Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the blessing of pain...

Let's see from a show of hands... who likes PAIN??

Oh, come on! Don't you just love it? Don't you just wanna sign up for it? Yeah, I pretty much want to run AWAY from it at all costs, don't you? I mean, seriously. If something's going to be painful-- whether it's a conversation or a relationship or a decision to make-- I'm probably going to go with the PAIN-FREE option.

But as I learn more about my Savior, I'm becoming more and more convinced that pain is ultimately a good thing, and many of us (including myself) would be helped if we learned to acknowledge it and live in it more often.

(by the way, much of this blog post comes after a sweet, sweet conversation with a dear older woman in my life (my "living room friend" as I have called her in previous posts) who has sat with me, listened to me, and helped me walk through much of my pain this past year. I love you, Debbie!)

I'm convinced we are all carrying pain. LOADS of it. Some of it might come from past disappointments or hurts that have never been grieved. Some of our pain comes from our own sinful hearts and the expectations we place upon others. Some of our pain comes from the frustrating, stressful, frightening, or heartbreaking circumstances in our lives. And some of it is simply because we just live in a fallen, broken world and our hearts long for Paradise.

But it's there. And we can choose to:

A. deal with it
B. deny it or stuff it
C. ignore or mask it

Personally, I find that when I'm commonly doing "B" or "C," I'm short tempered and judgmental. I feel anger well up in my heart. I get angry at others and at myself. Instead of letting myself admit what is really hurting in my heart, it FEELS safer to just stay angry. It's less vulnerable and after all, I won't feel quite as much PAIN, right? (even though those around me end up feeling it)

But it's when I choose option "A" that I experience grace. When I admit to myself, to the Lord, or to others that I'm hurt about something, I cry. It hurts. I am forced to grieve. And not ignore or stuff it. And guess what? I'm humbled. I'm able to be a better mom and wife. I'm able to listen to others' struggles without trite answers or hoping they'll just "get over it."

My living room friend says if she were to ever write a book, it'd be entitled "Grieving Your Way to Mental Health." ha! I LOVE that! Wouldn't most of us think that in order to have mental health, you need to get PAST grief?? I'd argue along with her that it's when we DO grieve our pains (whatever they may be), we are actually closer to mental health. So I'd rather risk being an emotional wreck and appearing weak (because I AM!!) than to live in the underlying anger or denial. I'm just not wired that way. Masking my pain or stuffing it just doesn't come as naturally to me.

Pain is a blessing. (I know that sounds absolutely crazy.) What if we didn't have it? I'd touch a hot stove, not feel a thing, and my hand would burn up. I'd make terrible decisions in my life and continue doing so, never feeling any of the consequences for them.

Pain is a red flag. It tells us something's wrong. It says, "hurry up and deal with this!" If I feel pain in my body, it's there to clue me in that there's a problem! What if I tried ignoring it or denying/masking it? I could perhaps miss the entire underlying problem and things would get WORSE! Likewise, when I feel pain in my heart, it's there to deal with. It's there to tell me something's wrong. And if I don't, the underlying problem is likely to worsen and worsen, right?

PAIN isn't the enemy that I think it is. I'm having to reorient my thinking to believe that.

I live with pain in my heart every day. (perhaps I feel it a little more acutely than most folks? ugh- it's a curse!) The pain is from lots of different things, but one of the most obvious pains I carry is my daughter's alopecia. Certainly the pain has been deep and sharp at times, enough to curl up in a fetal position and never get out of bed. But most days now it certainly isn't that strong. But nevertheless, it's still there just under the surface. And the smallest little thing can set it off. When we go out in public and my daughter decides to take off her hat, I watch a literal sea of stares come our way. That hurts my heart. It just does. Period.

But even if I handled that situation "well," nothing is going to take away the sting. Not all the good Gospel conversations. Not all the self-help books. It still hurts. It's not supposed to be this way! Here's what I'm saying: just because I might be handling my daughter's alopecia "well" doesn't mean it's not painful.

Suffering well doesn't equal PAIN FREE.

Sometimes I wonder what it would look like if we got just a little more comfortable with the pain in our hearts. I wonder if we'd drink a little less, or take a few less pills, or use less things to distract or entertain ourselves. I wonder if we'd spend more time being vulnerable to people. I wonder if we'd be a little less angry and impatient, and more gentle and kind. Heck, I even wonder if we'd pray a little more, letting that pain point us to the One who took all the pain upon Himself. Our Savior certainly didn't shy away from pain and pretend it was all okay.

So call me depressing. Call me a pessimist. (well, please don't because I actually care way too much what everyone thinks about me...ha!) But until Glory where there will be NO more pain!, I think I'm going to grieve my way to mental health. :)


  1. You've written my book for me! I love you!

  2. You have become more like the Savior. He allows pain in our lives so we can be made in His image. Praise His Holy Name!

  3. It's a good thing your LR friend didn't spill the beans about your visit, or I might have rained on the parade to give you a hug. :-)