What I Wish I Had Known About Pain
“It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are.”
I’ve been reflecting on pain. More specifically, the transition into unanticipated pain, and the desired transition out of it. In the past two months I’ve had so many of my close friends confide in me. Their suffering is deep, but often hidden by their need to continue on with their days as normal. I can relate. I think we can all relate. The pain that comes out of nowhere, the pain that we had no time to plan for, this is where my prayer sits. Cancer, heartbreak, miscarriage, car accident, abuse, these are real experiences that we cannot control. I think Sam has it correct in the quote above. It’s all wrong. We shouldn’t have to experience such pain, but the reality is that we do.
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened.”
And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? MAN. That lines gets me every time. Isn’t this the truth of our pain? How could this massive ache bring any kind of consolation ever? I think we glorify suffering. When we aren’t experiencing it, we put it on stage and make it sound exciting. I am positive I’ve given this advice; “Oh just lean into the hurt. Embrace it! There is beauty in that type of surrender!” And I believe that is true. But while you are in the middle of what feels like the darkest point of your story, the last thing I would call it is beautiful.
It’s ugly. It’s heavy. It’s surprisingly hopeless. As if the cross is all there is and the resurrection will never come. This is the ache of suffering.
I used to think that a life with Jesus would make all of those feelings disappear. But this is just simply not the case. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”
I don’t believe in Jesus because He makes my life easier. Oh no no. I believe in him because he is my Creator, my Father, and my King. But to say that I am Catholic because religion gives me the “feel goods” is something that’s almost comical to me now.
I am in love with the life He has given me thus far. I am humbled and honestly shocked by His pure goodness. But the pain and suffering I experience in my life today, is much deeper than that which I felt before I knew the Lord. I believe it’s because in encountering my Father, I’ve encountered the depths of Love. I’ve encountered how truly vulnerable it is.
The word vulnerable is derived from the Latin word, “vulnerare” which means “to wound.” Our love story involves a man who was brutally killed. And it was in His wounds that we find love.
The stories that really matter? They are the ones that hurt. It is due to their unspeakable darkness that we are enabled to see the true power of light.
“But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.”
This is faith. Standing in the depths of your deepest pain and still choosing to trust. I believe that is how saints are made. Even when all they see is darkness they persevere. Not because they can see the light in the distance, but because they know His light exists.
I’m training to run a half marathon with my friend Hailey.
I don’t run. I don’t really walk, honestly.
But I’m trying to do more things that scare me. We ran 6 miles last weekend. And while I am so dang proud of us, at the time, I hated every second. The next time we ran Hailey started a litany of gratitude, to pass the time and to get our mind off the pain.
“I got up this morning.”
“I had coffee today.”
“We can move our bodies.”
“We can run!!”
This mindset stayed with me as I drove home.
The perfect song came on the radio. The smoke coming from a chimney of a home I will never know, but a home nonetheless. The comfort of street lights welcoming me back to my parking spot.
It was a meaningful run for me. While life can be painful, He has placed reminders of His goodness all around.
“Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.”
Pain is so hard to understand. And often times, it doesn’t make any sense. Something I’ve been learning recently is that we don’t need to understand why. We just need to trust that our Lord is bigger than our mess. He is our light and the darkness has not overcome Him.
“But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.”
“What are we holding on to, Sam?”
“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”