Between Midnight and Dawn: The Deal With Pain


The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.
C.S. Lewis

For thus says the LORD of hosts,
Once more in a little while,
I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations,
and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.
Haggai 2:6-7


the rubble piled on the beach at Tohoku, Japan, after the 3/11/11 tsunami


In March 2012, we stayed with our friends Brian and Bette Vander Haak at their cabin on a bluff just above the beach at Sendai, Japan, just a few dozen feet above the devastation that wiped out an entire fishing village below during the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami. We walked that stretch of beach, learning of the stories of the people who had lived there, some of whom did not survive the waves that swept their houses and cars away before they could escape. We walked past the footprints of foundations of hundreds of demolished homes, humbled by the rubble mountains yet to be hauled away to be burned or buried and scanned acres of wrecked vehicles now piled one on another, waiting to become scrap metal. It is visual evidence of life suddenly and dramatically disrupted.

This was a place of recreation and respite for some who visited regularly, commerce and livelihood for others who stayed year round and then, in ongoing recovery efforts, was struggling to be restored to something familiar. Yet it looked like a foreign ghostly landscape. Even many trees perished, lost, broken off, fish nets still stuck high on their scarred trunks. There were small memorials to lost family members within some home foundations, with stuffed animals and flowers wilted from the recent anniversary observance.

It was a powerful place of memories for those who lived there and knew what it once was, how it once looked and felt, and painfully, what it became in a matter of minutes on 3/11. The waves swept in inexplicable suffering, then carried their former lives away. Happiness gave ground to such terrible pain that could never have hurt as much without the joy that preceded it.

We want to ask God why He doesn’t do something about the suffering that happens anywhere a disaster occurs –but if we do, He will ask us the same question right back. We need to be ready with our answer and our action.

God knows suffering. Far more than we do. He took it all on Himself, feeling His pain amplified, as it was borne out of His love and joy in His creation.

Now five years later, on March 11,  beautiful Tohoku and Sendai, and its dedicated survivors are slowly recovering, but their inner and outer landscape is forever altered. What remains the same is the tempo of the waves, the tides, and the rhythm of the light and the night, happening just as originally created.

In that realization, pain gives way. It cannot stand up to His love, His joy, and our response.

The beach at Tohoku, Japan where the tsunami hit 5 years ago today.

“When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God”
from “Still”

During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

2 thoughts on “Between Midnight and Dawn: The Deal With Pain

  1. “I will soar with you above the storm.”
    Reassuring, consoling, Emily.

    As we view conditions in nearly every country in the world (and, yes, in our nation, too),
    we see ‘storms’ of a magnitude and horror that it is difficult for our minds to grasp, much
    less try to deal with. The massive worldwide media presence makes it impossible for us to deny that such abject human suffering and wanton destruction exist.

    With the exception of natural catastrophic disasters, some of which are caused by our cumulative destruction of our environment, the bulk of the conditions that we see are the direct result of our inhumanity toward each other – a trail of human degradation and vast carnage unparalleled in recent human history.

    There will come a point of total saturation when we will no longer be able to rise above the storms, despite our faith in an all-loving but righteous God. Our senses – and our souls – will have reached the breaking point. We will have drained the very essence of what our Creator-God must have envisioned for humanity.

    It is then that we will finally and in desperation turn from the evil that we have perpetrated – or abetted by our silence. We will cry out in acknowledgment and in total surrender to the only One who can lead us back — to restore us, to help us in our blindness, our apathy, our sinfulness.

    Our failure to seek this restoration, and a possible new beginning, will result in a future that is too horrifying to contemplate.


  2. Thanks Emily, for all the above–the beautiful music in particular. Kaoma led me to some wonderful renditions of “Over The Rainbow” by Playing for Change and others, then, finally, “Stand By Me.” And it comes full-circle, back to “I will soar..” Everything does, really.


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