Pain, the megaphone of God

By Dave Henning / December 2, 2012

Phillip Yancey (Where is God When It Hurts?) reports that three centuries before C. S. Lewis introduced the phrase “pain, the megaphone of God” in his book The Problem of Pain (1962),  17th century poet John Donne used a different phrase to express pain’s unique ability to break through one’s normal defenses and daily routines: “I need thy thunder, O my God; thy music will not serve thee.”

John Donne experienced his first rumbles of thunder when an irate father-in-law got him fired from his job and subsequently blackballed from a law career.  Later, a year after he took his first position as an Anglican priest, John’s wife died, leaving him with 7 children to raise.  Several years later he was diagnosed with bubonic plague, which turned out to be typhus.  Bedridden, and convinced he was dying, Donne wrote Devotions, a book of poignant meditations that included his famous phrases “no man is an island” and “for whom the bell tolls”.

As Donne began to reflect on the possibility that even his great pain could be reduced, he determined that his physical weakness wouldn’t curb his spiritual growth.  Phillip Yancey notes:

Devotions records a seismic shift in Donne’s attitude toward pain.  He began with prayers that pain be removed; he ends with prayers that the pain be redeemed, that he be catechized by affliction.”


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Dave Henning

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