Pain hurts. By its nature, pain tears at us—at our minds, our emotions, our spirits, our bodies. It causes us to scream out for relief—sometimes out loud, more often silently or quietly.
By this point in life, 54 years of it, I’ve lived through some of all of the kinds. I have no idea which hurts the most. All kinds have made me wonder if I could endure, made me question everything.
The other day, I lay on an emergency room gurney facing the wall, my legs pulled upward. I hurt badly. I tried to breathe slowly and deeply, to relax as my wife’s birth instructors had taught her years ago. (I don’t do relaxing very well.) Finally, I started silently singing the Sunday school songs of my youth. “Jesus Loves Me” still has a power for me.
Turns out it was a stone trying to escape from my left kidney. Relief finally came after two shots of morphine. I enjoyed the rest of the experience, at least that day.
There’s now a stent inside me to help the leftover stones escape my body without much ado. The stent, however, causes a “discomfort,” as the doctor put it. So I periodically get this dull reminder of discomfort in the exact same place of the intense pain, even now as I write.
I will say that this physical pain has been dealt with much more promptly than some of the emotional pain experiences. Those pains go really deep to some place inside of me that I only know to call my soul. All who have been there know of it.
Pain, of course, accomplishes some goods, but I will call attention to one. It stops us. Some pain puts us in bed, other pain puts us in such a state of confusion that we don’t know where to turn. We cannot have real, deep pain and continue as we were before the pain.
This physical pain of mine put in bed more than normal. I reread Lois Lowry’s The Giver since my 11-year-old is reading it. That story reminds us, among other things, of the importance of pain being allowed to shape us into genuinely feeling, loving people.
That’s where the pleasure is in pain. Of course, it’s not in the pain itself; it’s in what becomes possible because of pain. We understand better what it really means to be alive, to know life somewhat as Christ lived it. There is deliverance from pain. The pain is real, but it does not win if we learn to love.