A century ago G. K. Chesterton, at the time I believe still an agnostic, noted an odd dimension of Christianity. He would read one book about how evil Christianity is because it was so fierce during the crusades… and he would agree. The next moment he would read a book on how evil Christianity is because of its overly pious monks. A very strange monster this Christianity must be for both of these facts to be truths.
But let me draw you deeper.
Throughout the Psalms, and through a lot of modern Christian music I notice a similar aspect: that of pain and joy, coinciding together in some transcending level of happiness.
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? … But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.
Psalm 13:2, 5-6
“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favour again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Why this? Does that make any sense at all? A few years ago I did not understand this. I considered psalms like these to be structurally nonsensical. If you want to talk about pain, talk about pain. If happiness, talk about happiness. Why throw in the happiness after a section on pain? That doesn’t make sense. It’s an insult to both the pain and the happiness.
At least that’s how I thought. And I’m pretty sure most of the world would think the same thing.
There’s a wreckage, there’s a fire
There’s a weakness in my love
There’s a hunger I can’t control
Lord, I falter and I fall down
Then I hold on to the chains You broke
When You came and saved my soul
Save my soul
We are free to struggle
We’re not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children, drop your chains and sing
The Struggle – Tenth Avenue North
If I were an atheist I would simply look at this and think “What absolute madness! God is giving you that pain, yet for some reason you take joy in it like a masochist?”
But all I hear is what they’re selling me
That God is love, He isn’t suffering
And what you need’s a little faith in prosperity
But oh, my God, I know there’s more than this
If you promise pain, it can’t be meaningless
So make me poor if that’s the price for freedom
Then once again:
Don’t stop the madness
Don’t stop the chaos
Don’t stop the pain surrounding me
Don’t be afraid, Lord, to break my heart
And bring me down to my knees
Don’t Stop the Madness – Tenth Avenue North
What insanity is this?! He promises pain? You don’t want this to stop? If this is God, I don’t want anything to do with Him.
And yet… and yet… this makes so much sense, doesn’t it? It makes no sense at all, I’ll give you that. But still… At an intensely deeper level my soul cries out, saying: “Yes! This makes sense! Absolute sense!”
Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles … “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
P. S. If you truly want a logical explanation for pain and suffering, let me know. I can give you one.