Recently I’ve had a realization about pain. I attended a funeral for a man at our church that I really didn’t know…but my husband was leading the service and I wanted to be there to support him. Unfortunately, I had to take my infant son…so we ended up pacing back and forth in the foyer. I was still able to hear the majority of the testimonies about this man’s life. I’d known of his reputation and had some loose connections with his family members. This man was known for how much he loved God and his family. His children and their spouses stood before the crowd weeping but laughing as they talked about how wonderful a man he was. I found myself crying…for a man that I didn’t really know. It got me thinking…there truly can be joy in pain and suffering. At that moment, I had a revelation…a large majority of us are living our lives searching for ways to avoid pain! Think about it: we have a headache and we look for the pain killers, we go into labor and we ask for the epidural, we feel depressed or anxious and we seek counseling or try some anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. I am SO not knocking these things…hear me out. (I am loving me some epidural…let me tell you). I believe that pain is a way that our bodies (and minds) signal to us that something is wrong and needs attended to. Without it, how would we know?
I have had the privilege of sitting in the counseling office with many clients whose desire is to rid of the emotional (and sometimes physical) pain that they are experiencing because of various stressors. I just wonder…could it be that God wants us to get to a place of ambivalence…having both pain and joy…so that we can learn something new?! I find that almost daily I am admonishing a client to try to “sit with the feeling” (which is the very thing that they are attempting to avoid). I believe that many times, the very feelings we are avoiding are the ones we need to feel more deeply in order to move past them to a place of healing. I am absolutely in favor of medications and other forms of therapeutic interventions depending on each situation…and some people will never be able to grasp such concepts depending on their level of insight…but for many people…this is a hurdle that needs to be crossed.
Have you ever experienced the joy amidst suffering?