Friday, January 27, 2012

On Pain

In fact, no pain is ever gain.
    How many times have you heard “no pain no gain”. We often hear of adversity being the source of growth and strength, but is that really true?

    For some reason our culture has been indoctrinated with the philosophy that pain is healthy and good for us. The whole mentality that says: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” pervades even christian thought. However this materialistic view exists to lift up our pride and arrogance.

    This idea glorifies the strength of the flesh and claims “By the strength of my hand and by my wisdom I have done these things.” However is not only contrary to doctrine, but also contrary to how things actually work in the real world.

    If we look back at our how our bodies and minds grow, we can actually come to an interesting conclusion: pain is never the direct source of growth. It is not the actual act of exercise that brings muscular growth, which in fact damages muscle tissue, and decreases muscle strength.

    So what is the cause of growth or strength? It is the healing of that damaged tissue which follows, that serves as the source of renewed and improved strength. In other words, the life and regenerative powers of the body are the source of our strength. In fact some strength gain is independent of exercise: a good example of which is the natural hypertrophy found in teenagers (especially boys).

    Similarly one does not gain in knowledge through study, but rather through the light of inspiration that comes from on high. No matter how much you study, without inspiration your efforts are wasted.

    In Doctrine and Covenants Section 88:11 we read: “And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;” (quickeneth meaning bringing to life)

    That Eureka moment is when all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fit together in an instant, and you see the big picture of what you were trying to figure out. It is simple as opening your eyes and seeing, and it is the light of God that grants that sight.

    Now all of the above does not excuse one from study or exercise. By studying, one recognizes one's own mental ineptness, and thus allows for growth. Similarly exercise tells one's body of it's muscular ineptitude, thus triggering muscular growth.

    But it is a matter beyond mere humility, as our diligent study and exercise is physical proof of our seeking for mental and physical growth, which growth cometh of the life and light which is granted by the Lord, for it states in Moroni 7:12 “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God”. Obviously all includes strength and growth.

    Thus in the Kingdom of our God it is possible to have growth without pain or adversity. Were is not so, it would be requisite that there be pain in Heaven, the very idea of which is both ridiculous and incongruent with the foundations of Heaven.

    Indeed if you look at real world cases of extreme suffering you will see that it leaves people broken and crippled, physically, emotionally, socially, mentally and even spiritually. Gunshot wounds can cause victims to have pains in their bodies for the rest of their lives, and some never regain full functionality.

How can anyone say that adversity is a source of growth?
    And as for the worst of the worst, just look at victims of sexual abuse and other forms of child abuse. There is no strength that is gained from that hell! To say that is to belittle the lifelong struggle of those that have been through such trauma.

    The agony from such abuse is so great that it actually leaves indelible scars in their neural pathways. This is not to say that they cannot overcome those experiences, or eventually become able put those experiences for the service of others, but there is absolutely no form of strength or goodness found in the abuse itself. There is no justification to “offend one of these little ones”.

    Just as being shot never grants an immunity to bullets, so too does abuse not grant immunity from emotional pain. Obviously there is no such filth in any degree of Glory, where His will laws are supreme. So this brings us to the question: why is there pain at all? Why allow for this tortuous painful hellish existence to continue?

    I will cover more fully the purposes of
pain elsewhere, so for now I will state the cause of pain, and what we can learn from that. This fundamental cause of misery can be summed up in one word: imperfection.

    This can come from either sinning and transgressing Eternal Laws, or in other words the Laws of Life, both physical and spiritual, or from weakness due to the flesh or due to our spiritual immaturity. That is why study and exercise can be strenuous and painful. Not because it confers growth, but rather because we are imperfect and weak.

    Let us first cover the first and worst source of our pains, which is our transgressions. As Moroni stated: “despair cometh because of iniquity.” Now this is not to say that only sinners despair. This stems from the difference between sin and iniquity. Iniquity is the filthiness that cometh from sins. The Lamanites were an iniquitous people, though not all of them were sinners. This means that they were under the bondage of sin caused by their forefathers.

    What this means, however, is that our breaking of His laws causes suffering in those around us. From that we create an influence of pain, that spreads or ripples out from us. Similarly all filthiness and ugliness are also consequences of transgression. Pain and suffering, disgust and revulsion all serve as a tool to gauge how far off course the actions or things are from the laws of perfection.

    This is not to mean that those that are ugly are to blame for their ugliness, nor does it mean that those that are in pain have sinned. Rather it means that something or someone has broken these laws for the pain to exist now. How or when the law was broken and by whom is not to be judged by us.

    In any case, whether the pain is a direct result of our own sin or the sins of others it matters little, for all it means is that there is something that needs fixing, and fix we must. We need to acknowledge the pain, and seek to rectify it at the source. This too is part of the seeking, asking, and knocking that we have been commanded to do.

    And so this brings us to the second source of our pain, which is our weakness. If there is a problem or a deficiency in our spiritual well being, it causes us to be weak. While some are born with greater weaknesses than others, all of us are weak when compared to the Divine. Compared to Him, we are all spiritually immature.

Abraham's test of faith pained him, not due to wickedness
on his part, but due to his weakness as a mortal.

    Even one of the greatest, even father Abraham had his moments. When he was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac, he was pained horribly as a father. It took him back to his own traumatic past when his own father tried to offer him as a sacrifice to idol gods. Of course anyone who loves their son would be sorely grieved to be commanded to do such.

    But this time, Abraham's suffering was not due to his sins, but rather due to his imperfection. He had sought out the Lord and had wrestled with Him spiritually, in order to obtain great blessings. His seeking is what prompted the Lord to grant him this gift, the gift of knowing Christ, through this experience.

    And so it is that if we seek after Him, sometimes we find ourselves in pain because of our immaturity and weakness. Just as when we begin to exercise we feel pain, when we seek spiritual growth, there can be similar pains.

    In Ether 12:27 we note: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

    Being shown ones weakness or imperfection can be an unpleasant experience. But only through acknowledging our worthless and fallen state can we truly grow.

    Just as we can come to accept the burning feeling in our muscles that comes from exercise, and just as we can come to enjoy the toil that comes of study, it is entirely possible to come to accept those humiliating feelings that we feel when we draw before our god. As both a runner's high makes the burn feel light, and our mental inspiration makes studying no longer a chore, so too does a spiritual high makes our weakness immaterial, as we know that god's grace is buoying us up to overcome all.

    So the next time you face adversity, in your own life or in the lives of others, don't take it as though you are inflicted with a horrible curse. Instead it is an opportunity. We live in an imperfect world, that we may serve, and be served. How can I feed the hungry, if there is no hunger? How can I liberate the captive if none are in bondage? How can I prove my love for those close to me, if they need for nothing?

    We are blessed that we live in this day and age, where the sins of the world, from the fall of Adam until now, are all coming to a head. We have been given the opportunity to serve as instruments in His hands to help begin to heal the world of the suffering inflicted by the sins of our fathers.

    It is because of the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we are able to have this hope of being able to save and heal the world. It was He who could heal people with a word, then why could He not heal us? His eternal light and love heals all that it touches, and I testify that if we continue to seek his light, that we will become conduits of His light to others, whereby both we and they may be healed; of this I testify. Amen.

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