There are other ways Jesus could've saved the world
Ones that wouldn't end up with Him dead
Could have done it with an order from the throne of God
But He did it with a broken heart instead
So I'll take a broken heart
Because a broken heart is better than one that doesn't feel.
- Andy Gullahorn
No one likes pain.
That is a given.
Pain hurts (duh). It's uncomfortable, needy, and demands attention. It is inconvenient and is usually really hard work. It often an intense trial to overcome that leaves scars, both emotional and physical. Yet bizarrely, the most intrinsic beauty in this world is often born out of the most profound pain.
I am intrigued by this. I'm currently reading through the book of Job, and as I ponder his agony and reflect on the lessons he learnt, I am struck by how beautiful the process is.
Wow, that must sound morbidly weird. Did I just say pain is beautiful?
I think about the things that are painful; things that me cry. Like death. Death is incredibly beautiful.
I cry without fail at the end of Charlotte's Web — every time — when Wilbur is loaded into the truck, and Charlotte barely whispers: 'Goodbye... My sweet, sweet Wilbur...' who manages to reply with a choked 'I love you Charlotte', and she closes her eyes for the last time.
I cry listening to the haunting melody of the Titanic soundtrack, imagining those final moments people had with their loved ones as the boat was going down: alone and silent, so acutely aware that death was only minutes away. The depths of emotion they must have felt, I cannot comprehend.
I cry in Cinderella, when the king is dying and he looks dearly at the prince to murmur quietly, 'I love you, son'. The purity of those final words makes my soul ache within me.
Death and pain are so beautiful, yet beauty by itself can be painful. Sometimes I am so struck by the profound grace and radiance of something, that I cry from the sheer splendour of it.
I can get teary watching a glorious sunset, the light shimmering across the sky in an unfathomable array of colours and clouds.
I will bawl at weddings (I have witnesses). There is something so intrinsic, so holy about seeing two people choose to lay their lives down for each other in the sight of God and man. It strikes at something deep inside my heart, and I can't explain why it hurts in such a beautiful moving way.
I cried watching Inside Out when Bing-Bong faded away. It was the loss of childish wonder, the loss of pure imagination; it was that something that dies in all of us as we grow up and become adults. It is something we never regain, and it's so sad.
For those of you who may be starting to scoff at these words, let me assure you that I'm not glossing over pain with a shiny veneer in calling it beautiful. Pain is also incredibly ugly, especially when it is by the hand of Satan. I'm incapable of wrapping my brain around the intense agony many people have experienced, whether by acute illness, physical and/or emotional abuse of all extremes, and grief so deep it knows no end. That kind of pain is impossible for me to fully comprehend, and equally as impossible to escape by one's own strength.
So I must confess that during my own seasons of pain, I was not able to see a shred of beauty. The grief of loved ones dying, betrayal, heartbreak, shattered dreams, or even bearing the pain of others through their own traumatic experiences left my soul empty and dry, as though a vacuum took the place of my heart. Like a ball and chain around my foot, the pain was a constant companion reminding me that life was not the way it was meant to be. Every morning I awoke and - for a split second - would have relief; just before everything crashed back down again, the realization almost as painful as the hurt itself. There was no joy, only the hope for the distant future; hope that the distance would lessen the pain.
As time passed, the pain did fade, and now that I'm on the other side of it, I feel like God is more able to teach me about the beauty found within it; to show me that some of the best lessons I've ever learnt were taught to me whilst I was in the throes of the deepest pain. Pain in and of itself may not be beautiful, just as dirt is not much to look at. It is not the dirt that is beautiful, but more what it yields. Pain is the same way if we put it in the hands of the Gardener. He can use our pain to grow the most intrinsic beauty. Instead of hardening us, pain in God's hands can keep our hearts soft and receptive to the pain of others. Instead of causing us to go underground, God can take our pain and give us the most profound love for others who have experienced the same hurt. Going through pain can reap rewards of beauty if we trust that God will not waste it. The places where we break become not only doorways for God to enter and make beautiful, but they become entrances to each other's heart in order to build one another up and encourage each other in our times of pain.
Like Job, though he suffered much pain at the hands of Satan, God used it to give him a deeper and fuller knowledge of Who He was, and a closer relationship with Him. God uses whatever pain we experience for His good purpose if we surrender it to Him. Whilst pain is not from God, it is only by His power that we overcome and see the good He wrought through it. Will we always recognize it? No. Maybe I'll come back and read this post one day and tell my former self I didn't have a clue. Maybe a couple of years after that, I'll come back and recognize with hindsight that I was right after all.
Often when we think of pain and suffering it's easy to point an accusing finger at the sky and ask God why He isn't doing His job. Yet we forget that He Himself experienced the same pain. Betrayal, grief, the cross - they barely sum up what Jesus must have suffered as a man on earth. Given the choice between heavenly bliss and human suffering, Jesus still chose our pain "for the joy set before Him" (Heb. 12:2).
Isn't that saying something?
Could pain really reap a reward of beauty and joy that we are yet to fathom?
I believe so. We serve a God that makes broken things beautiful. I pray that He helps me to always look for the beauty in pain, and that I never allow my heart to harden to a place where I can no longer feel either pain or joy. May I ever allow Him to have His way in my life, transforming all my brokenness into beauty, and to readily recognize His understanding hand in every part of my life...
Even in the pain.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me... to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
- Psalm 61:1&3
This video inspired many of my thoughts surrounding this post. Well worth watching.