Text Illustrations
“Don’t Give Pain the Short Shrift!” Luke 13:10-17 Key verse(s): 16:“‘Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’.”

Many things in this life get short shrift. Perhaps its the lot of the underdog or simply because some things are more glamorous than others. I am not sure. But one thing I know, a level playing field is not often a given in this life. Take for example money. Some have much while others have little. Whether it be clothing, houses, life styles or whatever else blesses mankind, you will find it difficult to discover a level playing field when it comes to who’s got what and how much. Yet, we live in a society that has made “leveling the playing field” one of its foremost goals. If this were not the case, why would government be trying so hard and spending so much on behalf of those who “have not” all the while requiring from those who have that much more?

Fairness, as a principle, seems to be a quality of governing and living that both liberals and conservatives alike are able to embrace. Without fairness there would be no system of justice, no way of, well, leveling the playing field. We have woven fairness into almost everything we do; almost to the point of distraction. Obsessed with the principle which once was a guiding and now is driving, we scour every crack and crevice of society in search of inherent unfairness in an effort to strike it down, and self-righteously eliminate it. In fact, in that process we have turned fairness around and made it the very thing which separates and not brings together. In order to make some who feel mistreated better we penalize those believed to be the cause for the “unlevel playing field” in order to ameliorate the issue. In that amelioration we grate, chafe and grind at the very grain of society until, as a stout tree finally cracks under the application of a wedge, what had stood for centuries is suddenly laid out broken, naked and “transformed” for other “better” use. In an effort to equalize we do far more to destabilize and unbalance. The drive to be fair often ends up in a crusade which does little more than to deepen old wounds and drive apart those who might have come together naturally. Leveling the playing field often leads to the creation of canyon of spite and discord separating one sideline from the other.

The old adage the “life isn’t fair, so deal with it” is perhaps a better guide to unanimity and peace than “life isn’t fair, make it so!” As Christians this ought to be very apparent to each of us. In a perfected state all things would be equal and there would be no need to standards of fairness. Those things would come naturally and without effort. It is sin that grants unfairness so liberally throughout this life. Is this then how a Christian should deal with the issue of pain in his life? “Life isn’t fair, so deal with it?” Perhaps, if pain were a commodity like money, clothing or an automobile. But pain is no mere commodity upon which we can chant this adage and go our way. Pain happens but pain is not chance. Pain, I am afraid, has gotten indeed gotten pretty short shrift when all is said and done. “Author Phil Yancey writes: “I have never read a poem extolling the virtues of pain, nor seen a statue erected in its honor, nor heard a hymn dedicated to it. Pain is usually defined as ‘unpleasantness.’ Christians don’t really know how to interpret pain. If you pinned them against the wall, in a dark, secret moment, many Christians would probably admit that pain was God’s one mistake. He really should have worked a little harder and invented a better way of coping with the world’s dangers. I am convinced that pain gets a bad press. Perhaps we should see statues, hymns, and poems to pain. Why do I think that? Because up close, under a microscope, the pain network is seen in a entirely different light. It is perhaps the paragon of creative genius.” (Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?)

Have we given pain short shrift? When you think about it we really have, haven’t we? It really is something that deserves a fair shake, a leveler playing field. For, unlike wealth and other possessions, pain truly merits attention when it comes to judging matters fairly. We ought to pay far more attention to how we value and embrace pain than whether or not this one has gotten that trinket or that one this bauble. There is no doubt that the lack of pain is a blessing. Nonetheless, the presence of pain is certainly a blessing of no value. It is truly a remarkable concept that only a God like our God could have conceived. A woman “bound” with pain for eighteen years is suddenly released from it. Think then–how could the release have been such a blessing unless the pain had made that release so necessary? The pain that crushed our Savior on the cross was the necessary “blessing” that engaged the bliss of eternity for every Christian. So, don’t give pain the short shrift. When you think about it, only through pain will we ever find the peace we all long for.

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