There is a problem with the “logon” at this site, preventing comments. We appreciate all comments, but ask your indulgence while this is being fixed. We still receive the surveys however, and these remarks inform us that one of the main topics on people’s minds is whether God notices that they are in pain.
Once again, we ask that you consider our opinion pieces as just that, philosophical opinion. Every man worships as he pleases, but there are common emotional and psychological impacts from central pain that are universal. You cannot address philosophical paradoxes without speaking in the philosophical context of the reader, and for many, the context is “Why me?”, which compels us to mention religious ideals. This is not a religious site. It is an information and coping site, but we cannot speak out of context and make sense.
Still, the communications pour in that those with central pain continue to be “attacked”, as it were, by judgmental doctors, ministers, relatives and sometimes from within. Such a terrible fate as central pain, often rendered in the metaphorical language of hell, ie. “burning” simply must have something to do with righteousness, merit, sin, or whatever, some say. This adds to the depression pain already brings.
Are CP sufferers pieces of garbage or are they just like other people, only unlucky? If luck exists, is God in control, or even around? We have already covered the idea that without free agency, we would be robots and not humans, virtual and not real people, thus necessitating the opposition in all things. We have also suggested God wants us to fix injustice, remedy illness, redress pain, and will assist us if we try. So here we confine ourselves to the strangeness of chance happening.
It is a common story. Something bad happens and people wonder if there is a God. This is called a crisis of faith. Agnostic scientists observe suffering in the world and decide imperfection declares the absence or at least casts doubt on the existence of a Divine Being. By comparison, for the believer, those with Central Pain sometimes appear to have merited it. Why else would it be there? Why the rush to judgment? Where does it say bad things never happen to good people? Where did these distortions of religion come from?
Well, perhaps they came in part from early American religious thought, ie. the early Quaker/Puritan philosophy that God prospers the righteous and punishes the wicked. Since every Puritan wanted to be regarded as good, much of the American competitive work ethic had its origins in this pretense. Unfortunately when considering promised blessings to the obedient, the time frame is often missed. God, being outside time, SPEAKS in an eternal frame of reference. Man HEARS in a temporal frame of reference. Sam Harris, in his recent bestseller, “The End of Faith” points out that the Bible is written in many different styles and voices, in the language of the man speaking, yet we are to take each and every word as quoted verbatim from the mouth of God. This is not strictly true, since Paul himself in expressing the view that women should not speak in church prefaced the thought with the information that he gave this as his own opinion and not as having received it from God. There are even the words of a donkey in the Old Testament, and this again, is not held to be God speaking. So we are allowed to believe that human beings, as they were moved on by God, spoke or wrote material which we call scripture.
No two versions of the scriptures which have come down to us is the same as any other, so we can take our pick without being required to insist that the act of translation turns each word into the precise word of God. The fact is, different interpretations are not only possible, but positively the rule.
We must be careful how we interpret the scriptures and never get too smug, especially now that older, more authentic versions are turning up in the Dead Sea Scrolls.Even our Genesis was written down about nine hundred years after Moses lived. Some of the place names in Genesis did not exist until hundreds of years AFTER the time of Moses. It is also unlikely Moses subscribed to the Mesopotamian idea of the roof of heaven, and waters above heavenly firmament which was commonly believed only around the time Moses’s teachings were reduced to the writings we base our translations upon.
The pilgrims of the desert who authored these collections might find some of today’s interpretations preposterous, including the idea that bad things never happen to good people. Archaeology has revealed the rather monotonous diet and hard times of that day, a condition many of us today might find to be terribly punishing, but for which they gave constant thanks.
It is incorrect doctrine to say that scripture says the honest man will grow rich and be healthy, while the wicked man will be poor. Often the very reverse is true. Even the slightest glance at the lifestyles of the rich and famous will reveal that wealth has nothing to do with moral probity. Celebrity is strong in preachment but short in example, for the most part. In other words, they are like the rest of us.
Contradictory statements that are supposed to be true are found in common life as well as scripture. For example, “look before you leap” is the opposite of “he who hesitates is lost”. The same applies to scripture. The holy writ is offered as evidence that good fortune is clear proof of righteousness, but does a close examination reveal that this is what the scriptures are really saying? The most direct book on the topic, Job, makes plain that those who lay Job’s misfortune on his sins are way off the mark.
Of equal applicability is Ecclesiastes. There is no gospel being preached here that God shields the righteous from misfortune without our making any specific effort. Quite the opposite principle is taught. Look for example at Ecclesiastes Chapter 11. Nothing could be blunter. If there is water in the clouds, rain will fall. If the tree falls to the north, that is where it is going to land. If the bones do not grow correctly in the womb, that is how they will end up. Childhood and youth are vanity because come old age, the dark days of senility and feebleness are coming and “they will be many”.
The earlier chapter is even more specific. In Chapter 9 verse 11, we read, “…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and CHANCE happeneth to them all.”
And most classic of all, Ecclesiastes 3, famous for its “for everything there is a season” declares “a man hath no preeminance above a beast” [probably meaning men, like animals, are subject to CHANCE] and “there is a time to kill, and a time to heal”. Despite our best efforts, chance can and will find us unawares.
What is being said here is more along the lines of science. No matter how we feel about God, man should be wise. We don’t simply ask, ask, ask. We get out and do something about it. We work by the sweat of our brow. This is why we simply MUST de-theologize central pain. As Dr. Patrick Wall said it, the minute we theologize pain, we put an end to research. We use God to prevent His work from being done. We use HIs name in vain.
It is time for clerics to stop viewing our central pain as punishment and it is time for the public to stop thinking we are oddballs, and it is time for us to stop doubting ourselves if the umpteenth pain medicine the doctor prescribes doesn’t work. This says nothing about us. It says something about wisdom.
The scriptures say that as to matters of the body, we are pretty much on our own to do as wisdom directs. Central Pain should not cause spiritual self doubt. We realize that those who have the tendency to self congratulate may see our pain in that light, but the scriptures do not so regard it. ALL men are subject to illness, pain, death etc. and the idea they are SPECIAL is vanity. That is what Ecclesiastes says.
The book was purportedly written by Solomon, a very wise man. Yet, Solomon looked back at his life and saw tremendous foolishness in it. Yes, all of us with central pain can see foolishness also in our own lives. That is not why we have central pain, and wisdom is not why others do not. The fact is that chance has for more to do with the outcome of THIS life than choice.
We are to exercise all wisdom in dealing with the vicissitudes of life, but we are still weak creatures and must not get cocky, nor overly religious (self-righteous). What God, Nature, or whatever dictates is that we work very hard to meet the terrors that can appear in life. We should do our utmost to end war, overcome pain, relieve starvation, and practice making as much a heaven as possible out of THIS life.
If we do that, we might be considered worthy to participate in making a heaven in the next life. In one sense, weak humans realize that salvation, if it is there, must be due to God’s merits, grace, and mercy. On the other hand, in the time frame of THIS life, we are expected to get busy in relieving suffering, and not think we have done any great thing (nor even righteous thing) by scornfully regarding others in terrible pain as possessing terrible souls, weak natures, or as merely failing to govern their minds. That is vanity on the part of the speaker. CHANCE happens to everyone and in huge measure.
If you have central pain, you will find vanity wherever you go. It may be the disdain of the neighbors, or it may be the annoyance of the doctor whose “healing” powers you are forced to deny. It does not matter whether others see central pain as fiction or reality. You know the truth. You know that if relief comes, it will be because men and women, scientists, have exercised WISDOM, in dealing with the problem, in research and proper education.
There is a “time for healing” and this is it. Power to the pain PhD’s. They do God’s work when they try to find relief for us. Our neighbors who castigate us for being unusual or weak are NOT performing God’s work–they are instead demonstrating the VANITY of mankind.
Your letters inform us that the Job’s Comforters are still out there, in fairly large numbers, but they are still just as wrong as they ever were and still just as convinced their views are religious truths. YOU yourself must see it otherwise, and maybe Ecclesiastes will give you some comfort.
Life is full of paradoxes. As Solomon said, “there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise…”
Who is actually wise? It is the person who pays the price for education, tries hard, and uses the knowledge to benefit others. We pay tribute to the fine pain researchers who are fighting to release us from our prisons of pain. They are not getting rich, but they are doing God’s work.
As to us, Ecclesiates says further, “the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit”. If you are alive, and you have central pain, you probably possess a good measure of patience, which heaven probably puts great value on. This is not surprising considering the weaknesses the Divine must patiently endure in us. Think of that the next time someone degrades, discounts, or diminishes you over your having chronic pain. You know that you are pretty much a wreck, but it is the quality of your heart that matters most. Do not let it fail you. We are not asking for a “fighting” spirit, we are asking for a “survival” spirit. The “fight” will be carried out within the walls of the laboratory and inside the minds of the mighty against ignorance.
Because so many respondents remark that listeners typically refer them to the story of Job, as if their own central pain suffering is nothing, for elucidation of what Job really says, (we have addressed this topic before but continue to receive frustrated emails on bombardment with Job) we quote here from Rasmussen’s Old Testament commentary:
“The Book of Job deals with the interrelationships of man with man and man with God in problems involving human suffering, human needs, and the Lord’s concerns and powers. It demonstrates the inadequacy of the simple thesis that anyone who sins will suffer and anyone who suffers must have sinned. Job’s “friends” spoke many truths about the evils of sin, the foolishness of irreverence, and the wisdom of being moral and good, but their diagnosis of Job’s predicament was simplistic and the prescriptions nonapplicable.”
If Job, being “perfect” in his sphere was subject to such treatment, it is folly to think those of us with severe Central Pain will escape comparisons and similar misdiagnoses. These may be based on religious ideas, falsely so-called, or more commonly on erroneous psychological diagnoses, which can be used as a shield against the giver’s ignorance about what really causes central pain. These lame accusatory reproachments must be shrugged off. EVERYONE with severe central pain sags, staggers, buckles, and collapses psychologically, giving cause for certain behaviorists to mistake effect for cause. What rises from the ashes is not the same person, but is nevertheless in no way a bad person for the misfortune which has befallen them.