The Purpose of Pain – part 1 of 2
Have you ever had a hurt that just wouldn’t go away? It might be physical, mental or emotional, but any of the three can put you in a bad place. If I were creating this world, I might be tempted to make it a painless place. But here we are in a world that can hurt.
There are two truths I know about pain:
- First. like a red light on the dashboard, pain tells us that something is wrong.
- Second, the ability to feel pain is a gift from God.
What?! Pain, a gift from God?! How can that be? A leper would have no problem agreeing with that statement. The absence of pain sensors is their greatest enemy.
What does pain do for us? Several things.
- signals danger: “Take your hand off that hot pan!” “Get away from the hornet’s nest!” “Call for an ambulance now!”
- reveals disease or other physical complications
- reveals emotional stress or anxiety
- signals psychological danger: “Get out of that relationship!” “Let go of that grudge or that expectation!” “Forgive others!”
- measures the level of affection we have for someone, some project, or some thing;
- reveals our self-centeredness;
- measures how active or alive our faith is – what our trust level in God is.
- signals need for change in our thought processes.
Mental pain can often be the cause of or feed into both physical and emotional pain;
It can isolate us and distort our view of reality. It can intensify physical and emotional pain – keeping us from healing.
The Bible has a lot to say about the need for change in our mental processes:
- “As a man thinks, so is he.’ Prov. 23:7
- “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace . . . ” Rom. 8:6 (One way of thinking leads to death, the other to life.)
- “. . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Rom. 12:2
We are so intricately designed by our Creator that physical, emotional, and mental pain are linked in their effects.
Physical pain can both affect and be affected by mental and emotional pain.
Mental pain, such as depression, can have physical causes, such as inflammation.
Physical pain can create emotional pain that results in mental distress: “Why is this happening to me? Have I done something wrong? Is God mad at me? Does God love me?”
C.S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us through our pleasures, but he shouts at us through our pain.”
What is God trying to communicate to us through our pain? Sometimes I wish He would not shout so loudly.
The challenge is to relate to God in the midst of our circumstances without laying blame on Him. Pain is God’s gift; it is a red light on our spiritual dashboard which measures not only our physical, mental, emotional health, but our spiritual health, our level of faith. Is our tank full, half-full or empty?
What we say we believe and what we do in response to pain often don’t match up.
- We say we believe in God, but we live like unbelievers — we are Christians by proclamation but atheists by practice.
- We say God is the all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, ever-present One, but we question His sovereignty in our lives over and over again, by our ceaseless question: “Why are you letting this happen to me?”
- Like the old Ford Motor Company slogan, we think we “have a better idea” than God’s idea.
- We say we are creations of God, yet, we see Him as our creation, and we can’t understand why He doesn’t do things the way we programmed Him when we made Him up.
Yet, if we had never existed, God would still exist — His eternal existence is quite apart from us. And as this self-existent, eternal One, He is not answerable to any of us.
God has not failed because He has not done things our way.
When we hurt, instead of looking for the real cause of our pain – that within us which is sick, or injured and in need of God’s healing, we look for someone else to blame the pain on – and often we place the blame for our unhappiness on God.
How do you handle your pain? I’ll share in the next installment what I have learned to do in response to mine.
©2011, Marcy Alves
Posted on July 2, 2011, in Christian Growth, Follow Me, God Encounters, Reflections and tagged blame game, Christian life, emotional pain, God’s gift, mental pain, need for healing, pain, physical pain, purpose of pain. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.