By Nick Brzozowski
As our global pandemic crosses over from being a crisis to feeling more like a tragedy, how do we cope with the loss and the pain we find ourselves in?
According to the Barna Group, COVID-19 as well as all the events of 2020 have contributed to a crisis in mental health, loneliness, strained relationships, and addictions. In short: pain. We are experiencing pain. Lots of pain.
This morning, I just read that we on track to reach 10 million hospitalizations due to COVID.
How do you make sense of the pain you experience or the pain that others experience around you?
Pain has a way of impacting us deeply like nothing else can. We can remember our painful experiences for our whole lives. I will never forget hearing the news of my friend committing suicide when I was a freshman in high school. I remember all sorts of details from that week. It deeply affected me. It changed me.
In this post, I hope to offer two ways for you to view your pain as an asset.
What if your pain is doing more for you than to you?
What if, within the mystery of agony, you could find hope in some glimpse of purpose throughout it all?
Pain is a Cut in a Key
At the end of the book of Genesis, we read of a very dysfunctional family who sold their brother into slavery because they were jealous of him. What a cut! Fear. Betrayal. A stripping of all your freedom.
Things get worse for Joseph when his master’s wife accuses him of some things. He is thrown into prison, where he is forgotten. Cut. Cut. Cut.
By a turn of events, he is promoted to a place of leadership. Eventually, he reunites with his brothers who are terrified that he is going to take his revenge. Instead, he reassures them that what they meant for evil, God used for good!
Joseph as how each cut in his life were critical to forming him and opening up future doors.
According to Samuel Chand, our lives are like keys. They gain value through the cuts!
Think about the times that you grew the most. Were you comfortable and relaxed and happy?
In fact, pain may be the only way we can learn certain lessons and achieve certain levels of compassion or resilience.
That’s why Dr. J. Robert Clinton says, “Never trust a leader who doesn’t walk with a limp.”
That’s why James, the brother of Jesus, tells us to consider all our troubles “opportunities for great joy” (James 1:2-3).
Christine Cane, who endured some of the worst pain and trauma growing up, now leads an organization that is saving women from sex trafficking all around the world.
She says that she bets the devil wished he would have left her alone!
Pain is a Megaphone in the Hands of God
Once, while I was walking to school, I heard an awful scream. It sounded like a dad was abusing his son. I couldn’t believe it. In the middle of the day. It sounded like there was so much aggression and anger. All these assumptions spun around in my head for the brief seconds I had until I turned my head to see what was really happening.
His son was just about to step into oncoming traffic. He rescued his son. It wasn’t abusive, it was heroic. He didn’t yell because he hated his son, but because he loves his son.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
A couple years ago, I had a painful conversation with Hannah. In it, I realized how much I had hurt her and how much I had taken her for granted. Afterward, I went for a walk and just cried. The reality brought a pain to me that I couldn’t bear.
God got my attention.
That led to lots of conversations, lots of changes, and not too few trips to see a counselor.
Now, we are better than we have ever been. It is not that problems don’t arise, but we feel equipped to handle them. I don’t know where we would be without the painful realization I faced.
Remember, you are not alone.
Your pain may be so strong, it is impossible to bear.
You may be screaming in pain.
But, know this. Jesus isn’t just with you as you scream. No, he is much closer. As Lewis points out, Jesus doesn’t just watch you scream in pain, he joins you in it as he screams, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
Pain can be powerful to pave a new destiny. It can change us fundamentally into better people. It can get our attention and warn us. But, we must endure it. There is no easy way to receive pain’s gifts, but to receive pain.