A former US president once appeared on TV with quivering lips and declared to some victims of a tragedy, “I feel your pain.” He may have believed he truly had compassion for them and sympathized with their trouble and sorrow. Although this is a decent thing to say, it may not be totally possible. We can sympathize and empathize with others, but our pain, while similar, is not their pain. This is why the nurse asks us to rate our pain from 0-10 before any treatment takes place. Each of us bring a lifetime of experiences and coping skills to our painful moments. Our past experience with a similar situation allows us a vicarious, imagined participation in their suffering. Christians are clearly told to, “…clothe ourselves with compassion…” (Col 3:13) and to, “…weep with those who weep…” (Rom 12:15). The doctor who has had the same pain we are experiencing has a much better bedside manner than one who hasn’t. My past broken bones allow me to identify much easier with that type of pain than with someone’s kidney stones.
Not all pain is physical of course. Jeremiah’s pain was one of the heart in knowing the extent of his fellow Jew’s upcoming exile and the destruction of their homeland (Jer 4:19) (Jer 15:18). God’s discipline for our spiritual growth seems painful (Heb 12:11). Peter talks about the “…unjust suffering (1 Pe 2:19) and the “…painful trials” of the 1st Century Christians. Even God’s heart was filled with pain and it grieved him that he had made mankind (Gen 6:6).
Naturally many people did have extreme physical pain during Bible times. Jesus healed those suffering from severe pain (Mt 4:24). Job speaks of anguish, misery and unrelenting pain. Many 1st Century Christians were tortured for their faith.
When we combine the mental, emotional and physical pain of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, it is pain far beyond any we, or anyone else has ever experienced. When we partake of the Lord’s supper each Sunday, we should try to imagine his pain and sacrifice on our behalf and realize we are only vicariously feeling his pain. This is so serious that some are told that by falling away they are, “… crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb 6:6) May it never be!