The Origin and Cause of Pain



For we know that all creation groans and travails in pain until now. (Rom. 8:22)
"THE WAY OF salvation which leads to eternal life is narrow and hard (Matt. 7:14). It is appointed both by our Lord's holy example and by His holy teaching. The Lord foretold to His disciples and followers that in the world, that is, during their earthly life, they would have tribulation (John 16:33; 15:18; 16:2-3)....From this it is clear that sorrow and suffering are appointed by the Lord Himself for His true slaves and servants during their life on earth" (Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, The Arena).
But why is this? Why are "sorrow and suffering," together with attendant ills, actually "appointed" for together with attendant ills, actually "appointed" for us? The teaching of the Holy Fathers shows how suffering is to be understood in the context of man's first-created state and his subsequent fall into sin.
In the beginning, there was no pain, no suffering, no illness or death. Man was a "stranger to sin, sorrows, cares, and difficult necessities" (St. Symeon the New Theologian, Homily 45).
If Adam and Eve had not transgressed, "they would in time have ascended into the most perfect glory and, being changed, would have drawn near to God...and the joy and rejoicing with which we then would have been filled by fellowship one with the other would, in truth, have been unutterable and beyond human thought" (Ibid.). Since there would have been no suffering, there would have been no illness, and consequently no need for the science of medicine.
"But when man had been deceived and beguiled by the wicked demon...God came to man as a physician comes to a sick man" (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 7, On the Statues). God descended to Eden in the cool of the day, and called out, Adam, where art thou? (Gen. 3:9). His first manifestation to man after the sin of disobedience was not as a vengeful Judge, "for God, when He finds a sinner, considers not how He may make him pay the penalty, but how He may amend him and make him better " (St. John Chrysos-tom, Ibid.).
Man, the creature, had succumbed to the temptation to be like unto God the Creator — something against all reason or possibility. This, the first sin, brought with it not "godhead," but pain, disease, and death — and not by "chance," but for a specific corrective reason: in order that man might know without doubt and for all time that he is not "as God."
Therefore the Heavenly Physician "made the body [of man] subject to much suffering and disease, so that man might learn from his very nature than he must never again entertain the thought that he could be like unto God (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 11, On the Statues). God said to Eve: in sorrow thou shah bring forth children (Gen. 3:16); and to Adam: Cursed is the earth in thy word; with labor and toil shah thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. In the sweat of thy brow shah thou eat bread until thou return to the earth (Gen. 3:17, 19).
It is extremely important to understand this at the outset, for if we do not grasp this truth about the nature of fallen man, nothing else the Holy Fathers teach on this subject will have any meaning. On the other hand, "if we can understand this, we will be able to learn about ourselves and we shall be able to know God and worship Him as Creator" (St. Basil the Great, Hexaemeron). "Sin breeds evil, and evil breeds suffering," writes Professor Andreyev; "yet this very suffering, which originated with Adam and Eve, is a blessing for us all because it forces us to realize how harmful to our souls, and even to our bodies, our faithlessness to God is" (Orthodox Christian Apologetics).



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