This is one of my favorite readings. As college students, I would guess that many of us have parents who are getting old, fast. (or grandparents) It can be hard to watch people grow into such suffering states, but this chapter really helped me to understand why we experience pain, both physical and mental.
Pain is inevitable in a fallen world, and that is because we cause it-not God. With the freedom we are created with comes the choice to do good or bad; unfortunetly many of us decide to partake in evil. "It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs..." Although much suffering comes from men God gives torture too, but why would a loving God allow us to experience pain? If all is well with us, we would have very little reason to surrender to God. Many of us use God like a parachute- only in cases of emergencies. When everything is going according to our own plans, we have very little use for God. He uses pain to show that not everything is well on earth; it is His megaphone rousing the deaf world.
It is hard to think of God allowing bad to happen, because we often associate bad things with bad people. We cannot think this way though. Even the most wonderful people feel pain. Sometimes we don't even notice we are suffering, so God needs to awaken us from our sinful slumber. Pain shatters our illusions that what we have is our own and is enough to satisfy us. "God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full- there's nowhere for Him to put it." He wants us to have all the pleasures in the world, but we deny Him. We cannot live in peace if we are too busy distracting ourselves with earthly things. God takes away our sources of temporary happiness in order to give us an eternity of joy.
I really enjoyed listening to Peter Kreeft in class, and one of the things he said that stayed with me is that so many of us want a grandfather in Heaven, not a father. We picture God as this friendly old man who lets us do whatever we want in order to be happy, but that is not the case. It's not that God doesn't want us to be happy, it's quite the opposite. God wants us to be so happy that He takes away the parts of our lives that are hindering His plans for our joy. When we lose ourselves we can then finally find ourselves. Only through the work of God can that happen, and it sometimes involves the use of pain.
This chapter contains another great analogy. We often behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over-we shake ourselves clean only to run toward the nearest mud pile. We are so quick to fall back into sinful ways even after confessing our shamefulness to the Lord. "And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless."
We must remember that even in our suffering we must glorify God. He puts us in situations for reasons only He knows, so we cannot be quick to curse God. Insted of focusing on the pain we are in, we should be thankful for the joys that are ahead of us. God allows suffering, but He allows us to enjoy great splendors as well. It is only out of love that God uses pain as a way to restore us, and many of us forget that. I pray that I can have eyes that look beyond my pain and toward the redeeming work of the Lord. If I am in pain, there is probably something God wants to fix in my life or something He wants to reveal to me. How wonderful it is that we can rejoice even in our sufferings!