The Point of Pain

It’s 3:31 am.

I’m finding myself selfishly asking God to harden my heart.

My head constantly feels like a three-way conference call between me, myself, and God. It’s mostly just me talking to myself, but every now and then God likes to chime in– He’s more silent on some subjects than others. But we’re all typically talking about things that hurt. Like the homeless man with the broken arm and bad leg I met last week. Or the mama in Haiti who can't afford to put a diaper on her baby. Or the families living on a mountain in Nicaragua without clean water. Or all of the children orphaned, forced into slavery, starving, turned into soldiers, molested, displaced by war, or dying from disease I read about on the Internet. And everything in me wants to do something to fix all of these things, but it feels like I’m trying to build an island by throwing sand off the beach into the ocean.

I can help a homeless person out with rent or a meal, but then there are still the rest of the homeless in my city who still have need. And if I do find a way to help them all? Drive 20 minutes east and you’re in the heart of Atlanta– a city with 6,664 homeless people on the average night (2013 headcount).

I can provide diapers for a child in Haiti. It’s not expensive– around $30 will cover a child for it’s whole life in diapers. But that’s just one child. It’s just one child in a village of children, in a country of villages, in a world of countries. I can’t handle all of that.

I can take water filters to the families on the mountain, but what about the other mountain? What about when the water is clean but the maternal mortality rate is still high?

I’m jealous of the people who can say: “Well at least I could help one person.”

I can’t do that.

I keep telling myself I have to help the next and the next. The more I help the more it hurts. It’s the reason why I’ve slept six hours in the past three days. It’s why I’m up at 4 am wishing I could close my eyes, not just so I can sleep, but to the all of the pain in the world. I want to be able to watch the news without feeling anything. I want to be able to go to the city and by an expensive meal without thinking about it. I want to buy plane tickets to Hawaii and Europe, not third world countries. But I can’t– I’ve already been ruined.

I can’t help but wonder what God feels when He looks at the world. What did He feel when Eve bit into the apple? The Heart that sends Itself to die must be a broken one.

When you love it’s going to hurt at one point or another. To love is to feel pain. Compassion means to suffer.

The only way I’ve made any sense out of it is a dialogue from the movie G.I. Jane between two characters:

Master Chief John Urgayle: Pain is your friend, your ally, it will tell you when you are seriously injured, it will keep you awake and angry, and remind you to finish the job and get the hell home. But you know the best thing about pain?

Lt. Jordan O'Neil: Don't know!

Master Chief John Urgayle: It lets you know you're not dead yet!

If it didn’t hurt I wouldn’t care. The pain keeps me awake and angry. It keeps me moving. It reminds me that I have a purpose here on earth. It reminds me this is not my home– it’s my battlefield. Home is place where pain will cease to exist; the more I feel hurt the more I realize earth will never be home.

But like Master Chief John Urgayle said: The best part about pain is

it lets you know you’re not dead yet.

Pain is a sign of life.

Where we hurt is where we live, and why we hurt is why we live. God is breaking our hearts for things because He’s living in and through us. The pain He lets us go through is the greatest sign we have that He’s given us life. Psalm 34:18 says God is near to the broken-hearted. When Jesus said we would have to die to find life He was implying pain– but  pain implies life.

It’s now 4:57 am and I say bring it.

Comfort is for the dead.