Pain is an inescapable element of human experience. From birth, when the blood of a father is curdled from the mother’s cries of pain, all hold their breath in hope that the newborn infant will pull air into his lungs and cry. Pain and our tearful response to it is expected and at times even enforced with a timely slap to impolite regions at the beginning of our time on earth. However, we spend a lifetime attempting to flee or deny it.
In brazen defiance of our feeble attempts, pain is recalcitrant: holding its breath when we pop it in a glass of alcohol, waiting for us to drain it. It sits patiently, donning a fireproof costume when we try to incinerate it in the fiery consummation of red hot lust. We can’t poison pain either, with our cornucopia of narcotics, prescription drugs and party pills. Pain is impervious to our singing, armed with earplugs it cannot be expelled by the cacophony of musical escapism be it the nightclub’s pulsating rhythms or the chapel’s hymns meant to appease a God we mistakenly perceive as the source of pain. All our vain attempts to kill pain only serve to nurse and give birth to misery
“Religion is the opium of the masses,” quipped Marx and insofar as religion paralyses the faithful by diverting their attention with utopian fantasies and miracle riches while plundering their pockets, he spoke the truth. Peter’s letter (1 Peter) to the exiles living precariously in the midst of growing hostility, however, offers not opium but living hope.
Yes, the hope of future inheritance emboldens the ostracised believers but it is not a vain fantastical hope. It is a hope cradled in the lap of trust in Jesus who defied the tomb, in accordance with the prophecies of old, and lives in the believer’s life. Hope of eternity, as Peter puts it, is not a fantastical escapism meant to blind believers to harsh reality but the outflow of living experience with the risen Christ. A risen Christ they do not see but have come to love, through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Now the pain of living in a society that is hostile has come to purify their trust and love in Jesus, not because pain is inherently purifying but the choice to trust in the midst of pain unlocks a deeper experience with Jesus and gives impetus to the hope of the future.
Indolence is not the part of the believer though. As much as it God’s part to eradicate pain in the future, it is for the believer to accept the strength offered and strive to live a life worthy of the calling. Nature abhors vacuums and so having forsaken self-defeating attempts at killing pain (but breeding misery), it is incumbent that we live as children of the Word and the Spirit. We need not turn to our “opiums” in fear but walk confidently in the knowledge that the power that inspired the prophets with prophecies that even angels could not fully understand and voided Christ’s tomb, empowers us today, to walk to our glorious future and no pain, no matter how persistent can stop it.
Don’t get high, be joyful, sing a happy hymn and live with hope!