Pain. All of us experience it. And we all try to avoid it. We run from it. Or we find ways to numb it. What if the most important thing we can do right now is find out how to live with pain, to walk through it instead of trying to walk around it?
Did you ever think of pain as God’s gift to us? He created us with the ability to sense pain, to feel it. We were created with pain receptors all over our bodies. Simply put, pain works this way. A painful stimulus (extreme hot or cold, a cut or gash, a twisting of a ligament or muscle, a fracture or break) stimulates pain receptors. These pain receptors send a message to the brain. The brain then sends the message down the spinal cord and to the appropriate nerves that tell the body to do something. Move your hand off the hot stove! Quit running on the sprained ankle! Stop the bleeding! If we didn’t have the ability to experience pain, we could damage our bodies even more. We wouldn’t take care of our wounds.
Psychological or emotional pain works in much the same way. When we are hurting, something is wrong. We need to change what we are doing to make the pain stop. We may need to quit doing the same thing and do something different. In some cases we may need to move while in other cases we may need to be still. Pain should get our attention. It should make us stop and ask ourselves what we need.
The body has two kinds of nerve fibers: fast pain fibers and slow pain fibers. Fast pain is a sharp pain. It is localized; we can tell where it is. And we respond to it quickly. But immediately after the fast pain comes the slow pain. It is more diffuse, an ache. Slow pain can last a day, a week, a month, or even become chronic. Sometimes there are things that can be done medically to stop the pain. The doctor may say, “I can make you feel better, but in order to do that I will need to remove the source of the pain. You need surgery. The surgery itself will be painful, but you will recover, and hopefully be pain free.” But there may be other times when the doctor tells us nothing can be done. We must learn ways to live with the pain.
When people come to see me, they are in pain. That pain may be a crisis (fast pain) or an ongoing chronic pain. They may have found all kinds of ways to deal with it, but those ways aren’t working. They may have tried numbing the pain with substances or activities, ignoring the pain and telling themselves it doesn’t matter, or they have tried various strategies to avoid feeling the pain. But the source of the pain is still there. So we may need to perform a “psychological surgery.” (Don’t Google it; I just made that up. But hopefully you get the idea). We need to find the source of the pain, examine it, and figure out what to do with it. We do psychotherapy, and just like physical therapy, there are days when therapy doesn’t feel very good. But hopefully we will get to a healthier place.
I tell my people to look for the hidden gifts in their pain. What is God trying to teach you? Where is He leading you? Maybe that pain is a gift to get you to the place you are meant to be. He may have a gift for you that you wouldn’t have gotten any other way. There are days that are going to hurt, but you put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. You lean into God and press on. Every trial has an end, and when it is over you may realize it was God’s gift to you. You wouldn’t want to live through it again, you wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, but you also realize it was one of your most precious times with Jesus. Your life is different. You wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Rev. 21:4