Summary: The problem of suffering is the hardest debate to win. But we continue for the legacy Jesus left for us to follow, not for the present moment.
Grant S. Sisson
Theme – Living through the pain
1. We live through the pain for others
2. We live through the pain for ourselves
3. Jesus lived through the pain for us
The world's best cyclist, Lance Armstrong, says this about pain:
“I become a happier man each time I suffer.
Suffering is as essential to a good life, and as inextricable, as bliss. The old saying that you should live each day as if it’s your last is a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t work. Take it from me. I tried it once, and here’s what I learned: If I pursued only happiness, and lived just for the moment, I’d be a no-account with a perpetual three-day growth on my chin. Cancer taught me that.”
Life is filled with pain. Everyone has either experienced it, or will.
The classical artist Renoit is revered in the world of art. He left many works of art that are respected and admired the world over. But Mr. Renoit had a problem later in life that caused him terrible pain – he had arthritis in his hands. Arthritis in an artist’s hands is about like a musician whose hearing fails, and he really suffered because of it. It was so bad that he would wince in pain as he applied each brush stroke. In fact, it finally got so bad that he tied the brush to his wrist so he could keep painting.
His young assistant asked him, “Mr. Reniot, why do you keep painting when it causes you so much pain?” To which he replied, “My son, I do not paint for the moment. I paint for the legacy.”
What a striking thought. We humans all too often live our lives for the moment, and miss out on our legacy. Now, living IN the moment is healthy and good. Planning for the future is a present moment experience. But living FOR the moment leaves us with no plan for the future, no goals, no vision – and we know that “When there is no vision, the people perish.”
But people often will ask, “Why should I live through this kind of pain? What difference will it make? Is this what I was born for, to suffer? Is suffering all there is to life? If so, why even go on?”
The problem of suffering is probably the strongest argument in the atheist’s apologetic. It is a hard thing to deflect. It is true that we all suffer, that life is full of suffering, and that we cannot escape it. If you are human, and you are still alive, you either have already experienced it or will experience it.
There are lots of reasons, many of which are easily observable. We experience pain as the result of sin – either on the part of others or because we ourselves have done wrong. It is not fair, it is not just, it is not right that those who are innocent suffer because of things that others – especially those close to them – do. But it happens all the time. Someone chooses to drive after they have been drinking – and someone else winds up without a mother or father, or loses a child. Is that fair? A tyrant in political power oppresses his people, those he is supposed to be serving, and thousands die of starvation or other governmentally created problems – is that just? Yet these things happen all the time. Life is not fair.
There are three situations that need our examination this morning. When we suffer, we live through that pain for these three reasons:
I. We live through the pain for others. If you are a parent, you do many things you would rather not do because you know that your children need you to be there for them. They don’t cease to need you because you are going through a rough time, and you know it, so you grit your teeth and bear it, doing what is necessary for them. It is much the same way in all of life. There are so many people who are suffering the same way we ourselves have. At some point we realize that there is a therapeutic gain for ourselves to be had if we can alleviate pain in this world by helping others who suffer the same way we do and have. Do you remember the story of Adam, the little boy who was kidnapped and killed in the ‘80’s or early ‘90’s? His father suffered so intently that he had to do something, and his contribution to society was to create the term “code Adam” and so many things that we do now to find abducted children. He could easily have simply decided that this life is not worth it – it brings too much pain – and ended his life right there. But he found relief through honoring the memory of his son by helping others. So why did he keep painting when it caused so much pain? He didn’t paint for the moment; he was painting for the legacy.