Someone once told me that pain is a good thing because it makes us aware. I didn’t really like that observation because I think pain is bad, almost always. However, they explained that pain could kind of be like a stoplight, raising our awareness so that we don’t continue in the same path, helping us to avoid collisions and bad stuff. Pain can also tell us that something is hurtful, something we should consider avoiding, something that could be wrong in our bodies or a situation.
In talking about pain, let’s think about the various kinds of pain that we can experience, as we consider how to navigate pain, along with helpful lessons. For example, the pain that I experience from getting sunburned can be avoided by using sunscreen. So I try to remember this lesson when I’m on the cusp of Summer and enjoying lots of sunshine. Additionally, when I was newly married and making dinner, I almost sliced off the tip of my finger. Consequently, when I’m cutting up stuff in the kitchen, I’ve trained myself to keep my fingers curled in and let the knife stay flush with my knuckles. This has been a helpful lesson! When we are experiencing physical pain, let’s remember to pray and ask Jesus for healing because that can be a really great possibility!
Not only can we experience physical pain, but I’m pretty certain that you and I have experienced people-pain from various relationships, maybe from hurtful words or actions, unmet expectations, betrayals, etc. I think that it’s possible that people-pain can be more difficult to navigate than physical pain. But here are some things that could be helpful in working through people-pain:
- Forgiveness isn’t optional nor conditional: ultimately, withholding forgiveness hurts us far more than whatever a person has done to us. Additionally, Jesus explained that when we don’t forgive others, our Heavenly Father won’t forgive us (Matthew 6:15), and we need more forgiveness than we’re aware of.
- Forgiving doesn’t mean that we continue to place ourselves in hurtful circumstances, relationships, conversations, etc. Again, pain can be similar to a stoplight, reminding us to proceed with caution.
- Hurt people hurt people: It has really helped me to remember that when someone has jagged edges, cutting words, etc., these behaviors are often rooted in pain in their souls. It’s possible that they’re responding to people around them, often from deep-rooted pain. At the same time, perhaps we would be wise to think if we’re interacting with people around us from pain in our own souls.
- Let’s be sure to bring our soul wounds and broken hearts to Holy Spirit, who can heal, redeem and renovate what hurts in our interior, along with what’s broken and dysfunctional in our words and perspectives.
Finally, when we think about navigating pain, perhaps the best biblical example of doing this is Jesus when He was hanging on the cross. Obviously, He was in excruciating physical pain at that time, and He was concurrently experiencing relationship and people pain. When I look to Jesus for pointers to navigate pain, it’s clear to me that He prioritized forgiveness when He said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Additionally, He kept His focus on His Heavenly Father, which I think is valuable for us to copy (Hebrews 12:1-2). I also think when we keep our focus on our Heavenly Father, this can remind us that He will work all things together for our benefit (Romans 8:28). Let’s also remember that Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross and all of that pain because He knew that there would be joy on the other side, “ . . . who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, . . .”
As we finish talking about pain, I don’t want to promote masochism nor imply that we should throw ourselves into painful situations. On the other hand, let’s not forego important lessons and constructive investments that can come through successfully navigating pain with God’s help!