Would you remove the sufferings of this world if you could? No heartbreak, trials or tribulations, lamentation, tears, or sorrow. No regret or guilt from bad decisions. No grieving the loss of loved ones. No pain. Would you do it?
The characters in many fictional worlds have tried. The Flash, Avengers: Endgame, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It seems if any cinematic creation continues on long enough it will discover time travel and attempt to alter the past.
Whether to chase down time-traveling criminals, return powerful gems to their rightful place in history, or save the world, intentions may have been good at the start, but it is inevitable that one character or another will be tempted to eliminate pain.
The team in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted to spare Daniel Sousa from his untimely death, but Coulson’s argument stood firm: the plot needed to unfold because—although undesired—Sousa’s death inspired myriads of future S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
The testimony of his life motivated them to accomplish the missions of theirs that ended up benefiting more people than Sousa as a single person could ever have hoped to reached. The analogy breaks down in how the team faked Sousa’s death, but the point remains: rain gives life to seeds.
We see this theme time and again in the Bible. Joseph’s suffering saved his family in the end. “Satan meant it for evil, God meant it for good,” he said. You were given another day not because you need it but because someone else needs you.
Another example is in John 9 when Jesus came across a man who was born blind. The disciples asked who sinned, the man or his parents, that he was born blind. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
“The Bible is not a record of people living right and getting the blessing, it’s a record of people who are so broken and so corrupted that they never would have been able to rise above their own brokenness and corruption expect the grace of God broke into their life, usually in the form of disappointment and discouragement and disaster. That’s what the whole book’s about.”
-Tim Keller, “Miserable Comforters,” Gospel in Life
In the early days of the Church, Christians were ruthlessly persecuted, yet the gospel spread faster than the fires burning their cities and unbelievers turned to Christ in record numbers. Despite the abundant death and suffering, the universal Church was thriving. All to say that trials bring people closer together.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to being the little girl I once was, whose dreams were big and heart full and unbroken, but then I never would have become who I am today. Stars can’t shine without darkness.
In short, we need pain.