[on pain]

Remember when you were a kid and you would fall down and scrape your knee and your mom would come running over with the first-aid kit, smother Neosporin all over the wound, and then cover it with a band aid? Or later on when you got older and you had a headache, your parents would hand you the bottle of Advil and say, “Here, take two of these.” And even now as an adult when I have a really bad cold, usually the first thing I want to do is pop some Nyquil and knock out for fourteen hours.

We have become accustomed to the idea that when we are in pain, we need to make it go away.

And this doesn’t just apply to physical pain. When we go through a bad breakup, we throw ourselves into any and every distraction to take our mind off of it. When a death in the family occurs, we dry our tears, put on a nice black dress (or suit), and try our best to keep ourselves together. We have been raised in a society that tells us that pain is bad, that death is taboo, and that we should do our best to avoid both as much as possible. 

But this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my mother’s superior nursing skills – I do. But my fear is that we have become too quick to numb our pain, to extinguish it as fast as we can without really examining why we are in such pain to begin with. When we become physically ill, we often fail to question why we have become sick in the first place, and choose instead to pop a pill to make it feel better. Many times physical ailments are actually a result of stress, anxiety, or being overworked - our body's own way of telling us to listen up and slow down. 

But then there is the pain that cannot be felt in our bones or on the surface of our skin - pain that is felt deep in our hearts, perhaps built up over years of heartbreak and struggle. Sometimes this pain runs so deep down and becomes so intertwined in our hearts that it comes to define our lives, who we are, and who we become. 

There are moments in the Bible when Jesus himself experienced incredible amounts of pain, more pain than you or I will ever experience in our lifetimes. In Luke 22, the author describes Jesus right before he was about to be betrayed and arrested: 

"And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." [Luke 22: 41-44 ESV]

And therein lies my point. In this moment when we see Jesus at his lowest point, he does not pop open a bottle of anti-depressants or throw himself into as many activities as possible to distract himself from the agonizing suffering that he knows is approaching. No. He feels it. He literally sweats blood. He prays, and he struggles, and he cries out to God. 

This is what I am afraid that our culture has lost. I'm afraid that we are so wrapped up in trying to maintain the perfect lives that we ignore our pain. We ignore the struggles that are within us, holding on to them with tightly clenched fists so that no one will ever be able to hurt us in that way again. 

I know it takes time. I know that some hurts may take a lifetime to heal from. But for me, I am going to make an effort this year to feel more. When I am lonely, to feel lonely. When I am hurt, to feel hurt. And when I am happy, to feel happy. This doesn't mean sulk, this doesn't mean have a pity party for myself. This just means taking the step towards giving my hurts and my heartbreaks up to the Lord, acknowledging them, and crying out to him in humble worship. 

Because that is how our hearts are finally healed, by unclenching our fists and giving our burdens to the One who saves. 

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30 ESV]