What is pain?
When you ask a child at play, pain is the hot, throbbing sensation when the abrasions on his knees are rubbed. Pain is the hot, throbbing feeling when the disinfectant comes in contact with the wounds.
When you ask a mother, pain is the piercing sense of labor. The nerve-wracking feeling of delivering a child into the world sums up the pain that mothers undergo. No amount of anesthesia could ever cover up the agonizing discomfort.
When you ask a young woman about pain, she would recount you of the aching she feels because of a lost lover. She would tell you a blow-by-blow story of how they were happy but they ended up distant and strangers. She would tell you how she was hurt by love.
When you ask a man, his agony would tell you of a love gone by. He would tell you of the deep wounds he endured because of that one girl he has waited for so long. But they were simply not meant-to-be. His scars speak of frustrations and wasted time.
When you ask a woman fervently praying for the affection of that one man who would never ever reciprocate her love, she would perhaps cry in anguish and bitterness. Her wounds came from giving of herself without being loved in return. Her lashes would speak of unrequited love.
When you ask an orphan, she would tell you of the many sleepless nights she spent crying herself to sleep. She would remember the mother she lost in an accident. Or a father she lost because of diabetes.
When you ask a parent, they would tell you in sobs and tears the gaping hole in their heart for the child they lost to cancer. The cuts in their hearts would speak of losing something, someone, that can never be taken back.
It is hard to define pain. Even the lexicon definition would not even amount to the way it was described by the people above. Medically speaking, pain is an unpleasant sensation that can vary from mild to discomfort to agony. It normally has physical, emotional and spiritual manifestations.
There are pains we felt because of physical wounds and injuries we sustained. These wounds would eventually heal with the proper medication and treatment (except for leprosy cases).
However, there are far greater pains that, though we cannot see the physical lashes and cuts they make, leave the people inflicted with more serious damage than surgery. These are the wounds sustained from broken hearts, broken relationships, losing someone we love and being hurt by the people we love. And these wounds are mostly the ones that take more than an ointment and band-aid to heal; they need time and love. And sometimes, healing them would take a lifetime.
What can we glean from the description of pain from the people above?
- Pain is real.
We cannot dismiss the fact or reality of pain because denying it would let us remiss the very nature of our personhood as a human. We are humans created with complex cellular systems. And our bodies were designed to respond to what it is subjected to.
Even the bible did not ignore the fact of pain and suffering in the world. Job, a prominent character in the Old Testament proved to be the timeless example of what pain and suffering is like. He lost his cattle. He lost all his sons. He had leprosy all over his body. But in Job 6:10, we read:
At least I can take comfort in this: Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
Pain is real. It is not wrong to admit your pain.
- Pain does not mean you are always a victim and loser.
Following through the context of Job’s life story, we can see that not all suffering people are actually victims and losers in themselves. That’s the paradox of life. It is the question that echoes through even during the olden times,
“Why does it have to be me?”
In Job, we can see that the suffering that he had endured was actually a contest between God and satan. But this is not the case for most of us.
We might have been wounded because of our own mistakes. We might have been injured because of other people’s doing, be it an accident or intentional. We might suffer because we chose to suffer, just like Jesus did.
- Pain is part of a process, not the end in itself.
Take a moment to reflect of one single thing that hurt you most. Oftentimes, the pain we endured covers up most of what we feel during the season of brokenness. The pain masked all other emotions we have. We may not be aware, but we are essentially going through a process. Be it a process of healing, of restoration, of reclaiming your heart, of moving on, we are in a process.
And process involves not only time. The process almost always involves pain. But pain is not the meat in the barbeque; it is only the tenderizer.
1 Peter 4:13 says, Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
Whatever the process you are going through, remember that the end result is not just pain, agony and suffering. If it is, then everything would be sadistic and meaningless. Pain is not an end in itself.
- Pain changes.
I remember the story told too many times about the carrot, egg and coffee. It may sound already cliché for some but this tale perfectly depicts the fact that pain during times of adversity changes people. But we can change differently.
A young girl came to her grandmother’s hut one night and asked her a very deep question, “Why do I have to endure life when it is so difficult to live?” The old woman smiled tenderly and asked the girl to pour water onto three (3) separate casseroles and place it over the fire. The girl obeyed.
In the first casserole, the old woman put a raw carrot. In the second pot of water, she placed an egg. All the pots came to a boil and finally, the old woman put ground coffee in the last casserole. Then she explained the significance to her young girl:
“We all have life and that is the water in the pot. When pain and suffering comes to us in the form of the hot, scalding water, our response to the pain will determine how it changes us.
Some of us are like the carrot. We started life as strong and hard carrot sticks. But when we passed through life’s adversities, we turned out to be limp and soft vegetables.
Perhaps, some are like the egg. We began life as soft-core, gentle beings. Come the agonizing seasons in our life, we come out hard boiled.
We must be like the ground coffee. As soon as we encountered sufferings in life, we simply do not allow the pain to change us. We adapt and change the circumstance we are in. We produce an aroma of black, hot coffee.”
Take a moment to reflect now. Who are you in the story? Are you a carrot—lifeless and weakened by pain? Or are you the egg—criticizing others for our lot in life and harboring bitterness? Be the coffee! Pain always changes but you can choose how it will change you.
- Pain is an opportunity.
Admit it or not, pain and suffering open the doors to many good opportunities only if we have the eyes and willingness to see them. Your pain speaks of many things about your character as a person created in the image of God. Your pain, as C.S. Lewis says, is God’s megaphone to our soul. It is a door that opens to restoration, healing, mercy, reconciliation, acceptance and glory.
That’s why we are not discouraged. No, even if outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are being renewed each and every day. This light, temporary nature of our suffering is producing for us an everlasting weight of glory, far beyond any comparison, because we do not look for things that can be seen but for things that cannot be seen. For things that can be seen are temporary, but things that cannot be seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Our pain and suffering is temporary. And it is never meaningless! Our wounds are proof that we are renewed each day and this perseverance produces an everlasting weight of glory. And the reward for those who endure is comforting:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:4).
Behold, pain is an opportunity to be taken care of by God Himself. This is His promise!
So, the next time pain comes knocking at your door, do not be afraid! Welcome it rejoicingly and allow God to take you through the end when you can finally say, “Every tear was worth it. It is all worth it!”