“Monk” was the highly successful TV show that followed the trials and triumphs of Adrian Monk, a former San Francisco police detective afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
The Narrow or Broad Path
In an episode from the show’s third season, “Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine,” Adrian’s fears and depression get the best of him. He complains to his psychiatrist, Dr. Kroger, that he can’t take the pain anymore. To give him relief Dr. Kroger prescribes a new medication.
The new medications prove very effective in removing his emotional anguish, but it changes him into another person. He finds relief from his pain, but it’s at a price. With his new-found happiness Monk loses his incredible ability to solve crimes. But most disturbing to Mr. Monk is that he loses touch with Trudy, his beloved wife and best friend who died eight years before.
His old, depressed self simply had to sniff her pillow and could evoke vivid images of Trudy. But his new upbeat self has lost his sensitivity and creativity. His pursuit of a pain-free existence has come with a serious trade-off. In the end Mr. Monk decides his old, painful life is better than his undistinguished new life. He realizes that the very things that caused him pain were also a source of great blessing and made him extraordinarily helpful to society.
Temporary Suffering and Eternal Peace
Monk’s example is somewhat reminiscent of the message of Paul the apostle in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. There Paul explains that our afflictions become a fantastic medium through which we can experience God’s fellowship and comfort. “God comforts us in our afflictions,” writes Paul, “so that we will be able to comfort others in any affliction with the very same comfort we received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also is our comfort abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Remove the pain from life and we remove the very portal through which we experience God. This is why Paul spoke of knowing Christ “in the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Paul had learned not to fear or dread the pain of life, for through it he would hear God’s voice, enjoy His fellowship, and be blessed with His comfort.
The presence of pain in our lives is neither abnormal, nor evil. On the contrary, our pain can become a great source of blessing. Consider the words of psychiatrist Gerald May, who wrote: “We have this idea that everyone should be totally independent, that everyone should be totally together spiritually, totally fulfilled. That is a myth. In reality our lack of fulfillment is the most precious gift we have. It is the source of our passion, our creativity, our search for God. All the best of life comes out of our human yearning, our ‘not being satisfied.’”
Don’t pursue a pain-free existence. Seek God in the midst of your affliction.
Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Please comfort me in my adversity and affliction. As my trials become more intense and painful, please pour out upon me Your consolation and encouragement. Please grant, O Lord, that I will not come out of my trials empty-handed or empty-hearted. May I come forth from my trials armed with comfort and consolation with which I may benefit others. Amen.