Life can hurt like hell sometimes. As a person who has experienced immense pain, (more than I would have ever chosen for myself) I’ve learned through it and because of it that those dark clouds eventually pass and you will feel the sun again. It may be hard to believe, but there are gifts that come from pain. When we have the courage to admit we are struggling and stop medicating ourselves or trying to ‘fix it’; when we let the storm wash away layers of who we thought we were supposed to be; a resilient, more compassionate version of ourselves can arise from the storm.
What pain does to us
When we experience emotional or physical pain, our brains don’t function the same. The sting of rejection, the anguish of loss, or the despair of a debilitating injury can cloud every detail of our life. We don’t eat, or when we do it comes right back out. We don’t sleep. We cry or rage at the drop of a hat. We suddenly switch to being desperately needy or a total recluse. We struggle to concentrate on work, our kids, or anything bedside the aching in our chest.
Our pain also exposes the lies we believe about ourselves. We all have stealthy shame voices that we carry in our heads that seem to get louder when we are going through pain. They suddenly scream at us saying, “You are making a big deal out of nothing”, “This is all your fault”, “You don’t deserve better”, or “No one will ever love you”. My loudest shame voice says, “This is all in your head”. I have to talk back to these voices and remind myself that I am NOT crazy, I do know truth, I am valuable and worthy of love, and sometimes things are as bad as they seem. But when these voices get too loud and we lose our way, we need our ‘safe people’ to help discern our truth from the lies.
When we are hurting, we innately seek someone to “make it better”. There are generally two kinds of people we turn to, safe and unsafe people. Safe people are those who have been through their own trials and survived. They care for us with compassion and a willingness to let us be. They comfort us by offering wisdom or sometimes by not saying a word. Unsafe are the opposite. They may respond to your pain in judgment and shock. They may try to fix you or shame you because they won’t admit their own pain.
The gifts of pain
Pain ultimately makes us aware of our powerlessness. Most of the time, I live as if I have life under control. I do my job well and can pay the bills. I am a good mom and a supportive friend. Small problems I encounter don’t cause much disruption. It appears that I have my stuff together until a hard season hits–then I become a puddle on the floor. When we experience how powerless we actually are, there is a freedom in letting go and embracing the fact that we can’t control much in this life. This leads me to depend on something outside myself to help me–a gentle God and safe friends that can help carry my load.
Another gift I’ve experienced is resilience–having the confidence that I have been to the pit of hell (emotionally) and it did not kill me. Going through hardship can renew a faith in God–He did not allow me to be consumed by my past pains, so I can trust Him to carry me through again. Because let me tell you, hard times will keep coming on this side of heaven.
I don’t like hard seasons. You will not find me jumping for joy because there are gifts that come from pain. It may take years to see it, or we may not see it at all. All we can do in the midst of hurting is try to take care of ourselves and seek help when we need it. We must sit in the darkness and hurt with all our feelings and questions (and hopefully lots of safe people) as we watch for the sun to shine again. And believe me, it will.