When we experience pain in our lives, our natural tendency is to avoid it. In a way, this makes sense. No one likes to feel pain, so why not do something to take the pain away? One problem with this way of doing life is that sometimes the things we do to avoid our pain end up causing us more problems in the long run. You see this all the time with addictions. People turn to drugs, alcohol, or sex to numb their pain, and before long, the addiction itself is ruining their lives.
The Underlying Issue
A second problem with doing something to take away our pain is we don’t really deal with the underlying issue that is causing the pain in the first place. We might cover up the pain, and be able to ignore it for a while. But if we don’t actually do something to change the underlying cause of the pain, it’s only a temporary solution. The pain will come back (often worse than before).
The Struggle to Connect
Finally, avoiding our pain makes it difficult to connect with ourselves, other people, and God. Pain and suffering are part of the human experience. We all go through it. When we try to deny the painful parts of our experience, it’s harder to connect. It’s like we’re not in touch with our full selves, so we only have a part of ourselves to offer in connection to others. It’s also more difficult to connect with others in their pain if you aren’t in touch with your own painful experiences.
The Example of Jesus
It’s interesting, when you look at the life of Jesus, he wasn’t a legalist when it came to drinking. In fact, his first miracle was to turn water into wine, and he hung out with the partiers so much that the religious leaders called him a drunkard and a glutton (Matthew 11:19). Yet, when he was being crucified, Jesus was offered wine to drink, but he refused it (Matthew 27:34). Now, if there was ever a time to have a drink to numb the pain, the crucifixion was it. But Jesus refused.
I wonder if this can be an example for us. The experience of pain and suffering is extremely difficult. I don’t want to experience pain, and I don’t wish pain on anybody. But the reality is life is difficult and we all experience pain from time to time. When we do, our natural tendency is to do something to avoid the pain. But this reaction sometimes does more harm than good. How might we work to sit in our pain, and see if there might be something we can learn from it?