Pain is a gift.
Going through something painful is tough, there is no denying that. By its very definition pain involves suffering and discomfort.
It makes sense, then, we as humans find ourselves doing whatever it takes to rid ourselves of this perceived enemy, in hopes we never have to experience it again. The problem is 1) this isn’t the reality of how pain works 2) this is rooted in a culturally embedded idea that a successful life is one without pain, and 3) the methods we adopt to cope with pain are often destructive.
So, what if instead of fighting, avoiding, and suppressing our pain, we learned to make space for it? Appreciate it, even? I am not saying we need to enjoy pain, rather suggesting we shift our goal away from scrambling out of it to accepting and productively working through it. Here is why...
Without pain we would not know the fullness of joy.
Pain alerts us something is wrong- that we are on a wrong path and it is time to try a different way.
Pain is evidence of transformation, a sign we are peeling off the layers of who we were not supposed to become so we have the freedom to be our authentic selves.
Through pain, there is growth.
Resilience is cultivated and refined through pain.
Counterintuitively, the more we loosen our grip on the need to control or fight our pain, the more power ultimately have over it and how it impacts us.
Above all, through pain we understand our very real need for Jesus. To paraphrase Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling and many more great devotionals, success in life is not defined by how much we accomplish (and, I would add, by how little pain we endure), but rather by how much we look to and seek the LORD.
I want to note that many of us were never taught how to effectively deal with pain- and many of us are currently in the thick of it. For that, I have so, so much compassion (and pray you do too). I am by no means trying to minimize or discredit very real suffering.
Remember, though, you are loved by a God who knows your pain in every sense of the term, who refuses to abandon you in it, and can make so much good from it if you let Him.
Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Christian Makenna Clements is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #111159.