Ah, the Pain, the Pain!
– Dr Zachary Smith in Lost in Space
Why did God create us to be able to feel pain?
Pain is one of the most unpleasant experiences a person can go through. We do everything we can to avoid pain. Just think of your fear of the dentist’s chair, or of stepping on a rusty nail, or getting your fingers caught in the car door as it closes … OUCH!
Of course, pain has a very important role to play in our lives. Without pain, we would all be a lot sicker, or perhaps even dead. Pain is the body’s alarm system – it goes off when there is danger. Pain is the first half of our pain reflex. When you touch something hot, the message shoots up to your brain, and without you consciously thinking about it, the brain shoots a message back to your muscles saying “Get out of there right now!” You pull your hand away and save yourself from a nasty burn. The pain in your tummy warns you that your appendix is infected and may be about to rupture, spreading germs throughout your abdomen and possibly killing you. So you take your sore tummy to the doctor who kindly removes the offending appendix.
You get an idea of how important pain is in our lives when you see what happens who lose their sense of pain. For example, long term diabetics may have their nerves so damaged by their diabetes that they no longer feel pain; or anything, at their toes and fingertips. This kind of diabetic must never walk around barefoot, for if she does, she won’t know that she stepped on an old drawing pin. She will continue to walk around with the pin stuck in her foot, banging around and ripping up her sole, opening up wounds that fill with germs and dirt. Some diabetics end up getting gangrene and losing their whole foot just from a simple thing like an old drawing pin; all because they cannot feel pain.
Yes, there are worse things in life than pain.
Pain plays a similarly important role in our spiritual and emotional lives. It is often the sign that something is wrong, and it invites us to investigate and find out what it is. When a disagreement occurs between two friends, the situation may be described as ‘painful’ in the emotional sense. To ease this pain, they will need to forgive each other and reconcile with one another.
The sting of sin is another example of this non-physical pain. That guilt you feel when you’ve done something wrong is like the dull, constant ache of a rotting tooth. You have to see your spiritual dentist (confession father) to have it cleaned out – perhaps, even to have the whole thing extracted! Yes, some pain is actually good for you. No one enjoys going through pain, but we understand that there are times when going through some pain today will save us from much worse pain tomorrow.
Every athlete knows the old adage, “No Pain; No Gain”. Without the constant pushing of the body to its limits, the athlete will never build up the muscles and skills they need to perform at the very highest level. So there are sane people who actually seek out pain, and that for very good reasons. As spiritual athletes, there may be times when we too may seek out certain types of emotional or spiritual pain for the higher goal we wish to attain. I would put fasting into this category, for it involves a ‘painful’ level of self denial, preventing one’s body from having the foods it desires and craves. Yet this pain is building spiritual muscles. It is conditioning the body to understand that the spirit is in charge, and the teaching the spirit to take charge of the body and control it. No pain, no gain.
Life might possibly be more pleasant without pain, but it would also be an awful lot less interesting. People would become lazy and complacent and lose many of the motivations that drive them to achieve and extend themselves. No longer could we speak of things like character, nobility or self-sacrifice. And, like spiritual diabetics, we might end up harming ourselves badly. Should we ask that pain disappear from our lives?
Thank You God, for the gift of pain.