Ever since Adam and Eve took a bite out of the forbidden fruit, pain has been a part of life. It’s unavoidable. If you’re alive, you must deal with pain in varying degrees of intensity. And let’s face it. Pain can be a problem.
The problem with pain is that the source is not always visible. People who suffer from chronic illnesses may never let on that they are in severe pain. They really don’t want you labeling them by their illness so they put on a big smile and hide their pain. Unless you know them well, you may never know that they suffer daily.
And then there are the sources of pain that have nothing to do with your health. I’m talking about pain that comes from broken relationships and the accompanying grief. Even after you’ve moved on to other cities, other jobs, other adventures, the pain continues. Because. . . .
The problem with pain is that it takes time to heal. Healing is a process. I’ve been reminded of this recently as I’ve encouraged my 90-year-old mother to continue the process of healing from her knee surgery. Exercises and physical therapy fill her days and her therapist likes to remind her of the old adage “no pain, no gain.” She’s a trooper and she faithfully obeys her therapist, even though she has a long, long way to go before she heals.
Other types of healing also require a process. If you’re grieving broken relationships or the loss of a church family, let me encourage you to continue doing your spiritual therapy. Keep doing what you know you need to do. Be faithful in prayer, Bible study and corporate worship. During our most painful days after leaving a church we dearly loved, we were determined to continue participating in corporate worship. Luckily we lived in a metropolitan area so we found a mega church where we could slip in and be invisible. It was part of our spiritual therapy that helped us heal. It was a necessary part of therapy because. . . .
The problem with pain is that sometimes you never completely heal. If we had waited until we completely healed from our grief before finding a place to participate in corporate worship, we would be in serious trouble because, even though it’s been seven years, we still have not completely healed. Some grief lasts a lifetime. Thankfully, the grief is far less intense than it was initially, but it’s still there. And sometimes it rears its ugly head because. . . .
The problem with pain it that it’s unpredictable. You can be having a good day when out of nowhere, BAM! Something happens that rips the scab off the wound and you lay bleeding all over again. During the months following our exit from our church, my husband and I transitioned back to our home state where I worked at a bookstore while we tried to put our lives back together. Only the store manager knew of my grief. One day as I checked out a customer, I asked the woman for her address. The moment she spoke her house numbers – the exact house numbers of the home we’d been forced to sell – my emotions churned and I fought with all my might to remain in control. Four simple numbers brought about a sudden surge of pain. The woman had no way of knowing that hearing her house numbers felt like a blow to the stomach because. . . .
The problem with pain is that it’s personal. Names, places, songs, even numbers affect different people in different ways. My husband may not have thought twice about the numbers but they had a huge effect on me. And in the same way that different things trigger pain for different people, different things also lead to healing. What one person finds helpful may prove useless to someone else. My healing process included watching reruns of the television series Scarecrow and Mrs. King. My husband? Not so much. His healing process was quite different because just as pain is personal, healing is as well. We respected each other’s journeys because we were aware that. . . .
The problem with pain is that there are no pat answers. Pat answers help no one. They certainly do not help when you are grieving. I distinctly remember listening to Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, when they were interviewed in 2008 on Larry King Live, just two months after the death of their 5-year-old daughter, Maria. Mary Beth shared that when Maria died, well-meaning people told her that God would use the tragedy and that she would be able to help other parents who lost children. She said, in essence, that she didn’t want to help other parents; she only wanted Maria back. Mary Beth’s honesty illustrates that no pat answer can ever lessen grief.
If coping with pain is a personal process that has no pat answers, does that mean we never share our stories with others in pain? I don’t think so. I think it means we look for the right time to say, “This helped me. Maybe it will help you.” So please leave a comment and let others know what has helped you cope with pain. Who knows? Maybe something that helped you will help someone else.