I see it in the empty eyes of my neighbor who would like to be euthanized. Her loneliness and despair breaks my heart. I see it on the faces of inmates as we share Jesus within the walls of prison. I recognize it in my daughter while she tries to stay strong during her chronic health struggles. I see it in the masses who are reeling under the impact of our current pandemic.
Pain is the unwanted, yet universal language each of us speak and understand. Because of living in a broken world, each of us will face pain and uncertainty, yet we all struggle to accept painful circumstances and losses. We avoid pain at all costs.
We distain pain because we don’t understand the purpose of pain.
I don’t mean to sound glib, but your pain can indeed be your gift. Before you think I’m bizarre or calloused, let me explain how pain has become a gift in my own life.
If you’ve been following our family’s story, you already know we’ve faced years of ongoing pain-filled circumstances. Three heart transplants, two forms of aggressive cancers, multiple miscarriages, chronic health issues, and the death of our only son has brought more pain into my life than I could’ve ever imagined. Most of our struggles were worse than any nightmare I’ve had. But I can truly say I also have incredible joy and more peace and purpose than I’ve ever thought possible. My heart is as full as my life.
Pain has taught me many things, and has truly been good for me. However, I vividly remember the physical and emotional exhaustion as I was running two of our three young children to multiple specialists every few days. Their physically “broken” hearts were emotionally breaking my own.
Before sharing the ways pain can actually be a gift, we need to first understand the difference between pain and suffering.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
My Friend, you may be struggling with the pain of a wayward child, drug addictions, loss of a job, an unplanned pregnancy, or a disintegrating marriage. You may find yourself at the end of a dead-end street with your health challenges. Or, like many others, you may be reeling with the indescribable pain of burying a loved one. Some of you may be facing the horrific reality that someone you know has been kidnapped or harmed in an evil way.
Pain is the result of a situation outside our control. Suffering is what we experience when we react wrongly to pain. If you are in the beginning stages of grief, please be kind to yourself. Embrace your pain without the expectation of needing to reach a certain level of healing by a specific time. It’s okay to hurt. However, it IS possible to be covered in grief and still choose thankfulness and trust in the midst of the pain. It IS possible to face pandemic issues while giving thanks. My gift of pain is enabling me to begin seeing the importance of choosing joy in all things. Pain is the result of living in a broken world, while suffering is the result of a broken mindset.
Pain is a gift when we use it as a megaphone of God’s grace and goodness.
I’m in awe as I reflect on God carrying our family over the years. Each time we’ve faced insurmountable circumstances, God has always carried us. When I’ve said, “I can’t,” God has lovingly reminded me that He can. God’s faithfulness has become more real to me because of pain. In the intense moments when pain has taken away my breath, God’s breath began.
Pain is our gift as we allow it to become a conduit of empathy to others.
The past two years, our immunosuppressed daughter has struggled with a horrible skin condition and sickness that has become debilitating. But I have been blessed and encouraged to see our daughter reach out and minister to others while in the midst of her own painful journey. She is currently working on recording a music video that I am certain will be a blessing to many.
I’ve seen her tears, vulnerability, and overwhelmed emotions as this project has taken more from her than she thought she physically had to give. And I have cried with her. While my tears and desperate search for answers has seemed so inadequate, I’ve seen glimpses of the compassionate heart of God as He weeps with His children when we face pain He never intended. Pain is the result of our fallen, broken world.
Pain is our gift since it opens the door to the deepest encounters with Christ. Jesus has promised us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Is. 43:2) I have felt Jesus walking with me through our fires in a way that would not have been possible without painful struggles.
I know just how difficult it is to view pain as a gift. But the moment we attempt to shun our pain is the moment we take away our most significant chance for true joy.
God knows and cares about our pain. He really does. God could have simply sent a message to comfort us during our struggles, but instead He sent His compassionate Son to experience them with us. To weep with us when we weep. Jesus feels our pain, and He carries our sorrows.
Jesus understands suffering and pain unlike any of us will ever begin to experience. We have a reachable, approachable Jesus Who’s heart was broken in more ways ours will ever be. Although His tears were touchable, they came from a depth ours will never touch.
Jesus chose to be reachable and touchable as his dusty feet walked with His broken, chosen. His hands held dirt as He washed the filth from those who were dirty and sin-sick. The castaways of society. The tongue who spoke the world into existence, chose to speak life into the dead through a faltering, human tongue. Because Jesus chose to be touchable, we can become touched. Because He is approachable, we can be above reproach in His sight.
Jesus didn’t come as a lofty king sitting high on His throne. No, He came as broken humanity. Because He is a reachable Jesus, He continues to reach for us. Jesus’ outstretched arms are always ready to welcome His wounded. This means me. And you. Not only does Jesus know and care, Jesus WANTS us. His nail pierced hands carefully and tenderly sift each circumstance we are handed. Jesus, the Almighty, placed His hand on the sinful, broken, shoulders of humanity so He can now shoulder our pain.
This, my Friend, gives me reason to rejoice. It fills my heart with hope and joy. And isn’t that what we all need right now? Let’s show the world the difference Jesus makes in our lives.
Let’s spread His light. His joy. His peace.
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)