Pain is not a welcomed guest for most of us. I know, the “no pain, no gain” fitness mantra has its intended purpose, but who really appreciates screaming muscles and throbbing joints? Who gets giddy over gritting your teeth in agony? Certainly not me.
Years ago I interviewed an elderly farmer with intensely misshapen arthritic joints. You could see his swollen knee joints widening out his jean overalls half way down his leg. But you know what? Each day, John kept at his daily chores—feeding the chickens, forking out manure piles, mending fences. When the pain got the best of him, he’d go a bit slower and rest a bit longer. John refused to write out pity party invitations. He did not let his daily discomfort weaken his resolve to be optimistic and encouraging to others.
Living Out a Bending Point
John may not have used the words bending point, but he sure lived out a powerful aspect of a bending point: the pivotal juncture where you lean into today’s strength. Not the energy you’ll need next week or the milestones you’ll accomplish by next month. Forget an end goal for moving through your rough patch. Bending and staying flexible and teachable starts with you in the right now. This micro-millimeter.
Years ago after two injury car accidents, I labeled my spinal pain as the “silent tormentor.” I begged for the pain to stop, for the emotional crushing to end. But you know what? The pain was not the enemy. I was.
While I was enduring the angst of bending until I felt like I would SNAP, I was struggling not to let anyone know how close I was to the edge. In my little cocoon, I had spun myself into numbness and isolation. At one desperate point, I scrawled in my journal: “I fall asleep crying into my pillow. I awake pre-dawn with the pain screaming across my body. What kind of life is this? I can’t take this much more. I can see why so many people just want out.”
We Are Designed to Bend
No matter how tough it gets, we are designed to bend and remain resilient in our brawls with pain. But sometimes we get in our own way of working through a problem, finding our pathway to healing, or staying the course to freedom. Pain of any sort can strong-arm us to collapse and give up or motivate us to adjust our perspective and get up. Give up or get up? Pain barges in and we get to choose how we’ll respond.
On the surface, pain hisses as our sinister adversary. Yet once we assess our discomfort, we find we have options including medical attention and spiritual sustenance. Is pain our real enemy? It may feel like it. A my friend, John, and I know, pain is real and can be wretchedly difficult to endure, but sometimes we add to the opposition ourselves.
Instead, it is often more conquering if we opt for getting up and garnering the help we need. Wobbling or standing on our feet again, we can charge the battle line. And with the steadfast support of those who will war on with us.
Pain is not a welcomed guest, but pain is an invaluable instructor.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to.
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.”
—C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain