Saturday, April 4, 2015

"He Is in the Pain"

Dan Wakefield is a Hoosier native who became a leading writer in New York's "beat" scene of Greenwich Village in the 1950s, then went to Hollywood to seek his fortune in network television,  where he fell into alcoholism and sexual promiscuity. His closest relationships unraveled and he found himself a wayward, lonely vagabond until he "happened" to visit a Christmas Eve service at a Unitarian Church in Boston. There he became aware that God was with him--in fact, God had always been with him--and God was ready to restore his life to wholeness.

Wakefield tells his story in Return: A Spiritual Journey (Beacon Press: 1997), which journalist Bill Moyers called "one of the most important memoirs of the spirit I've ever read." It was the first book I read this year, and it has given me a lot to think about. I was especially struck by what Wakefield says about his relationship with Jesus when he was experiencing deep pain and loss:
For me the light is Christ, and it is not just a light as in "sweetness and light" but an illumination of pain as well, and a force for understanding and bearing it. When I went to our minister once at a time of particular anguish I asked him suddenly, with a challenge, "Where is Christ in all this?" and he answered without hesitation, "He is in the pain." I learned that resurrection is not just the "happy ending" that follows crucifixion but, as our minister put it, those events are "two aspects of the same reality, even as Easter and Good Friday are the same reality" (Return, 249).
 Reflect on the times of anguish and sorrow in your own life, and ask yourself where Jesus Christ was during those times--totally absent, observing your pain from a distance, or part of the pain itself?

We need to understand His role in our pain, not only for our personal spiritual growth, but for the sake of realism in our writing as well. Where do your characters see Jesus Christ in their times of deepest pain? What do they learn about Him in their suffering? Do you avoid writing about your characters' experience of pain because you are baffled by its purpose in your own life?

On this Holy Saturday, I invite you to find Jesus in your pain. He took our sufferings upon himself yesterday, but we still experience suffering, don't we? So do the people we write about. If our writing is to be true to life, we must be able to answer Dan Wakefield's question: "Where is Christ in all this?"

Joe Allison and his wife, Judy, live in Anderson IN, where Joe serves as Editorial Director of Discipleship Resources & Curriculum for Warner Press, Inc. Joe has several nonfiction books in print, including Swords and Whetstones: A Guide to Christian Bible Study Resources. He's currently writing a trilogy of Christian historical novels set in the Great Depression.

Visit Joe's blog at

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Superb piece. . . one to read again this coming week following Easter and its marvels!