It has been scientifically proven that our brains are hard-wired to avoid pain. This has helped humans survive by recognizing threats and danger. But in a big and complex world, we can’t always avoid pain in our lives. Try as we might, we can’t always prevent pain in our bodies, such as illness, injury, or the natural process of aging. Unavoidable pain can also present itself in our minds—with anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles. And our spirits can unexpectedly feel pain through broken relationships, heartbreak, setbacks and loss. When any type of pain enters our lives, our first instinct is to pray to our powerful and mighty God: Please take this pain away!
When the pain lingers, we feel confused and even a little betrayed. God can do all things… why am I still hurting? I’m honestly not sure I have a good answer to this question except to say that we live in a world of science and free will, and pain can sometimes be a part of that world. It’s why I believe that acceptance is such a big part of faith. Refusing to accept a painful time in our lives can lead to doubt, frustration, and a loss of trust in God. Dr. Julia King, a clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety, writes: “We create suffering for ourselves when we desperately wish things were different when, at least right now, they cannot be.”
So where can we find God amidst our pain? I firmly believe that God does not cause our pain or desire for us to suffer; however, God is powerful enough to carry us through our pain and even bring blessings out of it. So maybe instead of asking God to take away our suffering, we pray instead: God, please walk with me through this pain.
Imagine a parent confronted with a child in pain. The parent wants to do anything to make that child happy again. It hurts too much to see them suffering. But again, it’s not always possible. In the words of Brené Brown: “Our go-to as parents is to make everything better. We want to flip on the lights. But our job is to teach our kids that it is ok to be sad, and to sit in the dark with them.” That’s exactly what God does for us when we suffer—sits in the dark with us.
Even more, there’s a lot God can take away. The fear that accompanies pain. The loneliness. The despair. Leaning on God can take away the cascading effect of emotions that stem from pain. Our faith in God leads to hope that physical pain may heal or lessen. Mental pain does not have to define our lives. And emotional pain does not need to overwhelm us.
To expect to live a life without any pain is like building a castle on sand. The minute something goes wrong, we assume we just can’t handle it. We collapse with no foundation to hold us together. But when we approach the painful moments of life with Jesus by our side, we are stronger. We have our faith to lean on. We have trust that joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
Through times of suffering, we learn a lot. We learn about God’s love for us. We learn how to trust. We learn about our own strength and resilience. We learn compassion for others who have suffered. God is there with us through all of that…showing us the way through.
I’d love to hear your comments! Respond with your thoughts on how God has carried you through times of pain. How did that experience differ from times you tried to go it alone?