A top college football coach has a motto for his team: “Pain instructs.” One of his top players sports a tattoo that reads, “Pain Lies.” Each is counterintuitive. They seem silly. We think that pain only hurts. That it must be eliminated at all cost. We might even think that pain is the only truth because we feel its reality. Pain is bad. Maybe not.
Pain is ubiquitous. Always with us in some form or to some degree, pain is never far away. We all have physical pain ranging from inconvenient to excruciating. We also suffer mental or emotional pain because of external events as well as our own errors. And there is certainly spiritual pain which is reflected in the knowledge of eternal condemnation because of our own sins.
We cannot avoid pain. It comes along with the frail, mortal bodies we posses. And unless we can find a way to live without ever making a mistake we will continue to suffer emotionally from our missteps. Certainly the pain of living apart from God is not something we alone can change. Even the righteous man sins and even though forgiveness is certain there is still the pain of knowing we have hurt our Lord and shamed him again (Hebrews 6:6).
So if pain is a part of life, how can we use it to our benefit?
Pain teaches us to rely on Christ
All pain is subject to Christ. In Matthew 8:14, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus heals a young boy possessed with demons that would cause the young man to fall into the fire or into the water. Luke 7:11-17 Jesus raised an only child from the dead and healed the deep pain of his widowed mother. In John 14:16-20, Jesus promised his apostles a “comforter” or “helper” because of their fear over his departure.
Mankind seems to have an innate understanding to pray in difficult times. Who among us has not been driven to their knees in times of trial? Paul says to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Like our Lord we will still suffer. But he alone can soften the blows and bring us through any pain.
Pain teaches us to rely on others
I am thankful for my families. I am thankful for my physical family who cares for me and supports me in all struggles. But I am also thankful for the church, the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18), which is my big family.
The original Christians of Acts 2:41-47 were always supporting one another. In fact, within weeks of the beginning of the church the Christians were already targeting the weak among them, the widows, in an effort to meet their needs (Acts 6:1 ff). While independence is a fine trait, it cannot meet all of our needs. When suffering, reply upon the brethren.
Pain teaches us how to help others
Can anyone understand the fear of cancer as well as someone else who has suffered through it? Can anyone understand the intensity of despondency of one who has lost a child? As we stumble though our agonies in this life, we learn how to persevere and bear up. We then become well equipped to share with others our understanding and to point them to a better place.
Pain and agony are Satanic tools to crush the spirits of the righteous. Torments and afflictions are demonic items which the devil hopes will separate us from our Lord. The wise man however will use pain as a stepping stone to a better place. Even Paul came to understand the proper place of pain his life (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Do not fear pain. Accept it and grow though it.