More Than a Cruel Enemy
UNRELENTING pain can devastate people’s lives. It steals their peace, joy, and livelihood, making life so miserable that some seek relief through suicide. Medical missionary Albert Schweitzer concluded: “Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself.”
Literally hundreds of millions suffer horribly. ‘If we could be suspended in timeless space over an abyss from which the sounds of revolving earth rose to our ears,’ a French surgeon said, ‘we would hear an elemental roar of pain uttered as with one voice by suffering mankind.’
Indeed, what the Christian apostle Paul wrote over 1,900 years ago has even more force today: “All creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.”—Romans 8:22.
Major Health Problem
One in 8 Americans experiences the terrible pain of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Even more people have racking back pain. Others must endure the painful effects of cancer and heart disease.
Millions more suffer from excruciating headaches, toothaches, earaches, hemorrhoids, and a multitude of other illnesses and injuries. No wonder that in a recent year, Americans spent $2.1 billion on nonprescription pain relievers alone, or that pain is called “America’s hidden epidemic.”
John J. Bonica, perhaps the foremost authority on pain, said: “From the dollars and cents point of view, and from the point of view of human misery, chronic pain is more important than virtually all other health-care problems put together.”
A Life Without Pain?
In the face of such stark reality, it may appear rash to suggest the possibility of life without pain. Therefore, what the Bible says may seem farfetched, namely: “[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes . . . neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Revelation 21:4.
Yet, the possibility of life without pain is not farfetched. But think a moment. What does that scripture really mean? There are people today who have no sense of pain. They are born without it. Are they to be envied? Anatomist Allan Basbaum said: “Not to have pain at all is a disaster.”
If you were unable to feel pain, you would probably not notice that you had developed a blister until it became a badly ulcerated sore. According to a news report, the parents of one little girl who felt no pain “would sometimes smell burning flesh and find her casually leaning against the stove.” Thus, pain is more than a cruel enemy. It can also be a blessing.
What, then, about the Bible’s promise: “Neither will . . . pain be anymore”? Is this a promise we should really want fulfilled?
A Life Without Tears?
Note that the context of this verse also says: “[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 21:4) This is significant, since tears are vital. They serve to protect us, as does the sense of pain.
Tears keep our eyes moist and prevent friction between the eye and the lid. They also wash foreign substances from our eyes. In addition, they contain an antiseptic called lysozyme, which disinfects the eyes and prevents infection. The ability to shed tears is thus a remarkable feature of our wonderfully designed bodies, as is our sense of pain.—Psalm 139:14.
However, tears are also closely associated with sorrow, grief, and vexation. “All night long I make my couch swim,” lamented King David of Bible times. “With my tears I make my own divan overflow.” (Psalm 6:6) Even Jesus “gave way to tears” at the death of a friend. (John 11:35) God did not originally purpose for people to shed such tears of sorrow. The sin of the first man, Adam, is responsible for the imperfect, dying condition of the human family. (Romans 5:12) Thus, it is the tears that result from our imperfect, dying condition that will be no more.
Since the Bible refers to a certain kind of tears that will be eliminated, how will the promise that pain will be no more be fulfilled? Will not people, at least on occasion, suffer pain that causes sorrow and crying?