From “And Jesus Wept,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield
Thus Saith the Lord
The first direct reference to pain in the Bible, as well as the first in human history, is found in the form of a prediction. The book of beginnings, Genesis, which lays the corner-stone for the study of every major Bible doctrine, introduces us to suffering.
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return… Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Gen. 3:15-24).
Judging from this passage, we must assume that in the same way that sin cannot be separated from Adam and his posterity, it cannot be separated from pain. Not that some specific transgression is the direct cause of every ache and sting that afflicts mankind, or necessarily that there was no pain before the rebellious act of eating the forbidden fruit, nevertheless, sin and pain are definitely first-cousins. We might liken it to the relationship of gravity to flight: gravity exists with or without men trying to fly, but controlled flight cannot take place without gravity, yet at the same time flight may come to a sudden termination because of it.
The First Pain
What exactly was the first pain that afflicted humanity?
Was it the pain of travail in the birth of Cain?
Was it Adam’s first day in the field, laboring with strained muscles for food to sustain his wife?
Was it the sight of the Cherubims, standing at the entrance to Eden with the instrument of destruction in their hands?
Was it the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden or the anguish that they felt while looking into the angry face of God?
Was it the pain of guilt as fingers quickly sewed a few fig leaves together?
Was there pain when Adam held to his mouth the fruit that his wife was offering, knowing full-well that there was, for the first time, disobedience in his heart?
Was there that pleasurable pain that we sometimes feel under the pressure of temptation, when the serpent implied that Jehovah was not being altogether fair by withholding the knowledge of good and evil, yea, even withholding the deity of Eve and her husband?
What was the first pain that our forbears experienced?
In the first three chapters of Genesis, we quickly note the wide variety of woe possible to sinful people.
Whichever was the first, since the time of Adam and Eve, pain and sin have been cuddled up with us in our very beds.
We should thank the Lord that He has warned us in His Word that sorrow and suffering will always be nipping at our heels. It is said of Martin Luther that someone cautioned him about a threat on his life, and that he kept, as a constant reminder, a picture of the potential assassin. Like him, we have an enemy constantly pursuing us, and just because we may be young and healthy today, there is no guarantee that he won’t find us tomorrow. The Old Testament man-slayer could boast in his dexterity and watchfulness in order to elude the revenger of blood, but it was far wiser to flee to the city of refuge.
“In the world ye shall have tribulation” (Jn. 16:33). “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
“For ye have the poor always with you” (Matt. 26:11).
“It must needs be that offenses come…” (Matt. 18:7).
“Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble… his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn” (Job 14:1, 22).
“Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).
As most people look back on their lives it seems that they go from one tragedy to another until the final day! Sure there are great moments: victories, joys, pleasures and glories, but for many people all they can remember is the pain.
“The children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran” (Num. 10:12). The life of Israel during the time of the Moses was characterized as travel from one wilderness to another; from one judgment to another. That is a pretty accurate illustration of human history in general: just a succession of disaster and death. Has there ever been a single 24-hour period since the fall of man when some heart or nerve didn’t break? Truly, if happiness and painlessness are the goals of life, then we are worse than miserable failures.
The Consciousness of Pain
Not only have we been warned of pain, but, because of several factors, we are more pain-conscious than we have ever been before.
The various news media that we have today have brought pain into our living rooms. First it came in black and white, through our morning and evening newspapers, but more recently it has come in television technicolor. Vietnam was the first full-scale, real-life, graphic depiction of blood, pain and death, and since then that species has greatly multiplied. Today on the evening news we can actually watch a “smart bomb” sail onto an enemy target. We are constantly learning about gruesome murders, rapes, earthquakes and falling airplanes. Then at the end of the telecast the wise and kind looking anchorman tells us of the latest advance in “pain research.”
One of the reasons that we think of pain more than our fathers did may be due to the increased ability that we have to escape it. All the new tablets, extra-strength tablets, caplets, tranquilizers, and pain-reducing techniques whisper: “there is no reason why you should have to suffer!” We are being programed to ask ourselves: “Why me, Doctor?” And more importantly, “Why me, Lord?”
It used to be that most pain was physical; aching hands and stiff back muscles from twelve to fourteen hours of labor in the fields. But now that much of our physical suffering has been conquered (except for strained muscles and aching backs from our new forms of play), we are moving into more and more psychological, mental and spiritual types of pain. The very fact that we have a new ability to avoid the problem, makes us more aware that it’s here. If, like aspirin for pain, we had more ability to escape death, then that, too, would disturb us even more.
The sheer number of pain sufferers today reminds us that our time, too, will likely come. People suffer back pain, headaches, heartaches, surgical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, muscular pain, skeletal pain, etc., etc., etc.
“Here are some of the annual figures: one-hundred and fifty million-plus people in the United States suffer from pain, twenty-one million people visit doctors for back pain, fourteen million hours of doctor’s time is spent on treating headaches, and there are seventy-five million arthritis sufferers, forty-two million people experiencing headaches, and over one hundred billion dollars a year spent in the United States for pain medicines, salves, ointments, and other over-the-counter products. Besides letting you know you are not alone, they do little to help you feel better” (Neal Olshan The Scottsdale Pain Relief Program, pg. 9).
“Headaches are the most common ailment in our country, affecting ninety percent of all Americans. From ten to twenty percent of the American population suffers from recurrent migraine and cluster headaches. An estimated 126 million sick days are lost each year for headaches. The cost to employers for sick days as a result of headaches is estimated at six billion dollars”(Neal Olshan The Scottsdale Pain Relief Program, pg. 48). Americans consume 50 million aspirins a year. They take about 70 million pounds of acetylsalicylic acid.
Yes, likely you will feel the pinch of pain many times during your life, so don’t be surprised even if in the next few days it taps you on the shoulder. Instead of surprise or anger, learn to praise the Lord that you have been warned and given a chance to prepare yourself.