Love and Pain are two words we so often consider to be juxtapositions of one another. If someone is showing you love, then surely they are not causing pain? If you feeling a pain caused by someone, then that someone isn’t showing you love, right?
As much as I would love to affirm you in this idea that when there is love, there is no pain, I cannot. I assuredly cannot confirm this. In fact, I must rather deny it. When there is love, surely pain will come.
According to Dr. Harry Stack Sullivan, “When the happiness, security and well-being of another person is as real or more real to you than your own, you love that person.” If this statement is true and the statement that we live in a broken world is also true, then the person who we love will eventually feel pain, and we, too, will feel their pain. Why? Simply because we love them. When we are deeply committed to the interests of another person and they feel pain, whether it be caused by you or another person, you will also feel pain.
This summer, I sat beside a homeless woman. She was the same age as many women in my LIFE! Group at Oak Mountain, and I felt incredibly connected to her. We spent dozens of morning together, just passing the time, and then one day, she told me a story.
As a child, my friend had been molested multiple times by her uncle.
Now let that sink in.
My friend had felt incredible pain as a child, and even to this day, she carries around some of that pain. As a journalist, it would be easy for me to remove myself from her, to not feel the pain that she so deeply felt. But the truth of the matter was that I loved her. I loved and cared about my friend very deeply, and so my heart hurt for her. I felt a deep sense of pain inside my soul.
That night, I wept for her. I wept for a long time before finally crying myself to sleep. I had felt her pain, and now I was feeling pain myself because of what my friend’s uncle had done to her.
What I’ve come to realize is that love and pain, along with the connection between these two feelings, is all part of the human experience. When I feel pain, I know I feel such pain because love exists. Therefore, pain, even though it did not exist before sin entered into the world at the Fall, is a good thing, because it reminds us that there is still love – a love between humankind and an even greater love from God that manifested in the form of pain upon a Roman cross.
(Post inspired by the Davis Lecture given by Stephen G. Post on October 9 and the Wright Center at Samford University).