(Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash)
In preparing for my message on whether God is sovereign and/or good (podcast available here: https://bit.ly/2OpcgeR), I came across this thought:
"Pain in itself is not a bad thing. But when it is prolonged with no explanation it starts to become one. The problem is when it seems like pain does not serve any purpose."
It is important that we can feel pain. Even from a young age, pain helps us to know what to avoid. For example, a child that experiences the pain of trying to touch an open flame will know that fire can be dangerous. To completely live pain-free can be very dangerous physically speaking!
In the same way, pain is important for us emotionally. We need to learn to live with pain, to see it as valuable, but also to learn how it best functions in our lives. Here are some ways that pain is helpful in an emotional sense:
1. It informs us of potentially dangerous situations.
Sometimes because of previous painful experiences, we get an inkling of pain about a similar situation we might find ourselves in.
2. It helps us to know when there is a disconnect somewhere.
There might be a gap in our expectations and what the reality is. There might be a choice in front of you that jars against your principles and values.
3. It informs us of loss.
Pain and loss feel closely related. Pain lets us know that what we are experiencing is the loss of something that was valuable to us.
I'm sure there are other functions of pain, but in my experience these 3 have been the standouts. The thing about pain is that my response to it is often one of AVOIDANCE. And it makes sense! When we physically feel pain, we immediately react to whatever has caused the pain. But I think emotionally we have to be more deliberate about processing what the pain means.
Is the pain due to a potentially dangerous situation? What is the danger about? Is it something that you should avoid? Or is it more helpful to be ready to confront it?
Is the pain an indication of a disconnect? Is there a decision that you are avoiding?
Is there a loss that you are experiencing? What is it a loss of? How are you going to properly grief that loss?
When we don't process our pain, we can't live with it. It can feel like the pain is just there with no meaning or purpose to it. That's when it sits deeply in our soul and can cause damage over time. But when we understand it's purpose, we can act on what it is trying to show to us.
Remember that even in the most painful and difficult of situations God is able to bring something good out of it (Rom 8:28)! Our part to play is to allow that pain to reveal to us what is happening. This is not easy, and I find that this process works best with our loving Father whom I can trust to bring good out of this for me.
Is there pain you are avoiding?