of loneliness or rejection. They open up to another person, get rejected and then recoil behind a hard protective barrier, hurting and afraid to ever come out again.
Separation can come through the death or unfaithfulness of another. Intense pain can be the result of some gross sin committed against you, such as verbal, physical or sexual abuse.
Casualties lie fallen everywhere. Selfish ambition and greed lead to all kinds of hurts inflicted upon people who are trampled down by others in their clamour for personal advantage. Violence overtakes a society of individuals who deny others their value or worth, seeing them either as obstacles to be removed or objects to be used and then discarded.
Pain caused by events that happen to you
Life is full of uncertainties and we are surrounded by many tragic circumstances. Traumatic experiences can leave you shattered and in deep shock. Slowly the true extent of the painful damage becomes apparent, making way for fear, mistrust, loneliness and depression. Somehow the pieces never seem to come back together.
At other times, the events are just as tragic but not so sudden or dramatic. Your boyfriend marries another woman. Your brother excels leaving you to bear the pain of your parents’ disappointment and their constant negative comparisons between you and him. You miss the opportunity of a lifetime in your career. You fail an exam, which alters the course of your life. Your teenage son walks out on you and your Christian faith. You make a wrong choice in a major area of your life and deep disappointment sets in.
Pain caused by your own personal sin
It is unhelpful to suppose that all suffering is due to personal sin. It is not that simple. The Bible gives us many examples of righteous people suffering. The best-known example is Job who suffered the accusation of his friends, adding to his already extremely painful circumstances. They could not understand Job’s sufferings apart from the narrow view that said he was suffering because he was a sinner.
Biblical writers also record the fact that many unrighteous people seem to flourish. Psalm 73 records what Asaph observed on this matter and how he came to terms with the whole question. God showed him that he would never forsake the righteous and, even though the wicked may appear to flourish for a season, their time is short.
My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For indeed, those who are far from you shall perish; you have destroyed all those who desert you for harlotry.
Psalm 73:26-27Some of our pain, however, is our own fault. We disobey God’s word and refuse the things that bring wellbeing into our life. The consequences can be both physical and emotional.
Can a man take fire to his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be seared?
Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity. Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made. His trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.
Psalms 32 and 38 describe the physical, emotional and spiritual pain caused by sin. But the answer is always near: forgiveness and restoration through Christ.