I have heard about people with a high threshold for pain.  Not the case in my family.  As I get ready to take my third (and final) child in today to get his wisdom teeth pulled, I am mentally preparing myself for the inevitable fear and frustration which will be felt by my son upon realizing this procedure ends with a not-so-pleasant feeling of aching and throbbing pain.  “When will it stop?” I can already hear him ask. I remember my own wisdom teeth extractions and the intense pain accompanied by the desire to simply sleep until it was all over.  And while I have stocked up on soft foods, etc. to help him through the next few days, I can’t help thinking about that question and all it applies to.  Pain.  Why is it here?  WHY does it hurt SO MUCH?   When will it STOP?
Just as many of us have a low threshold for physical pain, often times we have a low tolerance for emotional discomfort as well.  I remember when my husband and I were first married and I was devastated by any level of marital discord.  Why do we argue so much?  If this was TRUE love, we would agree and get along all the time, wouldn’t we?  When he was upset with me, I was convinced this meant I was less than acceptable in EVERYONE’s eyes, and I was enveloped by an all-consuming determination to “fix” things (i.e. – get him to see things MY way) and alleviate the emotional pain I was feeling.  This morning, I began to consider some different types of pain we experience and examine the different reasons why God might allow us to feel them.
“The Hot Stove:”  We all know THIS pain – we have done something wrong (intentionally or not) and the result is almost instantaneous and extreme.  Just as the pain in our hand teaches us a stove is hot, God sometimes allows us to feel immediate results to sinful or simply unwise choices.  The question is, do we look understandingly at the pain as natural (as we do when we feel a fiery burning tingle in our hand), or do we get angry and act confused?  What?  A speeding ticket?  Why on earth did the officer stop ME when I wasn’t going as fast as the other drivers around me?  That really seems unfair.  Totally illogical.  While this pain is intense, it can, if used in the way I believe God intends, teach us QUICKLY what is inside of and outside of His will. (It often teaches those around us – like our kids  in the back seat of the car during a traffic stop – as well).
“The Achy Back:”  Many of us who are getting older are familiar with this kind of pain.  It comes.  Then it goes.  We are relieved.  Until it comes back again.  For some of us, this is a pain we choose to ignore.  Massage away.  Manage.  Medicate.  And while many things can help alleviate some of the discomfort, for a lot of us, this is a pain which, to some extent, will be with us the rest of our lives.  Ugh.  Lift with your knees.  Or not at all.  Sleep with a special pillow.  Learn new stretches and exercises.  This pain often initiates our realization we are no longer as independent.  We must rely on others.  This feels awful.  And scary.  And sometimes lonely.  But this is often a LIFE-CHANGING pain. And, just like annoying back pain, some emotional pain we experience also comes and goes.  Shows up when we least expect it.  Or want it. But just as our physical limitations necessitate our making adjustments to our future behavior, often including dependence on family and friends, so our emotional and spiritual pain requires we rely on our Heavenly Father.  The ultimate Comforter.  Daily. It requires we live a different kind of life.  Daily.  One where we listen VERY carefully to what our body – oops I mean what GOD – tells us to do.  And maybe we don’t run ahead and climb on the monkey bars any more.  Maybe we sit on an ergonomically correct chair in the shade.  But slowing down physically AND emotionally can help us develop some deep roots spiritually.  Let go of some of what WE feel and grab onto what God SAYS.
“The Face Slap:”  Have you ever watched a movie where one character slaps another character in the face?  Rarely does this happen in slow motion.  One minute, they are talking about…I don’t know…boring stuff…and the next minute – SMACK!  The look of shock and horror on the “slappee” – yep, just made that word up – is almost the same any time you see this move.  WHAT ON EARTH DID I DO TO DESERVE THAT???  Now, for us viewers, that is not always how WE look at the incident.  Maybe we know some of the motivation for the person doing the slapping.  The hurt.  The humiliation.  Okay – the untreated anger issues – but, the first thought the VICTIM usually has is – I am innocent and the pain of the face-slapping was unjustified.  The reality is, we all have been face-slapped even if a handprint was never left on our face.  I once received a resounding “slap” that knocked me off my feet.  And truly, my first thought was how I didn’t deserve it.  Just like many a character in a movie has responded with some sort of assault, verbal or otherwise, I immediately wanted to let this person know how completely WRONG he/she was and how completely innocent I was.  I wanted to discount the person and the pain he/she felt.  But, praise God, I didn’t.  Unlike the actions I took in the early years of my marriage, I instead tried something I have yet to see any movie actor in any feature film do.  I prayed.  Over and over again.  Day after day.  For myself AND for that person.  Please help me look at myself and my actions with Godly eyes.  And help me see the other person through those same eyes.  With love.  With compassion.  With clarity.  And guess what?  God used this “face slap” to open my eyes to the needs and pain of this other person and to some disfunction and missteps in my own behavior.  As shocking and hurtful as the “slap” felt when it was received, God used this pain to stop me in my tracks, go to Him and ultimately bring vulnerability and healing to a relationship.
Before too long, my son’s dental pain will be gone.  A distant memory.  And then he will come to me with some other sort of hurt.  Ache.  And likely ask, “When will it stop?”
What will I say?
Hopefully, I will remind him that, even though we live in a world which says ALL pain is ALL bad ALL the time, we were created for a place where there is no pain, EVER.  This is why earthly pain is such an affront to our sensibilities, why it rocks us, mind, body and soul.   I hope I also tell him he has a God who truly understands his pain but who uses the things of this world, even the really hard, hard things, to shape us into the people He wants us to be.  And that, no matter what type of pain is he feeling at the time, he has a God who loves him immensely and will NEVER leave him alone.
Lord, help me view pain through Your eyes.  Help me rely on you as the perfect medicine for all that ails me.  Let me wake up each day determined to face every type of pain I experience with Your love and Your grace, determined to withstand each injury with Your strength.  Lord, in your time, please help my wounds heal. And help me accept the ones that don’t.  Hold my hand and wipe my tears as we face them all together.
One hurt at a time.
Melinda Lamera
Sun Grove Children’s Ministry