So much of contemporary culture presents love as the panacea that banishes all suffering and disappointment. Think of John Lennon, “All you need is love”, or the Hollywood rom com where guy meets girl, whereupon breakup, betrayal, even a minor tragedy will ensue, but all will be magically made better in the final few moments when the two leads embrace and the credits roll. The messy hurts of our lives are tied-up into a neat and tidy package by that most intoxicating of emotions.
However, we need to accept the reality that pain and love always come hand in hand.
Reading Alistair McGrath’s biography on CS Lewis, I was struck by his account of how the great author’s tragic loss of his wife, Joy Davidman, to the slow, painful ravages of cancer completely altered his perspective on suffering. He started to see pain as not a problem to merely be contemplated and rationalised, but a tumultuous, faith-testing trial that was experienced.
I was particularly moved by a description of what marks the true lover – a willingness to take on pain and suffering, in order the beloved might be spared its worst.
Wonderfully, this is exactly what Christ did at the cross. Whilst we might only babble and furtively wish to bridge such a divide and take up such a burden, even for the one we love most in this world, our Lord Jesus Christ took on the worst of all possible punishments for the least deserving of sinners. At Calvary, He made the ultimate declaration of God’s love for us by willingly enduring all the torture, heartbreak, grief, brokenness and everything absolutely awful, so that we could – through simply bowing our stubborn, proud hearts – receive the most magnificent gift: eternal life.
Truly, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). We were headed for ultimate and permanent separation from God, hell-bent on pursuing our own selfish pleasures that destroy the planet on which we live and inflict untold misery on our neighbours as we fight to be first in the rat race. Yet, Christ was moved to compassion for us in our filthy, stinking, utterly depraved and unworthy state. He moved heaven and earth to accomplish our salvation by enduring the agonising end we were destined for.
Why do we keep fighting each other, debating which lives matter when each and every human being is of infinite importance? We are all made in the Image of God. When we slander, abuse or injure another person, we hurt the heart of Him who died to put a stop to this madness and is represented by each one of His human creations. I pray that the insanity of terror attacks, political one-upmanship, broken homes and so much else would stop for the sake of us all, and for the One who bled to say “enough – here is love and hope for better”.