“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
God is reminding me of a powerful and profound truth this week: Pain can be my friend.
Physical pain, emotional pain. I feel like I’ve had more than my share of both… you probably do, too.
I like to think I’ve built up a pretty good tolerance to it, having had so many opportunities! I’m fond of quoting that line from The Princess Bride: “Life is pain… anyone who tells you different is selling something.”
More than once, a friend has asked me: “But didn’t that hurt?” in response to some challenge I’ve willingly undergone, and I’ve shrugged and said, “It hurts to be alive.”
Over the last ten years, it’s become my philosophy. Because there’s nothing I can do without pain. I have health issues. My physical pain is chronic and there’s nothing (outside of a miracle) that can be done for it. There’s no avoiding pain. So why run from it?
Most of the time, I just ignore it. At least, I try to. I try not to let it determine how I live. It’s a constant, but minor refrain — a backdrop in my life. And lest I sound too melodramatic or martyrish, I hasten to add that I’m well aware that many people suffer so much more than I do … which is another reason not to make too big a deal of it.
It is what it is.
But every once in a while, pain comes screaming to the forefront. (Physical or emotional.) And it will not be ignored. I try to push it back. I try to distract myself. I try to numb the pain or medicate it… usually with a box of macaroni and cheese or a Netflix marathon or a couple hours on Pinterest. But it’s still there — and most of my coping mechanisms only make things worse.
Last week it was so bad, I couldn’t sit comfortably long enough to write a blog post.
This morning I was praying and asking God for some help, some hope, some answers. He reminded me of something I said in an interview on Thursday. We were talking about What Women Should Know About Facing Fear, and the radio host asked me how a woman paralyzed by fear could even find the courage to ask for help. I shared that I understand how scary it can be, taking that first step and reaching out. I tried to think of some practical advice I could offer next. But I realized what it came down to is a hard truth:
You have to be desperate enough. You have to be miserable enough. Sometimes your life has to be painful enough that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get help.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin
It hit me all over again, that pain — if I’ll let it — can be my friend. It can force me to face things I’d rather not see. Things in my heart or my mind or even my body that urgently need my attention. It can make me desperate… so desperate that I cry out to God. That I run and hurl myself into the arms of Jesus, and hold on for dear life.
I’m grieved that pain is often what it takes… and I think He is, too. But He’ll use it if He has to.
And He does.
And I love Him for it.
I love Him for loving me too much to leave me where I am, the way I am. Too much to let me wander too far off.
It’s not that He always uses pain…. It’s that pain is what gets my attention. Honestly, I’m working on that. Some days I do better than others. I really don’t want it to take pain to turn my heart toward Him. But when I need it, it’s there.
That’s when pain is my friend. It can be your friend, too.
Today’s Question: What’s one thing your pain has taught you?