Yes. Pain is your friend. Really.
Nagging, piercing, throbbing, persistent, burning, dull, excruciating, crippling…pain. Do you know any of these feelings? If you’re like most of us, you hate pain! Pain is BAD. We don’t want to have it. And if we have it, we want it to go away.
So here’s some interesting news: the purpose of pain is to protect you.
Pain tells you that injury is around the corner, or has already happened. Often, we see it as the enemy, but what if we saw purpose in it? What if pain was a guardian, or a watchman, trying to alert our bodies to danger? What if pain was there to move you to action?
Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that what you are doing is harmful, and that you need to stop.
For nine months in 2016, I had searing pain in my foot. I saw it as an inconvenience. I tried to keep doing yoga, but I couldn’t. Still I pressed on, walking briskly for an hour each day. Walking barefoot around the house was excruciating. But if I just put on running shoes, and was careful to warm up slowly for the first half-mile, I could walk—and sometimes run—my normal 4-mile route. I could forget about my foot problems for most of the hour that I was walk/running.
Then my doctor told me to stop walking and running, and I did. I did no exercise for weeks and weeks. But I kept wearing my favorite flip-flops, which was a no-no, because it was summer and I love the casual feeling and look of flip-flops. I wore them as long as I could, until I couldn’t do anything but hobble around.
When we moved to our new state/new home, my injury was four months old. I went back to walking, this time in our wooded, hilly neighborhood. It is so beautiful here! I tried to take good care of my foot by icing it when I got home. I thought maybe pain was just my new normal.
My new doctor told me the-same-no-more-walking thing and sent me to the orthopedic surgeon. Here we go again. But then, Dr. Krauss said the magic words that finally stopped me in my tracks, “Stress fracture.”
Looking back at how I got the stress fracture, I see that didn’t use the feedback that my body gave me about my foot. I really wanted to avoid changes to my daily routine, to my wardrobe, to my life. I wanted my life, on my terms, but that’s impossible to have, isn’t it?
Did you know that stress can, literally, break you?
Ignoring pain is just crazy! But we do it all the time, don’t we? So I asked myself, What if the stress in your bones is similar to the stress in your heart? In your Spirit? Let me explain:
- Pain in a relationship? What is this pain saying to you? You might need to reconcile with someone, admit a wrong, seek forgiveness. Or maybe you need to practice more integrity, learning to honor the Lord when someone else dishonors you. And sometimes the most loving thing you can do is gently speak the truth to someone who is hurting you, giving them the opportunity to repent. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
- Pain in your spiritual walk? What is this pain saying to you? I know that when I’m hurting, I tend to shut down, hiding myself from everyone, including God. This is pretty much the opposite of what is healthy, but pain can provoke people to do crazy things! In fact, when pain becomes your new normal, it can dull your senses to what is really good for you. Instead, pain should remind us that real comfort is found in the Lord. The psalmist explains this better than me:
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
I learned a new lesson from my stress fracture: pain can be your friend. Pain invites you to stop, assess your situation, and change course. Sometimes the idea of change is painful too, so we cling to what’s familiar, which leads to more difficulty.
Today, let’s pay attention to the aches we feel in our bodies and in our hearts. I don’t have all the answers, but God does. If we seek Him, He can soothe us in the midst of our pain and show us how to make a change, in needed.
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