Pain has always been a requisite for life. Our evolution over the long ages to become the creatures we are today rests on struggle which drives the further biological refinements necessary to be ever more fit to a changing environment. Without suffering, no adaptation, no fitness to the environment, no survival.
As such, pain and suffering are in the first instance amoral. They are merely mechanisms by which we interact with our surroundings, some of the stuff of human being.
If there was a Fall from grace, as the Biblical stories tell, it could not have been from a world devoid of pain and suffering. Rather, the accounts point to humanity having reached a level of social consciousness whereby pain could be purposefully used to bring harm to another individual or to society (Cain and Abel). We entered the realm of ethics, morals and the appeal to a higher authority, to God.
Pain and suffering could now be bent towards that which we call evil. Being free and creative (‘made in the image of God’) we could choose to inflict pain on another, both physical and psychological. The injuries received were often returned; retributive violence became an all too familiar pattern of human relationships. Sick minds took satisfaction in destroying their fellows.
The story of the Christ points us to the way of breaking the cycle of destruction: forgiveness, wrought by love. The Divine, the Image to which we aspire, enters our world, experiences the pain and suffering of our existence – both the ‘good’ pain, and the ‘bad’ – finally dying a violent and unjust death, yet at the very apex of his suffering refusing to return the curse of condemnation. He breaks the cycle of retribution. The action brings him into a new level of human experience, the first-born of many, holding out love and forgiveness as the only path to securing our destiny.
(This post is an extremely short and therefore inevitably inadequate reflection of thoughts found in the superb ‘Freedom, Suffering & Love’ by Andrew Elphinstone.)