WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT PAIN?
“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
Someone asked me recently, “What do you know about pain that I don’t?” Great question. I wanted to tell him he’s 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 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 really 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.
HERE’S ANOTHER THING I KNOW ABOUT PAIN:
- 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, jealously, 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.
WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS PAIN?
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 in the midst of the quicksand. We begin to ask “what” questions instead of “why” questions. When we leverage our own pain for the benefit of others, it helps us out, too. Funny how that works.
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.
Adapted from Field Notes of Pain – The Art of Life.
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.
In the midst of 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. 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, their daughter, Brooklyn (9) did, too.
In the Midst of Grief
Navigating loss, suffering, pain and sorrow.
Grief is no stranger to those of us affected by chronic illness, pain, and suffering. While there are no rules for grieving chronic loss, there is a road map and there are fellow travelers ahead and behind us on the journey. Grief often precedes growth.