Sometimes God allows what he hates [pain] to accomplish what he loves. ~ Max Lucado

Jesus, A Pain Pioneer 

There was this youth group kid that whittled. You know, the art of taking a piece of wood and turning it into a troll or something. He did that. And he was good. I was fascinated –  first, that a high school boy liked to whittle. Random. Then I was fascinated by his work. He had an entire village of what I imagined to be Wemmicks.

You know about the Wemmicks. They’re the wooden people that walk around giving gray stickers to one another if they are ugly, or mess up or fall down, and yellow stars to the attractive and talented. My favorite Wemmick is Punchinello. He gets a lot of gray stickers, but he is tired of them sticking. He wants yellow stickers like everyone else, that is until he meets another Wemmick who has no stickers. Stickers don’t stick to her and he wonders why. She tells him it’s because she goes to see her maker, Eli, the woodcarver, every day. He tells her who she is, not the other Wemmicks. Upon her advice, Punchinello goes to see Eli, covered in gray stickers. And when he leaves, one of his gray stickers falls off.

I was so impressed by this high school kid’s whittling. The delicate time it took to pick a piece of wood, envision what it would become, and then painstakingly carve away piece by piece by repeatedly cutting small slices from it. The process amazed me – his work was beautiful. Day after day, he cut away the pieces that needed to be removed, each stroke intentional, so that the piece of wood would become exactly what he wanted.




Maybe that’s why Jesus was a carpenter.

He seems to be into whittling a lot.

Whittling and pruning. Getting rid of the stuff we just don’t need. Trimming the fat. Molding, shaping us into exactly what we must become. What a painful, delicate process.


Someone asked me recently, “What do you know about pain that I don’t?” Great question. I wanted to tell him he was asking the wrong person. There are so many people that live with pain much deeper than mine every day. I do know one thing though: pain is pain. Sure, it has varying levels and goes by different names, but it teaches the same lessons. People in pain get it. Pain is just plain pain. Most of us are too tired to compare.

pain …

Pronounced:  pān/
Pain also goes by Depression, last name, Grief. Commonly known as Sadness, Suffering, Agony, Sorrow, or Discomfort. Not to be confused with the rapper, T-Pain.

So, what do I know? I have been sitting with that question and here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Pain is a woman. I just know it. She is equal measures of strength and doubt. She has the power to destroy and the power to build up. Pain is intimidating, so most fear her, but everyone wants what she offers. She is like fire: no one wants to be burned, but we all want to be warmed by her flame. She challenges us, stretches us, and makes us better. We never would see what we see without her.
  • Pain is sneaky. Sometimes she hits us when we least expect it — like a surprise attack or a covert operation. She doesn’t give us time to sit down, brace for impact, or rally the troops.
  • Pain sucks. No one likes her. Even people who exercise don’t like Pain – but they do like the results of her. I think that’s true for non-workout people too. We like the results, the perspective, the beauty we discover lying beneath Pain, but we don’t like Pain itself.




  • There’s a before and an after — and you can never go back to the time you didn’t know her. You will always be “after.” You can redefine, you can reshape, you can recreate, you can be better, but you will never be the same.
  • Pain can suspend time and stop joy if we aren’t careful. We can easily shut down, which is the default of Pain — as is anger, bitterness, jealousy, comparison, and violence. One must proactively seek light, proactively seek living. Life is something you must fight for.
  • Pain can connect us to one another at a deep level. It has a way of sifting all the insignificant away, leaving behind only the things, the people, that matter. People make Pain less scary. Pain (or Depression or Sorrow — whatever name you use for her) is better shared. However, finding people willing to sit with you in Pain can be hard; maybe they want to talk — and you don’t talk much when Pain is talking.
  • Pain makes you feel helpless because she isn’t always meant to be fixed. She’s just supposed to be seen, felt, and experienced. It’s like quicksand: the more we wiggle, the more stuck we become. To survive, we must lay there and just breathe until we can hold onto something beyond ourselves and wait to be pulled out.




It may sound counter-intuitive, but while we wait for our lifeline, we could try throwing rope to other people, specifically, people in more pain compared to ours. It helps us find purpose amid the quicksand. We begin to ask “what” questions instead of “why” questions. When we leverage our pain for the benefit of others, it helps us out, too. Funny how that works.

Do you know what else works? Changing our perspective. Being grateful. Even if it starts from the littlest things, like saying, “I really miss my loved one” (truth). “I am really thankful for him/her” (also true). Gratitude and Grief need one another.

God allows Pain to shape us. He can stop her, but sometimes He chooses not to. I don’t know why, but I do know Pain matures us, stretches us, produces endurance, gives us a heavenly perspective, and draws us close to God. There is nothing else, not even beauty, that can do that.

I know Pain sometimes wins. There are just days we can’t rally. We can’t rise above. There are moments, days, seasons where she just wins. There are times we feel utterly alone and defeated.


We serve the Suffering Savior, a personal God who GETS Pain, a God who has felt her sting, a God who is with us during Pain’s hard lectures, a God who is light to the darkness, a God who doesn’t abandon us even when we feel abandoned. Pain doesn’t have to win in the end.

Pain is how we share in the sufferings of Christ. I’d say He was a pain pioneer. The very God we worship doesn’t just know about Pain, He has felt her. I find so much comfort in Jesus’ words just hours before he was murdered: “Father, any other way — but if not, Your will be done.”

Any other way, but if not…. Your will above mine. Wow.


”When pain knocks on the door, wise ones breathe deep and say: ‘Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.” Glennon Doyle Melton

This is part two in a two-part series. Part one: Field Notes of Pain – The Art of Life

Published with permission.

Stefanie Boyce

Stefanie Boyce

Writer and Speaker

Stefanie is a writer and speaker, best known for her unique perspective when it comes to difficult circumstances. She is no stranger to the pain and beauty of this world, and the tension that comes from living in the midst of both. Most importantly, she is a wife, mother of 3, and an inspiration to many.

Stefanie started writing and speaking as a way to share the things she is learning from parenting her children, two of whom have a rare, regressive terminal disease, called Sanfilippo Syndrome.

Amid the pain and suffering that comes from knowing you are going to lose two of your children to an incurable disease, which most people would consider their worst nightmare, we see Stefanie’s strength. And she will be the first to say that it comes from her faith and trust in Christ.

On November 13, 2017, Stefanie’s son, Jayden went to be with his Savior; just eight months later, her daughter, Brooklyn (9) did too.

Suffering & Joy

Suffering & Joy

Suffering and joy are two strands of a single fiber. Joy thrives in the midst of suffering, for it is not rooted in circumstance, but is born of the knowledge that God is present in every moment of our lives.


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