Jesus commented that some people go through life without suffering physically (Mk.9: 1). We are not among them. I was in a fire and endured pain for months. A rheumatic pain has paralyzed me three times during the last 15 years. My wife endured pain from a damaged nerve for more than four years. A friend turned to the bottle to kill his pain. Because of it, his wife questioned whether her husband made it into heaven? A friend’s brother, a clergy, committed suicide. Pain is very powerful and it can rob us of our senses and leave us in disarray.
I came from a background when something bad happened the victim had sinned and was being punished. When I was accidentally burned, I added mental guilt to my physical agony. My wife was in a hospital when a young clergy asked her what sin she had committed because God was punishing her. In the same place, a nun told her that God must love her very much for testing her so severely. A clergy friend told my wife that he knew someone with similar pain that ended his life. I had four clergy counseling me and not a one explained to me that my condition was not related to my sins or to God. My accident was due to human error and my punishment to a self-judgmental mind. Throughout the ordeal, I felt God was correcting me and putting me back on track. Strangely enough, it did help me become useful again. After the accident I too began to glorify God (Jn.9: 3).
My problem was that I did not pay closer attention to what the Bible says is messing up our health. We do assist the culprit, only it is not a benevolent Creator’s doing. The people that contributed to the writing of the Bible did mistakenly believe that a loving God had to discipline by punishment (Heb.12: 5-6). Jesus, however, contradicted that concept as follows: “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” (Lk.13: 16)? It is not God that capitalizes on our mistakes and sins but Satan. Satan manipulates us and blames God for it. It was Satan that entered Judas and betrayed his friend (Jn.13: 27). It was Satan that was destroying the body of the son that was sleeping with his father’s wife (I Cor.5: 5). It was Satan that used a serpent to deceive Eve (II Cor.11: 3). Pain is Satan’s favorite tool for claiming our bodies but he cannot have our souls (Jud.1: 9).
One of the oldest and perhaps even the best understanding of pain was the life of a man called Job. It was a Poem composed by someone as far back as Edom (Esau). Its final language was Hebrew with traces of Arabic, Aramaic, Semitic, Ugaritic and other dialects. It was a story that appealed to many people. This man was so close to God that Satan had to have permission to rob him of his family, his possessions and even his wife. His friends regarded his plight as being punished for his sins. He knew that he was innocent; nevertheless, he could not understand the reason behind his tragedy and personal affliction. In spite of his deplorable condition, he did not blame God. At the end, Job was rewarded for his enduring persistence for trusting in God. In the Poem, God challenged Satan and Job won it for God. It was Satan and not God that inflicted pain, even on the godly. Ultimately, the godly win and prosper.
The Psalmist had the opposite experience. In his view the ungodly enjoyed health and prosperity in this life only (Ps.73). In Jesus’ view, Satan does need permission, not from God but from us. The slightest crack in the door gives him access. He knows how to mess up our life. Like our Lord, we can resist him and he will not take our soul (Mt.4: 10; Ja.4: 7). The remark, “the devil is after me,” is closer to the truth than we may think.