Finding Beauty in Pain
By Anthony Casperson

“[Van Gogh] transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world. No one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence, was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

Those words are from an episode of Doctor Who called “Vincent and the Doctor.” You can also find them written down in the very first blog I wrote for this website. I go back to read that blog every once in a while when I need to remind myself about what this ministry that God has called me to is about. When I do, these words are what stick out the most. What leave my eyes filled with tears while I nod with determination.

And so, I figured that on this sixth anniversary of Brushstrokes of a Theonerd, it would be good to take the time to recall the origin and purpose of this whole thing.

It began with weakness. Pain. Misery. Feelings of failure. A torment of lies that said it was because of this weakness that God had yet to fulfill his call in my life. And it left me so depressed and anxiety-ridden that I had my first-ever panic attack, which led to a season of months where I could hardly go a day without having my heart feel like it was going to beat out of my chest.

Through the advice of friends and counseling, I felt led to take the various parts of me—my theological training and understanding, my general nerdiness, my artistic bent, and my pain—and start this website where I speak to the beauty of God in the mess of the world through the eyes of a nerd.

I’d wondered how God could use me in spite of the pain. This thing I felt was a detriment to his work. But as I sat there wallowing in the question, that quote—found above—from a British TV show about a time-traveling alien who can change their face (though always seems to look human) came to mind.

Pain is easy to portray—usually with a lot of darker colors. We’ve all experienced pain of some sort. Felt loss. Listened to the lies. Let fear get the better of us. To at least some extent, we can all describe or explain moments of our pained feelings.

But what is difficult is to find the beauty of the world through it. And I believe that this is only possible when we find God’s work through the pain. When we refuse to focus on the darkness. When we stop straining to reach the places we’d prefer to be. And when we stare into the indescribable image of our beautiful God.

He’s there with us in the pain, even if we are so preoccupied with the torment of it or the plans of escape to see him. It’s with him alone that a tormented life can find ecstatic beauty. He drives us with the passions that he’s given to us and the painful places that we’ve experienced, all to reveal to us the ecstasy, the joy, and the magnificence of his holy goodness.

He is the only true way to find beauty in our pain. And the way that we can reflect his beauty into this pained world where sin holds sway.

Someone once asked me if it was difficult to be so open and honest about this pain in my life. But the truth of the matter is that it’s impossible to showcase the beauty that God has revealed to me without speaking of the pain. I boast in the weakness because I have witnessed the power and beauty of Christ. I can do no other.

Focus your vision on God while in the midst of your pain and you will find the beauty of it.

Image from the show described below.