I started to reason with myself. Okay, maybe the pain isn't bad enough for me to turn around and go home. I decided to just deal with it and be careful to not overdo it.
That's when a thought popped into my head. The purpose of pain is to warn the body of a problem. I was reminded of stories I'd read in the past people who are born without the ability to feel pain. Sounds wonderful, right? You might think so, but the problem is that they are susceptible to serious injury. The person who is unable to feel pain would not realize it when they grab a too-hot skillet or when they twist an ankle and keep walking on it until it breaks.
As I was processing these thoughts my mind recalled another kind of pain: emotional pain. There are many times I would have given anything to not have to feel grief, heartbreak, or hurt feelings.As I compared emotional pain to physical pain, it seemed to me that there were a lot of similarities. Both types of pains are indicators that something is wrong and requires attention. Just as the pain in my foot reminded me to walk carefully and take it easy, emotional pain should be an indicator to attend to whatever is causing that pain.
The trouble with the emotional pain is that society is uncomfortable with it. So, we're taught to shake it off, dry up the tears, and be tough. Carry on! Be a trooper! As with the physical pain, we seek ways to mask the emotional pain with some sort of pain killer. I won't go into all the ways we (as a society) tend to cover up the emotional pain. I think you get the idea. The point of this is to remind myself and others that emotional pain is a normal part of life.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that there is...
A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
Remember Hannah? She was the childless woman in the Bible who felt years of emotional pain. Being childless in those days was considered a disgrace. It didn't help that her husband had another wife who was able to give him children. Hannah deeply desired to give her husband a child and she prayed about it for years. She cried and she even refused to eat. Each time she went to the temple, she prayed about her heartache. Hannah was so distraught that she became outwardly emotional about it as she talked to God. The priest was observing her from a distance and thought Hannah must have been drinking because she was that upset as she prayed!
The Bible reminds us that...
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose
spirits are crushed. (Ps. 34:18)
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. (Is. 61:1)
Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that "they were crushed and overwhelmed
beyond their ability to endure" but they learned to rely on God during this time.
And he goes on to say in chapter 4, verses 8 and 9 that...
"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed,
but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed."
To be perfectly honest, my first reaction is not to embrace the pain and allow God to truly heal the emotional pain. More often than not I lean toward feeling overwhelmed and crushed. I want Him to take the pain away. I want it to just go away. God could take it away, but He may want to use the pain as part of the healing process. If I seek ways to mask or avoid the pain I may delay healing.
As I was drafting this post, I read the following quote in Streams in the Desert...
"God seems to use the pressure of pain to trample out the
fulfillment of His promises and thereby release the sweetest juice
of His winepress. Only those who have known sorrow can
fully appreciate the great tenderness of the 'man of sorrows.'"
It's comforting to know that Jesus understands our emotional pain. He wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. He also experienced the pain of rejection. So Jesus can certainly relate to any sort of pain you or I may experience.