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The Paradox of Pain

Everyone I know is in some sort of pain (myself included).

Like sand wedged in a shoe rubbing a prodigious blister, the pandemic is exacerbating the ache in our souls. And we don't like it. We want relief; we crave comfort.

If 2 Corinthians 1 teaches us anything, it's this:

True Comfort does not come from the absence of pain but from the presence of God.

But that's not how we understand comfort. As Western thinkers who drink the cool-aid of consumerism, we can't comprehend an experience where both pain and comfort co-exist.

Pain and comfort sharing the same space

When we experience pain, our guttural belief is that God is distant, checked-out, or uncaring. God's Word tells us something entirely different.

"For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too." - 2 Corinthians 1:5

In Philippians, Paul chooses loss so "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11).

When Paul suffered, he couldn't imagine a far-off-God, but only a Savior who's closer than his skin. Pain opened the door to loving union with Christ. Suffering positioned him to commune with Jesus in an otherwise unattainable way.

And for that opportunity, Paul would "count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:8).

How to Process pain

  1. Sit with your pain. The paradox of pain is it creates space to experience more joy. Rather than numbing pain with addictions, trying to plow through it with positivity, or avoiding it like the plague, you can grow in joy by deepening your communion with Christ. Pay attention to: - What hurts. - Where do you feel pain in your body. - Which emotions are attached to your suffering. And remember you can stay with your pain because Jesus stays with you — He will never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

  2. Listen to your pain. An open wound cries out for attention. Emotional pain also provides information. It tells us to slow down and listen to our soul's needs. Listen to: - The cause of your pain. - Why you feel the way you feel. - What it is you truly want. As many a counselor says, "You gotta name it to tame it." Practically, you can do this through journaling or setting aside time to pray in stillness.

  3. Share your pain. Casting your cares on Jesus is paramount (1 Peter 5:7). God did not design you to process pain alone. Know yourself here: - What do you do when you hurt? - Do you draw near to others immediately before talking to Jesus? - Do you withdraw from others and never share your inner world? - Are you prone to blame yourself or blame others? After sitting with and listening to your pain, you need to share it with someone — a trusted friend, family member, spiritual director, or counselor. The God of all comfort wants to use others to fulfill His caring work.

Life hurts. love well.

Most people I know want to love well — to discern what to do and say in those moments when we don't know what to do or say.

If we desire to grow in our ability to sit with and listen to others' pain, we must start with ourselves. Learn to sit with, listen to, and share your troubles so that you might comfort others with the comfort you've received. 

And as we miraculously give-and-take in this sharing of pain and comfort, may God be seen and praised as the "Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3).

Why is it easy for you to avoid pain, and what would it take for you to see the benefit of attending to it?


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