How many of you when you read the title Pain, What is it Good for, said- absolutely nothing? While that little cheer puts a smile on my face, it isn’t very trustworthy. Pain may not feel good but it does have its place and often leads us to our purpose.
No one that I know enjoys pain, physical or emotional. However, most of us experience it and very few, if any, of us can avoid it. Like grief, pain is in many cases unavoidable. Wait a minute there Ms. Counselor lady what do you mean? I mean whether we are the cause of our pain or someone else is the cause in either case it is almost unavoidable. Not many of us seek out to cause ourselves pain yet we find ourselves making self-destructive decisions that lead to painful consequences. Even when it comes to the pain that others cause, most of us are not given the gift of hindsight, we don’t have the ability to see the future nor do we naturally see the red flags that scream danger, danger, danger. Our emotions often shield us from those screaming red flags and we end up looking like a deer in the headlights once the smoke clears and we see or feel the consequences. Okay, I will make it a little more clear. How many of us enter into a romantic relationship thinking I am so in love and he/she is so amazing and even though he/she is going to have affairs, lie to me, manipulate me, or hurt me emotionally it is going to be great and I am so excited? No one! Yet this happens in some relationships and the pain is very real. I guess if you were to avoid pain you would have to avoid relationships, but then there is no guarantee that you wouldn’t cause yourself pain.
Now that we have established that pain is mostly unavoidable and likely to occur (especially within relationships), we can move on to the original question, what is it good for. Popular opinion would tell us the answer is nothing, Natural instincts would say avoid it at all cost. But, I am here to tell you that pain has a purpose and once embraced, leads to growth beyond belief. Think about it, the moments where you have matured the most, or the greatest life lessons, did those occur during easy non painful times or did they occur during difficult, painful times? My money's on the later. What, wait a minute Ms. counselor lady, what do you mean? What I have witnessed and experienced is when life is easy and pain free (those moments in between) there is very little growth or introspection, there is very little curiosity about why do I do the things that I do. Life just kind of happens. However, when difficulty and pain enters in we find ourselves searching for an answer. We humans naturally want to avoid pain at all cost so when faced with pain we come to a fork in the road that leads to two different paths (at least) one is a path of self-destruction, which helps us to not feel the pain (temporarily). This can include consuming alcohol, drugs, sex, over shopping, over eating, and other self-harming behaviors. The other path is one of growth, but it is less desirable because it means we have to allow the pain to be very real and very present. We don’t get to walk away from it or pretend it isn’t there. We have to feel it.
Do you ever look back over your life and have regrets? When I ask this question I get different responses. Some say no, I am who I am and the choices I have made and the experiences I have had have made me who I am. While others say, yes I do have some regrets and if I could do it all over again I would change a few things. I wouldn’t hurt people the way I did. Or, I wouldn’t ignore my spouse and children. Or I wouldn’t ----- you fill in the blank. When I think about regrets I think about pain and then I wonder if pain is good for something it must be to learn something, to grow.
So, I ask you again: pain, what is it good for? You may still be on the fence or you may still believe it is good for nothing. But, I want to challenge you to think outside of the box. I want to encourage you to look through a lens of self-growth. What if the very thing that is causing you pain is there for a purpose other than the obvious. What if it is a wake up call, or a fork in the road that offers opportunity for change? Rather than avoiding pain at all cost I encourage you sit in it, examine it, question it, and allow yourself to feel it. I believe that examination will lead to growth and wisdom. And, if the pain you are feeling seems to be more than you can bare, I encourage you to keep on walking through that darkness. Don’t give up, don’t stop fighting. You are strong enough to get through this. I encourage you to reach out to a friend, family member, counselor or local pastor. You are worth fighting for and we can come alongside you and help you fight. A Bible verse that often is a source of strength for me in times of deep pain is Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Notice that the scripture says though I walk, also notice that is doesn’t say though I stop, sit down, take a break, etc. Keep on moving towards your healing.