What Pain Teaches Us

I was listening to The Holy Post Podcast last week when one of the hosts, Skye Jethani, told of a book, The Gift of Pain, written by Phillip Yancy and Paul Brand. Dr. Brand is a world-renowned surgeon who grew up as the son of medical missionaries in India and received his medical training in London during The Blitz in World War II. Much of his work was with leprosy patients in the United States and India.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s Disease (HD), is a medical condition that leads to damage to the nerves. This nerve damage can lead to the inability to feel pain, especially in the patient’s extremities. The loss of feeling is dangerous because HD patients can seriously hurt their feet, legs, arms, and hands and have no idea about the injury without the sensation of pain. Without proper treatment, these injuries can get infected and grow worse. By not feeling pain, HD patients often don’t know about more significant threats to their health.

No one likes it, but pain has a purpose—pain functions as a warning system in our lives. Pain tells us to be physically cautious when our back, ankle, or knees hurt. Chest pain alerts us to an on-coming heart attack. Stomach pains tell us that we ate something that doesn’t agree with us. We feel emotional and mental pain when someone abuses, hurts, or takes advantage of us. Pain tells us that something is wrong.

Pain is part of our lives. In recent weeks, there has been much pain in the world.

  • A white shooter travels 200 miles to stake out a Buffalo grocery store, returning to target and killing ten black people the next day.
  • Last week, an 18-year-old entered a Texas Elementary School and began shooting, killing 19 elementary-age students and two teachers.
  • Over 1 million lives have been lost in America due to the Corona Virus outbreak.
  • In Africa, multiple nations face political upheaval, severe drought conditions, and the effects of the pandemic.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to lead to loss of life and an increased amount of displaced people.

Pain tells us that something is wrong. Pain lets us know that something needs to change. If we ignore or accept pain, it will increase with more significant consequences.

How much pain are we willing to endure when it comes to racial violence in our nation before we act? How much pain will we continue to tolerate before we are ready to discuss reasonable gun laws to protect our schools and communities?

We are quick to God during these tragedies. We need to pray for the families of the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, and the war ravaging Ukraine. Prayer is not passive. It is not something we do at our dinner table or at the foot of our bed alone. To pray is to engage. To pray is to open ourselves to be used by God to be the hands and feet of Christ in our world. To pray is to ask God to use us in the world to bring God’s healing where there is so much pain.

Sisters and Brothers, how much pain are we willing to watch and endure? What will it take for us to “seek the peace of the city” (Jerimiah 29:7)? As we seek to live a life shaped by the life of Christ, let us allow our thoughts and prayers to lead to ministry and action as we allow the Spirit to use as a healing presence in the world.

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
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