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Pain: An Invitation into Love

Last week, I confessed to Miska how much resistance I feel in several areas of my life, a lethargy I can’t shake. Genuinely curious and without any judgment, Miska asked: “I wonder if you’re trying to avoid pain?” I’ve been pondering this in the days since.

I don’t know that avoiding pain is the only factor at play, but I’m newly aware of how easy it can be for me, when I’m not operating in my truest self, to attempt to arrange my life so that I don’t have to enter the complications of vexing conversations or strained relationships. At times, I can put more mental energy than I care to admit circumventing other’s judgments or disapproval. I can often grow disillusioned or angry when I face troubles that seem unrelenting or even more so, when I see how others face severe sorrows while God seems so very absent. Is not pain our great enemy? Is not suffering the sign that God has gone on vacation?

Into this place, I read again Paul’s word reminding us that as God’s beloved, we are drawn into the fullness of Jesus’ experience. We share in his life, but we also share in his sufferings. I’m not suggesting for a moment that my recent malaise is anything so noble as this, but I am reminded that avoiding pain, natural as the impulse may be, is not exactly the goal. God is immensely kind and desires to nurture and heal us, but apparently, as was true with Jesus himself, sometimes suffering (on our own behalf or for the sake of others) is part of our vocation.

We encounter suffering that bellows from the evil we humans do to one another; we must name this and resist it – and I’m in no way suggesting that anyone should endure injustice out of some vague spiritualized ideal. We also encounter suffering with no apparent cause other than tumultous weather patterns or bad luck, or suffering bound to the fact that we are mortals in bodies that decay and grey and wither, bodies that sometimes do the opposite of what they are supposed to do. With our Israelite forebears, ones who knew suffering perhaps more than any people ever have, we cry to the heavens with those gut-wrenching Psalms, prayers of both agony and relentless faith.

And somehow, in this mix, we also add this strange witness: some pain is an invitation into Jesus’ own love, arms spread wide for the love of the world.

7 thoughts on “Pain: An Invitation into Love

  1. I read this article after I read your piece and wonder if it speaks to you and your meditation about pain and how it’s not all bad…http://jamesclear.com/behavior-change-paradox

    1. there’s some overlap there

  2. After decades of avoiding, out-running and generally ignoring pain at the expense of myself, my wife and family, I have finally come to my senses. Far from being our enemy, pain is the gift that points to wounds that need attention. Instead of walking around with the knives stcking out of our chests, and keeping everyone away from them to avoid further trauma, I now want to look down & inside and let the healing team of the universe go to work. You see, when we deny the pain and cut off our heart from conciousness, we also deny the very Love that can heal the wound. My best resource over the last year has been “Heart Made Whole: Turning your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength” – Christa Black Gifford.

  3. And your writing Winn, as always is an invitation to look more deeply into what we are doing and not doing, a reminder to stop living on the surface and pay attention. Thank you. Keep at it.

    1. Sue, what a very perceptive comment about Winn. You are exactly right!

    2. Thank you, Sue…and Lynn. Very generous of you two.

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